Short on time? Here's the summary: Big Bus Tour gets the best reviews. It's also the best value if you want a one day hop-on hop-off bus and river cruise bundle. However, Golden Tours is cheaper if you just want a simple two hour bus tour. Read on for the full guide.
There are four main companies competing to offer the best London Bus Tour. They offer open top tours of all the big tourist attractions including Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament, St Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and the British Museum.
Some London Bus Tours also include a free river cruise as part of the deal. Some are hop-on-hop-off whilst others just offer a straightforward tour for a couple of hours.
But which is the best London Bus Tour?
We've compared all four based on customer reviews and cost. It's worth noting that you can often beat the 'official' prices by booking via a third party such as Wowcher, Groupon or Living Social.
Which London Bus Tour gets the best reviews?
We looked for the review score on TripAdvisor for the main London Bus Tour operators. As of September 2021, the ranking looks like this.
Please note: there are other specialist tours, which offer things like Harry Potter tours. We've just included London Bus Tours which cover a general route of the whole city. Of course, there are also buses operated by Transport for London which go past a lot of attractions - the number 11 bus is a good one for visiting several popular spots.
Which is the cheapest London Bus Tour?
This is where it gets a little bit complicated, as there are endless offers and packages which all provide slightly different things. We did three price comparisons to get a general idea of which London Bus Tour is best value for a family ticket.
Price Comparison #1: a simple two hour tour of London by bus
For a very rough price comparison, we looked for a two-hour (ish) tour of London with the five bus companies above, on a Tuesday, booked a week in advance. We searched for the price on their official website for two adults and two children and found these results:
Golden Tours is the winner here, and it is second in our review comparison.
The advantage of a non-stop tour is that you can settle in rather than risk losing your seat every time you get off the bus. However, two hours on a bus is a long time, particularly with children. The downside is that you can't get off to spend time at the attractions which interest you most.
Also worth mentioning (again) is that you can do a DIY London bus tour by using the official Transport for London buses. By my calculations, it will cost a family of four £13.80 for unlimited bus travel for a day.
You'll still get a good view but the buses aren't open top. You don't get a commentary and the buses won't follow the ideal route. Start with the number 11 bus.
Price Comparison #2: a 24 hour hop-on-hop-off tour of London
Next, we looked for a one day ticket where you can hop-on and hop-off at your leisure. The downside of this option is that you might end up stood in the rain waiting for a bus to come along (several reviewers suffered such an ordeal).
The plus side is that you can pop into an attraction, jump off to see the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace or stop for lunch.
Again, we searched for a family ticket for two adults and two children. From cheapest to most expensive at the time of searching.
So, Golden Tours appears to be the cheapest for a 24 hour ticket. However, it's worth noting that the Big Bus Tour will work out cheaper if you are also going to do a River Cruise. A typical river cruise for a family costs about £30-£40 but you're getting it for £11.60 extra.
Price Comparison #3: a 48 hour hop-on-hop-off ticket with a river cruise
Finally, we searched for the cost of a two day hop-on and hop-off London bus tour with a river cruise. This is a commonly offered bundle and it can work out good value if you don't to cram everything into one day.
We searched for the price for a family of four in mid September 2021:
Again, Golden Tours was the cheapest by a few pounds.
Conclusion - which is the best London Bus Tour?
But wait! Booking direct isn't always the cheapest way to get a London Bus Tour
We found that the cheapest option for a London Bus Tour isn't always booking direct.
Deals come and go, but we searched on Wowcher and found these deals for a family of four:
We also searched on Groupon and Expedia but didn't find they were cheaper than going direct. Of course, they might be cheaper when you do your searches.
Good luck and happy travelling!
March 2022 update: We've removed the 'Megabus Megasightseeing London Bus Tour' from this guide as it's no longer operating.
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