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London Bus Tours: Tickets in Advance or On the Bus?

Updated: May 6

1. Introduction

It's not always obvious whether it's better to purchase tickets in advance or on the bus. While it's tempting to leave it to the last minute, that might not always be the best choice. In this guide, I'll outline the pros and cons of each option.

Find out which one is the best hop-on hop-off bus in London in this blog post.

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2. Buying Tickets in Advance

Guaranteed Availability

By purchasing your tickets in advance, you secure your spot on the popular London bus tours and avoid the disappointment of sold-out buses. For extremely popular tours like Brigit's Afternoon Tea or The Harry Potter Tour it could be wise to book a few weeks in advance.

Pro Tip : It is worth noting that for the hop-on hop-off tours it's almost always better to buy tickets in advance as they are at least 10% cheaper. Tickets become valid only when you scan them with the bus driver or their staff. If the weather turns unfavorable, you can reschedule your tour for the following day.

Also the hop-on hop-off buses never run out of availability, even in the busy summer months. If the buses are really full they tend to suplement the number of buses.

Time Efficiency 

If you already have the tickets, most of the time you just need to show them to the staff or the driver and board the bus quickly. However, if you don't have them and the staff is busy, you might have to wait in line to purchase tickets. 

Online Discounts 

Many tour operators offer exclusive discounts for online bookings, allowing you to save some pounds for other London adventures.

Pro tip: some of the best discounts you will find on Groupon and Wowcher. (Please note that the redeaming process is not always stright forward, so allow some extra time and patience for that).


  • Ticket Provider Depending on the ticket provider, you might encounter delays when redeeming your tickets. Yet, this issue is diminishing as most top providers now use easily scannable QR codes.

  • Weather For tours other than the hop-on hop-off ones, such as See London by Night or The Classic Tour, canceling your ticket due to unfavorable weather conditions might be more challenging.

  • Traffic and events Unforeseen traffic or events can occur in London at any time, and they're not always predictable. These factors may cause significant delays to your bus.

3. Buying Tickets On the Bus:


Opting to buy tickets on the bus gives you the flexibility to decide on the day of your adventure. Please remember that only a few tours, other than the hop-on-hop-off options, offer this flexibility. 

Real-Time Decisions

Decide in real-time as you consider various factors such as weather conditions, your current mood, and other elements before finalizing your choice of tour or route. 

Immediate Boarding

Once you decide, you can board the bus promptly and start your London exploration. Remember, this is not always possible during busy times.


  • Risk of Sell-Outs: Popular tours may fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons. Buying on the bus might lead to disappointment if spaces are limited.

  • Potential Delays:  Queueing to purchase tickets on-site could result in delays, affecting your overall schedule for the day.

4. Finding the Middle Ground:

Online Discounts

Find more details about online bookings to determine if they come with cost savings. If these potential savings outweigh the benefits of flexibility, the choice is easier. By doing some research, you can choose what suits your budget and preferences best.

Peak vs. Off-Peak Consideration

During busy periods, leaning towards advance bookings ensures you won't miss out on your preferred tour.

Weather Forecasts

Stay updated on weather forecasts

Pro Tip: When you decide to purchase tickets online, you give yourself more time to do proper research and make the right choice for you. If you decide last minute, you might feel rushed by different companies and sales staff, ending up on a tour that isn't necessarily the best fit.

5. Recommended ticket providers for the London bus tours:

My primary recommendation is GetYourGuide, offering a diverse range of tours and packages not always available directly from the tour websites. Additionally, explore Groupon for incredible discounts on various experiences.

For more details on specific tours and experiences please check our main page and our travel tips.


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