A Guide to Hop-On-Hop-Off in London

By Jodi Thornton O'Connell

See London's many sights at your own pace with a hop-on-hop-off tour

A Guide to Hop-On-Hop-Off in London

There's no shortage of specialty bus tours in London, and tours include an afternoon tea bus tour, movie location tours and ghost tours, among others. Hop-on-hop-off buses in London give you more than a narrated tour of the city. You can explore at your own pace, taking the time to stop for lunch, shop or meander through your favorite attractions for as long as you like. Choose from multiple bus routes that visit more than 80 stops in the city with options that include free walking and river tours.

Hop-on, hop-off tours

Several companies offer hop-on, hop-off tours:

  • The Original London Sightseeing Tour has shown visitors around town for more than 65 years. The company offers 24-hour and 48-hour tickets that visit 80 attractions in London along three sightseeing tour routes. Both tickets include three complimentary walking tours that explore areas not accessible by double-decker bus: Jack the Ripper, the Changing of the Guard and Rock 'n Roll. The tours also include a hop-on-hop-off boat cruise of the Thames River between Big Ben and the Tower of London. The 48-hour tour extends the boat tour to Greenwich. Ride on iconic double-decker buses that let you see the sights over the top of traffic as you move around the city. The company also offers a City Sampler package that includes one-day bus access, lunch at Planet Hollywood and a Ripley's Believe It or Not! admission.

  • Golden Tours visits 60 stops along three routes. Both the 24-hour and 48-hour tickets include one free walking tour and boat tour on the Thames. A single-day pass offers a discounted rate if you don't care about walking tours or a boat ride and just want to see the sights from morning until night. The 24- and 48-hour tours give you the option of adding on attractions like the Coca-Cola London Eye, Tower of London, Madame Tussauds, the London Dungeon and more.
     
  • BigBus London makes 50 stops along three routes in the city. The company offers one- to three-day tickets, with tickets of two days or more including a Thames cruise. Three-day ticket holders also get a London Night Tour. 

Getting around town hop-on-hop-off style

With a bevy of routes to choose from, familiarize yourself with your tour company's map and the attractions along each one. Start with the route that has the most attractions you'd like to see. A good way to orient yourself on The Original London Sightseeing Tour is on the Green Route, a fourth route that loops around central London. The company has two additional connector routes to make it easy to navigate from your hotel or train stations.

Making the most of your experience

Prepare for a variety of weather. Although the coldest month of February rolls out days in the upper 60s, the damp climate and frequent rain mean you'll want to bring something to keep you warm such as a wool sweater or fleece hoodie no matter what time of year you go. February also has the least amount of rain – about 1.5 inches. With 2.5 inches, July is the rainiest month. The open upper decks of the buses are covered in winter and on rainy days, but you'll want to pack along an umbrella and a folding rain poncho.

It's easy to hop on board. Just buy your tickets online, download them to your smartphone and show the conductor as you board.

Unless specifically mentioned in your ticket, admission to the attractions is not included. Buy a London Pass to get free entry to more than 70 attractions and museums including the Tower of London, London Bridge Experience and more. The London Pass also includes a free Thames River cruise and one-day hop-on-hop-off tour with Golden Tours.

About the Author

A former world-class swimmer, J.T. O'Connell shares her love of adventure travel, extreme sports and pets through thousands of published articles. O'Connell studied journalism at Grand Canyon University, and brings professional experience as a tour guide and travel consultant. She authors the blog, Traveling With Large Dogs.