Helping parents make confident choices

Big Bus Tour London - Review for families

What is it?

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It’s a touristy open-top bus ride through the infamous sites of Central London. Find stops all over Central London, but one of the main stops is in Piccadilly Circus just a minute away from Ripley’s! Believe It or Not.

Best for:

9 - 12 / 12+

OK for:

Babies / Toddlers & Preschool / 5 – 8

Cost

£££. It is very expensive, but there are ways to make the most out of your ticket and buying online in advance can save you a little bit of money.

What’s on offer

There are two types of tour to choose from: the red tour (which features a live guide) or the blue tour (which features the earphone commentary).

Both bus tours take you on an extensive sightseeing adventure through Central London including Buckingham Palace, St Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, London Eye and the South Bank.

You have the option of a 24 or 48-hour ticket and the ability to get off and back on the bus wherever and whenever you want within that time frame. If you’re not one for public transport or have little ones who don’t enjoy riding on the tube, this might be a nice alternative for local families on a day out or visiting families to ensure they see all the sights.

The hop on hop off factor also handy if you want to plan a route through London or visit certain attractions in a particular order.

There are two types of guides on each bus – a live guide or a language commentary via headphones. There are eight languages to choose from for the commentary, but live guides speak in English. You’re allowed to get off the bus and interchange between the two.

You can buy tickets or exchange a voucher on board for the Thames RiverCruise.

Highlights

If you’re into the chatty, energetic tour guide who likes to personalise his banter to the guests he’s presenting to, then the red tour is definitely for you. They’re good with kids, though children won’t always get the jokes.

Locals will absolutely love seeing the sights they’re so used to from a height. It’s surprisingly refreshing and will make you feel like you’re new to the capital once more. Tourists, whether UK natives or foreigners, are the ideal audience for this tour and the comprehensive tour really allows you to see all the big, famous sights. London's a big city, so if you've only got a few days but want an impressive photo album to take home, this tour is the one for you.

What to watch out for

  • Young children will probably, unfortunately, get bored on this tour bus. That’s not because the bus is an unpleasant experience, but because until they are old enough to appreciate the history and interest behind the sights– there’s not really anything for them to do. Several mums have commented that they would not take a child under 9 on this bus for the full tour.
  • Buses should be expected at stops at 10 – 20 minute intervals.
  • The seats on the bus are big enough, but are still quite small. Don’t bring lots of luggage or a buggy on board to save room.
  • There are NO toilets on the bus.
  • The whole red bus ride, without stopping, lasts 2 hours 15 minutes. The blue bus lasts 3 hours 15 minutes. That’s a long time without a bathroom break for a youngster.
  • If you want to do the whole tour without stopping, make sure your child doesn’t drink too much liquid. You’ll probably have to stop. Just accept it and plan what you can do on your bathroom break.
  • If it’s raining, umbrellas will be no good. Either sit on the top deck under the cover or the slightly less favourable bottom deck. If you and the kids want to brave it on the top deck sans cover, wear a raincoat. It’s always wise to carry a fold-up pac-a-mac or rain poncho.
  • If it’s not scorching hot outside and you want to sit outside on the top deck, it will be windy! You will suddenly get cold! Wear a coat or jumper.

MFM tips:

  • This tour is best enjoyed on a mild, warm, sunny day without any wind or rain, a lunchtime picnic at one of the Royal Parks and a visit to a nearby attraction.
  • If mums and families want to take the tour with young children, it’s best to bring something to entertain them with. Video games, colouring books, toys are good options and easy to carry on board. Or you can take the earphone commentary tour and invent a game to play with them on the journey.

What the owners say

“Twice voted the London & Partners Sightseeing Tour of the Year, Big Bus London is the ultimate London sightseeing experience. Operating a hop on, hop off sevice at more than 50 locations the London fleet consists of seventy five buses over three routes.

Your open-top bus tour showcases the best of London's tourist attractions. Listen to colourful tales of London's rich 2000-year history and take in famous landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Choose from a 24 or 48 hour ticket to discover the sights of London at your own pace.”

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Visit the official Big Bus London website

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