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Affordable open-top bus experiences in London

Updated: May 4

Big Ben

If you're looking for an affordable way to tour the city from a double-decker bus, you've come to the right place. Based on my extensive knowledge in this field, I've compiled information to help you select the best value and quality tour.

After doing extensive research online, I've found out that most resources often lack unbiased information, they are just promoting specific tours, making it hard to extract the right information. I hope this guide will be clear enough for you to make the right choice.

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Table of contents 

1. Affordable open top bus options

Let's jump in! Among the popular hop-on-hop-off experiences, I've identified three open-top buses with prices closer to £30: Toot Bus, Golden Tours, and TopView.

Out of the three options, Tootbus has been around the longest, which gives them a bit more credibility in my eyes. I trust them more than the others, especially when it comes to dealing with unforeseen situations like planned road closures or delays.Golden Tours follows closely as the second contender, while the most recent entrant to the market is TopView.

2. Let's take a closer look!

I can give you plenty of reasons why TootBus is a good choice. One of the main ones is that they are a rebranding of the Original Tour, which has been around London for 60 years, with a lot of history behind it. 

Another important reason is that they are the only company using eco-friendly buses. Tickets are also digital, so you don't need to carry them and worry about losing them to get back onto the bus. 

They also have an extensive route that covers all the major sites in London. The map is pretty clear, and you can also use the app to find your way or to check the next bus arrival. 

The commentary is one of their biggest disadvantages, but if you happen to travel with kids, they are the only ones that have a special kids' commentary, so they would be the clear choice.

Golden Tours is a relatively secure choice. It takes the second spot because of its reliability, which sometimes falls short. If you only plan to take the tour for a short time and not hop-on and off too much, it won't be a problem.

A great advantage that Golden Tours has, is that some of their buses offer live guides. Now, it might not be easy to locate the buses that do have a guide, but with a bit of luck, you might stumble across one.

TopView is the newest player; they started operating less than a year ago, which is why it takes the last spot. But don't be shy in choosing them, especially if English is not a problem for you.

They are the only ones that provide live English guides on all the buses, which is a huge advantage. The tour is so much better with a live guide; there is no comparison. If you are not comfortable with listening to the tour narrated by a guide in English, then go for the first two options. TootBus has five languages, while Golden Tours has five additional ones; scroll through their offers and see which one suits you best.

Another reason why TopView should be considered by you is the fact that they are really trying to stand out; they are making huge efforts in offering a high-quality tour, with their guides, staff, and drivers incentivized to offer great service. So, it might be the right time to give them a go.

3. Single trip or Hop-On Hop-Off?

For a single journey, all three of them offer a very similar, almost identical route, so you can choose any of them. The main difference lies in the commentary.

If you plan to hop-on hop-off, it's crucial to choose a tour with a more frequent service. We chose TootBus as a safer bet among the three because they adhere to a strict schedule, making them less likely to experience major delays unless unforeseen events occur.

If time is a constraint, all the tours offer a 2-hour journey without hopping off. Of course, you have the option to disembark earlier if desired.

4. Night tours

An excellent way to enjoy open top buses on a budget is by opting for a night tour. These are often more affordable, yet the experience is equally, if not more impressive than during the day.

Now, Tootbus, TopView, Golden Tours, and Sea London by Night all have very similar prices. The difference is just one or two pounds. Out of all of these, I would recommend See London by Night. The main reason is that this is their specialty; this is what they do and nothing else. So, they've made an art out of it. Their live guides are highly rated, and it's almost guaranteed that you'll have a great time.

5. Compromises when you go for the budget friendly experience

Typically, the most affordable tickets available are panoramic, allowing for just a single loop. For some, this option suits perfectly. However, if it's not what you're after, adding a few more pounds gives you the freedom to hop on and off as you please.

Another compromise involves omitting the river cruise from your ticket, which is usually a fantastic addition and provides a great experience.

6. Booking Tips and Discounts

If you have a full day or more and plan to visit multiple attractions, consider booking The London Pass. Verify whether your desired attractions are covered, as popular ones like the London Eye or Madame Tussauds are not be included. Additionally, note that the open-top bus tour included with the London Pass typically provides only a single day of access.

Booking online will usually be 10% cheaper than booking directly on the bus or with the uniformed staff.


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