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Big Bus London - A Complete Review of the Sightseeing Bus for 2024

Updated: May 4


Big Bus London open top bus in front of St Paul's




Trying to figure out which London bus tour would suit you best is not an easy task. After reading most of the information out there, I realized that most of it is outdated, inaccurate, or written without having much knowledge about the way the tours work. 


The role of this article is to simplify the process as much as possible and give you an unbiased opinion on why opting for Big Bus could be the best option for you. I'll also highlight any downsides and elaborate on the additional tours and attractions they offer. 


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  Summary:  

  • Big Bus is a global leader in the tourism world

  • Over 30 years of history in London 

  • Reliable and enjoyable

  • The most frequent bus schedule

  • Merlin Attractions partnership - discounted attraction tickets

  • Our top recommendation for hop-on-hop-off tours in London


           Check online for ticket deals





1. Why choose Big Bus London ?


Big Bus has been around for a very long time, over 30 years to be more precise. The only other company that can match this, is Tootbus (formerly The Original Tour). This means that most of the routes, tours and special offers that the other companies promote, have likely been introduced and perfected by Big Bus. 


This is one of the reasons why they have gained a reputation as one of the best bus tour operators in the world, not just in London but also in the other cities where they operate.



2. Advantages over other companies


Big Bus has been working hard over the years to maintain it's spot at the top. They simply have an incredible edge based on their experience and the other companies don't seem to catch up. 


Their superiority is often evident in traffic, with their buses consistently filled with passengers, even when other tours appear less busy.



Summary:

  • frequent bus schedules

  • London Pass let's you use the bus for 1 day

  • one route that covers both East and West London

  • user friendly app

  • partnership with Merlin Attractions

  • larger buses




Their tour stands out with its frequent bus schedule, meaning you'll spend less time waiting at the bus stop and more time exploring. At some of the key points like the London Eye or Marble Arch their superiority is very obvious, with buses coming every 10 minutes or less during the high season. 

 

Their route design is one of the best, making it super easy to follow. What's impressive is that they not only hit all the major sights but also have buses going the opposite way at crucial stops, a feature that most of the other tours don't offer. 


Pro tip: Make sure you download the Big Bus app; it's your ticket to tracking the buses and minimizing those pesky waiting times.


One of the most significant advantages of choosing Big Bus is their partnership with Merlin, the operator of London's most popular attractions. This collaboration allows you to snag an incredible deal if you plan to visit these attractions. They offer a fantastic ticket that bundles four attractions with the Big Bus Tour. You can check the offer here.


Another great advantage that comes with choosing the Big Bus is the London Pass offer. If you purchase the pass, you can use the bus tour for 1 day without paying any additional fees (make sure you start early). With the London Pass, you gain access to a wide array of attractions like the Tower of London, The Shard, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, and many more. 


Big Bus London is a better choice for those staying in the Bayswater, Notting Hill, Lancaster Gate, or Paddington areas, as it provides better convenience unlike other companies that either don't have stops in these areas or offer infrequent service.


Please take note that on some days, the hop-on hop-off can work really smoothly, with buses arriving all the time, without really having to wait too long. On other days you can get stuck in bad traffic jams, there can be diversions because of roadworks, and on occasion, long waiting times at the bus stops.




3. Things to consider


Now let's talk about the downsides! No matter how good they are or how long they have been around for, there are still a lot of unforeseen circumstances that can affect your tour. We have the spectacular London weather that can almost always take you by surprise, traffic jams, and loads of events and protests. 


During one of my rides with Big Bus London for this review, I experienced an unplanned protest. Now most of the time they are planned, and you can check the service update page for the latest information, but this time it just happened. The driver was very friendly and explained clearly that the bus would go on a diversion and offered alternative routes. It might not always go so smoothly. The key is to approach the tour with an open mind. 


Summary:

  • buses could be more crowded during busier times

  • higher price

  • expensive child tickets

  • all tickets include the boat ride


Buses can experience higher levels of crowding during the weekends and school holidays making it harder to get seats upstairs. Most of the time they are suplementing the number of buses that are on the road to overcome this.


