If you’ve been following my blog, you would know that the hop-on hop-off bus is one of my favourite ways to explore a new city, especially when I have limited time there. A few months ago, I became a tourist in my own city and experienced the Johannesburg City Sightseeing bus. During the December holidays, I went to explore London with The Original London Sightseeing Tour.
The Original London Sightseeing Tour was the first sightseeing tour of its kind in the world and was formally introduced by London Transport in 1951. Although it has been adapted, updated and emulated many times since then, it remains a pioneer in world tourism.
London is one of the most exciting cities in the world with tons of things to see and do. Because of this I was concerned that I wouldn’t even scratch the surface in such a short time there. There are over 80 bus stops on the Original London Sightseeing Tour served by six bus routes. The red, yellow, and blue routes are sightseeing tour routes. The green route is the loop line around central London and the black and purple routes operate as a shuttle service, connecting the sightseeing tours to the train stations and popular hotel districts. Therefore it was a good thing that The Original Tour had a special offer of 48 hours for the price of 24 (running till 29 February 2016), giving one effectively two days to tour with them instead of one. Bearing the multiple routes in mind, we planned our two days carefully.
We picked up our tickets from their colourful visitor centre near Trafalgar Square. I was surprised to see that they sold a lot of other products as well, such as half-price West End theatre tickets, Premiership football tickets and day trips around London. I made a mental note to return when I needed those.
There were many advantages to taking the hop-on hop-off bus. Here are some of them:
- I had last been to London almost 20 years ago and my husband and kids were visiting for the first time. The Original London Sightseeing Tour gives a great introductory orientation tour for first-time visitors and gives you a great feel of London.
- We got to see much of London while sitting in comfort in the open section at the top of the bus. When the light rain began, we moved to the covered section at the top and when it got too cold or windy, we sat downstairs.
- As we had our kids with us, it was much easier to ride on the hop-on hop off bus and alight at the attractions that interested us instead of taking the tube to the attractions then having to walk from the station to the attraction. The children were also excited to receive free Kid’s Club activity packs containing a ‘passport’ to London and an activity book with interesting trivia and games revolving around London.
- We learnt much about London’s fascinating history from the commentary – which is available in nine languages as well as a kids club channel, on which Jack and Lucy guide kids through London in a fun manner. It was educational and entertaining – think edutainment! The Great Plague of London, The Great Fire of London and King Henry VIII and his penchant for weddings and beheadings – were some of the historical events we learnt about.
- We were regaled with interesting anecdotes about many of the places we passed – which we would have probably not known otherwise. There were fascinating stories about British royalty and British notoriety, literati and glitterati. We even saw South Africa House where Madiba (Nelson Mandela) appeared on the balcony in 1995, as part of his official state visit.
- The view from the top of the double-decker bus was great for taking photos. And when the traffic slowed us down, we had more time to get that perfect picture.
We made stops at Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Madame Tussauds, the British Museum and Harrods inter alia. When the winter sun set at 4 pm, we continued on the bus into the night, and got to experience London by night too.
The ticket includes 3 free walking tours, a free Thames River Cruise Pass and unlimited access to all the bus tour routes. The walking tours include the Changing of the Guard Walk, the Jack the Ripper Walk, and the Rock n Roll walk.
My initial concerns were misplaced and I got to explore London and see alot more in two days with the Original Sightseeing Tour than I thought I would.
For more information and to book, go to www.theoriginaltour.com.