Exploring London by Bus

By Beth Williams, Travels in Translation

London is one of those cities that everyone just seems to love. Despite this, I honestly didn’t think I would care for it all that much so I ended up only allotting one night there—BIG MISTAKE.

Not only is the city gorgeous, it’s huge! As I flipped through the city guide, my list of things to see and do quickly grew. Suddenly I realized that London’s touristy bits were actually worth seeing and that I didn’t have much time to see them!

We had to think of the most efficient plan to maximize our time. While London has an excellent metro system, let’s face it, The Tube is slower than getting around by car and it’s not exactly the cheapest method of transportation when you’re constantly taking it back and forth around the city.

Keeping my budget in mind, I had to act fast, and while I previously wasn’t a big fan of those bright red touristy buses, we found ourselves giving one a try. Looking at the route map, it made stops at nearly everything we wanted to see and if it didn’t stop directly there, it would at least get us within walking distance.

After all, London is famous for its red double-decker buses, so this was just a more touristy version, right?

So after exchanging our vouchers for tickets, we hopped aboard the giant City Sightseeing London bus and took off from Trafalgar Square.

London (BesuDesu Abroad)
London (BesuDesu Abroad)

We quickly realized that the hop-on hop-off bus was the perfect solution to our time problem. The bus had us going through Piccadilly Circus, past Buckingham Palace, and all around Westminster.

MORE: Where is the Best View of London?

It stopped by all the main tourist attractions for us to hop off at, but we also passed numerous famous monuments and parks just driving around. It was great because many of these things we probably wouldn’t have taken the time to see if we were using the Tube.

The Monument to the Great Fire of London? Cool, but did I really care to go inside? Probably not. Would it have been worth the £2.20 Tube fare just to go out there to snap a photo of it? Ehhh, again, probably not.

Each bus is equipped with audio guides in nine different languages, which allowed us to learn a bit about the history of the city as we rode along. That was nice, but what I really enjoyed, was that on the Yellow Route (the main route) there was a live guide providing commentary.

He was absolutely hilarious and of course did a much more entertaining spiel about the city than the pre-recorded guide. It was great because he’d actually interact with us and answer any questions we had.

I was surprised by how much I learned on the tour– and to learn how little most American’s really know about London. That decked out bridge over there? Not the London Bridge! Oh, you saw Big Ben? No, you saw the Elizabeth Tower.

London (BesuDesu Abroad)
London (BesuDesu Abroad)

The full tour takes around two hours to complete, but we found ourselves riding it multiple times to take photos of things we passed on both sides. The photographer in me loved being able to sit up high to get a slightly unique perspective of the monuments and the voyeur in me loved getting a bird’s eye view for people watching!

The bus worked out so well because we actually timed it so that we could use the ticket as our method of transportation for our whole trip– it even made a stop right near our hostel!

Unlike most hop-on hop-off buses, this ticket was literally valid for 24 hours rather than just one calendar day. So because we didn’t activate it until after eating lunch, we were able to use it again the next morning to squeeze in a few other other sites we couldn’t make it to the day before.

After using this hop-on, hop-off tour bus, I was totally converted. I love these buses! (For real, after this one we ended up using them in four additional cities on this trip.)

While I probably wouldn’t recommend these buses for everyone, they were exactly what we needed given our short amount of time in London. And I won’t make that mistake again– next time I’ll be sure to stick around longer!

Copyright © 2014 by BesuDesu Abroad. This article was written by Beth Williams and originally published at BesuDesu Abroad

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