Pro Tip: One of the best ways to find seats upstairs is to begin your tour at Green Park, which happens to be one of their starting points. You'll often find that they dispatch empty buses from there, ensuring you have a better chance of finding a seat and enjoying a more comfortable ride.


Big Bus may have a slightly higher price point compared to other companies. Booking online can lower the costs.


Pro tip: If you are planning to visit one of the famous London Attractions, to offset the higher price point of the Big Bus ticket, try to get a bundle ticket. For example you can get a combined ticket with the London Eye and save around 20% on each. You can find the tickets here.




4. Making the most of your time during the bus tour



  • Red route: If you happen to find yourself closer to the red route, it's the ideal route to start your day with as it covers all the major attractions. 


  • Blue route: Once you've completed the red route, if you still have time left, consider hopping on the blue route to explore the West side of London. This way you get to visit famous landmarks such as Harrods, Kensington Palace or Notting Hill. It is also worth getting off the bus to take a stroll through Hyde Park. 


  • Boat ride: Every Big Bus ticket includes a fantastic City Cruises boat ride. I took the cruise during sunset, and let me tell you, it was magical. I really enjoyed the guide they had, he offered a lot of great information about the sights, and he was also quite funny. For the best experience, consider hopping off at the Tower of London and catching the cruise to Westminster.


Pro tip: If you have limited time or simply want to stay on the bus and not hop-off too much, their Blue Route covers both East and West London in a single ride. Keep in mind that the tour lasts over 3 hours!


For more tips on making the most of your day in London, check out our blog post: The best itinerary for one day in London.




5. Aditional tours on offer by Big Bus London


London Evening Tour : This tour has been around for quite a long time and it's highly popular. It's not uncommon to see a lot of people queuing for it every day, so make sure you arrive at least 15-20 minutes before departure to get the best seats. 


The tour can be added to your hop-on hop-off ticket or it can be purchased separately.

Starting at Point 11, the London Eye Stop, the tour lasts for approximately 2 hours. Remember, it's a continuous ride without stops.




6. Routes and Timetable

Route map of The Big Bus tour

Big Bus Tours offers a choice of 3 routes:


  • Red route is the main route, leading you to the major attractions.

  • Blue route explores West London, including attractions like the museums, Hyde Park, and Harrods.

  • Green route focuses on the British Museum and Kings Cross.


The red route tends to have the most frequent departures, followed by the blue and green routes. The best way to avoid long waiting times is to check the app or ask the members of staff for the next bus arrivals or potential delays.


Pro tip: from stop 19, next to the London Eye, you can take the red route in 2 different directions. The westbound bus goes towards Buckingham Palace while the Eastbound one goes towards the Tower of London.




7. Available Tickets


As of the time of writing, Big Bus offers a trio of ticket options to choose from:



The Discover ticket is the standard ticket that is valid for 24hrs and includes the boat ride. It is designed for those with a relatively limited amount of time to explore. It's a great choice when you want to make the most of your visit in a shorter timeframe 


The Essential ticket is for a 48-hour adventure. It not only includes a great boat ride but also offers three incredible walking tours led by some of Big Bus's finest guides. This ticket is perfect for those with more time on their hands.


The Explore ticket includes all the features of the Essential ticket but adds the highly sought-after night tour to the mix. This option ensures you can savor the best of London day and night.


Pro tip: If you decide to go on some of their guided tours, I especially recommend the Changing of the Guard walking tour – it not only shows you the best vantage points for the guard change but also provides invaluable context that would be hard for you to come by in other circumstances.



8. Conclusion of our Big Bus London review


We highly recommend the tour, but please approach it with an open mind. There are so many factors that cannot be influenced when doing an open tour in London. This will ensure that you will have a great time no matter what.


If our Big Bus London review captivated your interest, be sure to explore our assessment of other tours here and discover valuable travel tips here.



Getting tickets


Purchasing tickets online is often more cost-effective than buying from street vendors or when boarding the bus.















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