Taking a sightseeing bus tour is a great way for first-time London tourists to simultaneously learn the city’s layout and take in some of its most famous attractions. These tours can also be fun for travelers who’ve been all over London, and yet still haven’t seen the city from the touristy side of the street.
Here’s a look at some of the main companies offering sightseeing bus tours in London:
Started by London Transport in the early 1950s, this company has four different tours with over 90 stops in the central London area. Tickets are valid for a 24 hour period and you can hop on and off their buses as much as you like during that time.
Buses are marked with colored triangles to signify their particular route:
The Original Tour (Yellow)
The City Sightseeing Tour (Red)
The Loop Line (Green)
The Museum Tour (Blue)
Live guided commentary in English is given on the Yellow route, while audio commentary in six languages is available on all other routes.
Tickets cost £25 adult (£22.50 online) and £12 children (£10 online). Included with tour tickets are a free Thames river cruise and a free walking tour of London.
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Note: The Original Tour has a fleet of modern buses that are all equipped to take disabled passengers.
All of the Big Bus Company’s buses feature live English-speaking guides or audio commentary in 8 different languages.
Tickets cost £26 adult and £10 children, and there’s a 30% savings if booked online.
Each bus tour ticket comes with a free guided walking tour of London and a free, one day river boat pass so you can hop on and off any City Cruise cruise between Westminster, Tower Hill and Greenwich.
Bus tour tickets also entitle you to a Reward Voucher Book, which gives discounts in restaurants, shops and attractions and can be used for up to a week after your bus tour.
A unique combination of a bus and boat tour, London Duck Tours use amphibious DUKW vehicles which were orginally designed to ferry supplies from ship to shore during World War II. The company’s fleet of five has been completely rebuilt and painted bright yellow.
The vehicles, which meet strict safety regulations, seat 30 and take visitors on a 75-minute tour. Starting by the London Eye, the tour passes landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament and Trafalgar Square on the road before entering the River Thames from a slipway at Vauxhall and cruising down the river.
Tickets cost £20 adult, £14-16 children and teens. It’s best to book in advance for late Spring and summer tours.
British Tours’ expert guides can take you to all the major London landmarks and attractions, as well as suggesting many off the beaten track. They can also provide private London tours in a variety of languages, including French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Cantonese and Mandarin.
This individual, tailored service doesn’t come cheap, but prices depend on the number of people in your group and the length of the tour you’d like. For example, the cost of a full day’s tour in London for 3-4 people is £395.
Photo credit: Julian Walker