Although the more common practice for travelling around Europe is on a budget, my time there was luckily accompanied with a home base in England. From there I was able to pop over to European countries for even the weekend, and not have to spend too much, and not have to worry too much about how I was getting back, or where I was going to be sleeping. It worked really well.
One of the things I discovered on these short adventures to the continent was the Hop On – Hop Off Buses. Perhaps they have them in your home city. The premise of these buses is exactly what it sounds like: a bus service that allows you to hop-on and hop-off at designated stops, however much you’d like, for the entire day.
In 2013 I was able to travel quite a bit, and in a few different countries I bought a ticket for a Hop On – Hop Off Bus. I had seen them driving around the streets of London, and while I never used them there – opting for the underground experience and simply walking – I recognised them straight away when I stepped off the plane in Amsterdam. My friend and I also used one when we were in Athens, and these two experiences that I thought I’d draw from, and give you 5 reasons that theses Hop-On Hop-Off buses are worth trying.
1. Very decent prices
My bus in Amsterdam was about 19€, which is about $10USD/$15NZD. This was my first experience with a Hop-On Hop-Off bus, and I decided tog ive it ago because I had a day to myself in Amsterdam and wasn’t confident enough to wander around in a city I didn’t know. In the end, it would have been completely fine to do so, but the bus was a fantastic way to seeing the city. For an entire day’s pass, it was an incredibly good deal. 19€ meant I could spend the entire day jumping on and off the bus at various sight-seeing attractions, museums, famous houses (Anne Frank’s house), and gardens. If you’re not sure about the public transport in a city, then a Hop On – Hop Off Bus could just be the way to go, at least while you find your feet.
2. Takes you to the main sites, and tells you about them
The route of the bus depends on what the tourists want to see, and the tourists want to see the main buildings, sites, and historical places of the city. Not only does this allow for maximum city viewing during the day, but it means you can be sure you’re seeing the main parts of the city. What I love about these buses is that they have earphones that they give you (or simply bring your own), and you can plug them into the seat, choose your language, and you can listen to someone telling you all about not only the places that the bus goes, but about the city and history of it. The bus is not only your transport, but it’s your tour guide.
3. Make friends with the other people
While you may not be on the same bus all day, dependent on how long you stay at each site, or if you get off at all of them, you may find the same people are hopping on and hopping off with you for the duration of the day. What I loved about these buses, too, is the amount of people they attract, and the amount of different countries and nations that are represented on any one bus. I believe this is partly due to the fact that the automated voice-over tour-guide you can plug into is offered in about 11 languages. On my solo-trip around Amsterdam, I spoke to several people and learnt where they were from, what they were doing in Amsterdam. It was a great way to explore the city.
Because it’s a public service, it’s well recognised by the locals and the tourists. It’s an incredibly safe way to wander the cities. As my friend and I wandered the streets of Athens, there were only a few moments when we felt slightly on edge, but none of those moments were on the bus or in the places that we got off the bus at. The conductors were friendly and helpful, some even giving us tips to avoid people in the streets who tried to sell us things. Even though I was alone in Amsterdam, knowing that there was a bus in a few moments at any of the designated stops was a great comfort, and while I never felt unsafe once in Amsterdam, it was still good to know that getting on the bus was a good move.
5. It’s great fun
And quite simply, it’s fun. You can either plan your route on the bus, getting off at places at certain times in time for lunch or a show, or just get on and go, see what happens. If you’re lucky, you may get a free day with your ticket, as we did in Athens. It meant we could take the day slowly, staying longer at the places we really wanted to explore, and then follow up on the ones we hadn’t seen the following day. While it is a lot of fun doing it with a friend, so you can share the experience, it’s just as good one your own.
So whether you’re in a city by yourself, or you’re with your friends, the Hop On – Hop Off Busses are definitely worth a go, especially if you’re nervous about just wandering the streets. What I found is that the bus was a useful thing to do on day 1 or 2. That way you can get a good layout of the city and familiarise yourself with it. Then the rest of your trip you feel more comfortable on foot, or using public transport. You recognise the places you’ve been, and can use them as reference points.
Both times I used the bus, I used the Hop On – Hop Off Buses, but there are many other tour busses that do similar, if not the same sort of deals. It depends where you are, but I found that most of the European cities I went to had the same Hop-On Hop-Off bus service that I used. If you keep you brochure and ticket from one city, you can also get 10% off your next city bus tour. Bonus.