A tour bus gives visitors the option to disembark and re-embark at designated
points, makes it easy to cover a lot of territory while on vacation. With knowledgeable guides and pre-recorded information available in several different languages, taking a tour bus also offers a quick overview of points of interest along the way.
But is a tour bus tour right for you? It depends.
If walking around a new city makes you nervous or uncomfortable, if a semi-structured tour is more your speed or if you don’t have much time, then a tour bus tour is your best option.
If you’re like me, however, and you like to be on your own schedule, wander around, stop, take photos, talk to people, don’t mind getting lost, etc., then a tour bus tour might not be your cup of tea.
I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve taken a tour bus tour. When I’m in a new place, I want to explore, preferably on foot. So a tour bus, for me, is like an expensive cab ride.
But after walking for what seemed like hours in both London and Paris, I decided to hop on a bus so I could cover a bit more territory. In London, the tour bus tour I selected was led by a pleasant and knowledgeable guide who had us laughing at his sometimes corny anecdotes. However, not even that kept me on longer than the first leg. The same thing happened in Paris.
What I learned from my brief tour bus experiences
- Get on the bus early. Typically, tickets for tour buses are valid for 48 hours from time of purchase – they are time-stamped. The earlier you start, the more you’ll get to see. (It’d be interesting to find out how many people do take advantage of the full 48 hours.)
- Plan your route carefully. You don’t want to have to loop back.
- Pick a seat on the top deck. Weather permitting and if you don’t mind heights, select a bus with an upper level. It’s a whole different experience seeing a city from one story up.
- If you want photos (and who doesn’t?), choose a seat at the front of the upper level or take a tour bus with few people on top. That way, you’ll (hopefully) avoid other people’s heads when you go for that all important shot. Unfortunately, if you’re sitting in any other seat and you’re not quick, by the time you get into position and line up the shot, the bus has moved on or someone or something else is in your way.
- If you decide to leave the tour bus early, pick a spot that has a lot of different attractions or is well-populated.
- Know when and where the last tour for the bus you’re on finishes and avoid being stuck too far away from anyplace you’re familiar with.
- Consider taking a tour bus to get a general orientation of a place, then explore on foot the following day.
A tour bus is a great way to get the lay of the land. But walking allows you more freedom to see the sights, interact with people and adds new layers to the memories you’re creating.
A few of my missed tour bus shots.
6 comments on “Is a Tour Bus Right for You?”
The first time I went to Paris, we drove because i was living in Germany at the time. Driving in Paris was a scary experience because it’s so unlike driving in the U.S. or even Germany. I took the bus the second time and I was able to see a bit more but you’re on a tight schedule by taking a bus. I was going up the Eiffel Tower and almost got left behind and that’s a scary thing too, I think. If you kind of map out what you want to see, it’s doable w/o the bus and a little more adventurous.
Funny, cause driving in London looked scary to me — and I’m used to driving on the left, though I haven’t done it in a while!
Either way, I’d hate to be left or have that threat in the back of my mind. I wouldn’t have much fun. Maybe that’s why I prefer to walk — I’m in control of my time and what I see.
Thanks for the stopping by, Totsymae.
I’m not very fond of tour bus, even it’s quite convenient for some reasons, I rather walk or take the metro to cover longer distance when I need to. We can’t lost ourself in a city with a tour bus and that’s what I like when I visit a place, to lost myself in a city, the best way to discovering a new place !
I surely agree — it’s the best way to learn about a place.
Usually, when I’m home though, I hate getting lost because I’m usually on a schedule. But when I’m on vacation, I don’t care.
I used the tour bus when I was in New York, and found it a great way of exploring your city, but it was only by walking around after getting off the bus that I really got to experience it.
Yes, I agree. It makes it easy to get around but it’s best to get off and walk — best way to get the lay of the land.
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