We can’t always be perfectly prepared when we arrive at our destination. Sometimes the diligent reading of the guide book can slip due to time and being-arsed restraints. You turn up not really knowing all that much about the place you’ve turned up in.
I’ve been there too. So, while I usually prefer a strongly themed walking tour with a bit of depth to it, I can occasionally see the point of those utterly generic hop-on hop-off bus tours that plague every city that attracts more than six visitors per year.
These tours generally work in the same way; you’re driven around key points of the city in an open top bus whilst a pre-recorded audio commentary or a bored-to-tears guide who may as well be pre-recorded tells you the odd snippet of information. Nothing that wouldn’t be in your guide book in the first place, of course – you can usually get more insight by just sitting on the bus reading the book.
The bus trundles around the main sights, with the option of getting off at numerous stops along the way. Hop-on, hop-off it is – servicing all your sightseeing needs in a non-stressful manner.
For orientation, these bus tours can be pretty good. So long as you don’t make the mistake of ever getting off the bus. Get off, and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get back on again.
This is because the hop-on, hop-off buses don’t tend to run very frequently. At best, you might get every 20 minutes, but it’s usually every half-hour, and in the worst cases, every 45 or 60 minutes. The golden rule is that the number of minutes it will take for the next bus to arrive is always significantly larger than the number of minutes it will take you to walk to the next attraction you want to go to.
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BOOK YOUR OWN ADVENTUREThe following sites are usually my first port of call when booking a trip - so I recommend them as somewhere to start when booking your own holiday.
HOTELS: Hotels.com (£) or Agoda (£)
FLIGHTS: Skyscanner (£) Kayak or Roundtheworldflights.com
CAR HIRE: Car Rentals (£)
GUIDE BOOKS: Amazon (£)
TOURS AND ACTIVITIES: Viator (£)
So the “sod it, we may as well walk” cry goes up, with the well-meaning intention of covering the section of the tour you missed later. Except you don’t, because you end up walking to the next attraction after that, you’ve already seen on foot what you’d see from the bus, and the commentary just isn’t interesting enough to get back on the bus for.
Then, by the time you’re ready to go back to your hotel, you’re either pretty much right next to the hotel anyway or the buses have stopped running. These things are like Cinderella if Cinderella’s cut-off time was 5pm rather than midnight. The buses cannot run after 5pm; that would be clear insanity.
The major mistake to avoid, however, is paying extra for a two day ticket. They will often sell these at a slightly higher price than the one day tickets. It’ll always be less than double the price, and will thus seem like quite the bargain. But don’t be tempted – you will never use it on the second day. You’ll have already done the first half of the route, and you’ll not particularly want to do it again, sitting on the bus for half an hour to 45 minutes, going thoroughly round the houses on the way to where you want to be. And, given that you’ll have got your bearings with all the walking the previous day, it’ll be easy enough to either walk it or public transport will seem like a better option.
The inevitable conversation will then happen. It goes a little like this…
“We should really use that ticket you know.”
“But it’s such a waste of time. We’re only here for three days. Can’t we just accept we’ve stupidly blown a tenner and have done with it?”
You’ll never use the ticket on the second day. The bus company knows that. And I’m pretty sure that’s a key part of the business model…