Over the weekend I had the opportunity to take in a Big Bus Tour of London. If for some reason you’re unfamiliar with the concept, these are double decker buses with the top deck usually open air that take tourists sightseeing around major cities in the world. Along the designated route, passengers can jump on and off these buses at will (after purchasing a ticket of course), explore the area, before hopping back on to continue along the route. There is usually more than one route, and they tend to offer different experiences. With Big Bus London, they have two. The red route (this is the one I took) has a live guide commenting in English, whilst the blue route offers audio channels with recordings in multiple languages documenting the trip.
I know that it may seem almost redundant for a resident of London to spend almost three times what they normally would to sit in a bus that is not too different to London’s public transport system. Ordinarily I wouldn’t to be honest. But I did and here are a few reasons why:
- My sister gave me the ticket
- I wanted to take photographs
- I wanted to relearn the history of London, as I realised that my knowledge was somewhat hazy
Truthfully, the free ticket was the real motivating factor!
So I climbed onto the upper deck of the bus. The last hop on and off tour bus I sat on was in Malta, and that day it was roasting. I had to slather on sunblock every 30 minutes to avoid burning. In contrast, the London tour was freezing! Well, maybe not freezing, but certainly chilly, even though it was a sunny day. Thankfully I wore a jacket and scarf and trust me, warmth around your neck makes all the difference.
It was so unusual for me to see London from this view. I mean through the eyes of a tourist. I took more pictures than anyone else on the bus, and I chose the live commentary, which meant an English speaking guide on the bus. As I worked for a travel company in Dubai, I tend to be quite critical of guides. Ours was wonderful. Very articulate and knowledgeable.
There are about 30 stops, and the bus starts from Green Park, right by the station and the Ritz Hotel in fact, rumbling forward towards Marble Arch, St James Park, Regents Park, Oxford Circus, Buckingham Palace, and Houses of Parliament. All of central London, South Bank and West End spots are covered. There was no need for me to alight from the bus as I’m familiar with London – besides, I really enjoyed listening to the guide and the bird’s eye view. His historical knowledge triggered faded memories of me learning about and even visiting spots such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower of London and Tower Bridge. But these were all as a child during school trips. Now that I’m an adult, I’m even more appreciative of London’s impressive and antiquated history. I felt proud seeing buildings that are centuries old. For me, these buildings are what make London, well, London.
Passengers can catch the bus at any of the stops along the route. You don’t have to jump on at Green Park as I did. Taking pictures from a hop on hop off bus is not the easiest task, and your angles are limited, and, trust me, you will even miss some pretty great shots if you stay on the bus the whole duration like I did. So if you have time, do get off, take the time to find the angles you want, and snap away. All my pictures were taken from the upper deck of the bus.
The Big Bus Tour arrives at designated stops along the route every 15 minutes and they don’t run as late as the traditional double decker buses that form part of the city’s public transport system.
If you are visiting London and looking to do a bus tour, do book in advance online. You will save about £5 off the price off each adult ticket, something my sister found out too late.