In most major cities in the world there are bus services called “hop on, hop off” these tour buses tend to visit all the major sights and allow you to get on and off where you please. These types of tours are a great advantage when travelling, as they allow you to get your bearings in a new City and see many of the sights you may not get a chance to see if you are in town for a short period of time. New York’s Hop On Hop Off is no exception and has several of these types of bus tours. The tours generally loop around routes that cover everything from Brooklyn to downtown and you can usually find a few other bargains like boat trips thrown into the various packages.
One of the best reviewed bus tours in New York is the Grayline Bus Tours they have several routes that span the entire City, including Night Tours showing the lights and Manhattan skylines. There are also a variety of packages and tickets to choose from that include admission to various famous locations like the Statue of Liberty, 30 Rock and more. The bus comes with a tour guide and translation devices and it can be quite a fun way to see a big City.
Bus Tours are not all created equal so here are some thoughts to make sure you get the best out of a Hop On Hop Off bus.
- First things first, check out reviews on line of the bus tour you are thinking of taking. Grab maps and brochures from all the vendors you can and then go back and Google the best tour for the best price.
- Understand the pass you are buying and what it includes. Many tours will offer hourly rates or up to several days. Work out what is going to be your best bet by planning your schedule before you pay for a ticket. We actually purchased our tickets in the afternoon and as a result, we got 4 days worth of touring on a 3-day ticket. The cost of our ticket was around $65 US and included a river tour.
- That leads me to, get your plan in place before you get your ticket. All the tours offer maps, guides, and the time-frames the buses run. If you plan to visit the Statute of Liberty, take the cruise, then hit the Central Park and upper Eastside, make sure you are working the route properly. For example, you don’t want to be on the bus see the Statute of Liberty from a distance and then go up to Central Park only to have to come back for your river cruise where you can actually visit the statute. Lay out your route and what you want to see before you go.
- Make sure you dress for the weather. Many buses have open tops and if the sun is burning bright or it is raining you want to be dressed appropriate for the weather. It is impossible to get good photos when you are in a closed in bus, but some do have canopies on the top level, which can help, at least you can duck outside quickly to get that superb shot.
- Don’t be afraid to take the tours and not get off the bus, give yourself time to familiarize yourself and get your bearings then later you can plan a route that takes you to where you want to go. Using the bus as a means of transportation makes them very convenient. You can drop in that lovely deli for lunch and then go shopping at Macy’s since it is right round the corner. You won’t spend hours going up and down streets that don’t even get close to your destination or worse end up taking cabs that cost way too much to go a block and a half.
- Take the time to learn what your ticket includes and the correct time-frames, on several tours we have been on passengers get on the bus and go uptown when they want to go downtown for their free boat tour. Many of the packages also include good deals on restaurants and shopping discounts, this can be very useful in expensive cities.
- Try to remember which bus tour your tickets are for, there are so many in New York for example you can end up attempting to get on the wrong bus at the wrong stop. Learn the route and check where buses will stop.
- Know where you can buy the tickets. For many buses there are street vendors that can sell you passes and you will often see groups of sellers with jackets representing their bus lines selling the tickets on street corners. These sellers have portable credit/debit machines and can print off your ticket then and there. You can also purchase tickets online, just make sure you know where to pick them up.
- New York is always busy so there is no real good time of day to book a ticket or hop on a bus. It does tend to get busier around 11am and then stays busy for most of the day. Sometimes you won’t get a good seat on the bus but there is always another one. Traffic can also be hell in New York or any other major city, just sit back and enjoy the fact that you aren’t driving.
- Many bus companies offer specialty tours, this is a great choice during special seasons like Christmas. You can take an evening tour of the lights, Christmas decorations, and then go ice-skating in the park.
Hop on Hop Off tours are a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with an unknown city. Don’t be embarrassed to join all the other tourists on the bus – don’t forget you are one.
Some posts you might enjoy on traveling in the US can be found here
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