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Original London Tour Open Top Sightseeing Bus – What To Expect

Author: Bob Handford
The Original London Tour is the popular Hop On, Hop Off Sightseeing Bus that covers all of London\’s major attractions. This is truly the original such tour, a format now widely copied with similar services in most major tourist cities throughout the world. The original, Original London Tour was operated by London Transport the operator of London\’s famous double deck red buses. Today its run by a private company.

If you\’re new to London, Bob would thoroughly recommend you take this service on your first day. London is a big place, this tour gets you quickly orientated to the layout of London and will help you greatly in planning your visit or fine tuning one that you had spent months planning.

What this is not, is your way preferred way of getting around London. Use the London red buses and Underground as the way to get around after the first day.

What To Expect On The Tour

The Original London Tour has three core HoHo bus services, (Red, Yellow and Museum Tour) plus a couple of hotel district feeder services. A very worthwhile river cruise and guided walks are also included in the product.

On this blog entry we\’re covering the Yellow Bus service or T1 service as its sometimes referred to.

The Yellow service visits nearly all the main visitor attractions in Central London. Its route is very similar to the Red service. The main difference between the two, Red & Yellow is that the Yellow service has a live commentary in English. The Red tour has audio guides in many different languages. The Red Route commentary is good, but if you are comfortable with English I would recommend you opt for the Yellow Bus. (The Museum Tour covers some of the major museums that would be out of the way for the Yellow & Red services. Principally the V&A, Science and Natural History Museums in Kensington and the British Museum. It also acts as a hotel district feeder service for Kensington and Bloomsbury plus Harrods and Harvey Nichols shops in Knightsbridge).

You can freely switch between all the bus services.

A popular approach is to do a complete curcuit of the Yellow Tour. This takes well over 2 hours. Then pick and choose places you want to visit as a result afterwards, (though Bob would recommend the river cruise is taken at some time). Use the guide on the bus to ask those questions or get clarifications so you usr your time effeciently. The tour bus also sells fast track tickets to some popular attractions that have long waiting times to get in, especially in the busy summer months.

Full details of the service are on the Original London Tour web page.

The 5 minute video below gives you a great briefing on what to expect on the Yellow Route Bus, just one part of the Original London Tour a great first day in London.

Links To Further Information On London's Open Top Sightseeing Tours

Original London Tour– Full details, ticketing and prices


Golden Tours– Alternative open top bus with no hop-on, hop-off facility


Vintage Open Top Bus– Alternative open top bus with no hop-on, hop-off facility


Traditional London Guided Tour– Traditional full day tour with guide


Questions And Discussion

If you have any questions or anything to add about the Original London Tour just use the discussion facility below.
I\’ll normally get back to you within 24 hours.

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  • Samf

    I will be arriving at st Pancras at 11am
    On a Sunday. I am under the impression that if I hop on the blue bus tour and jump off at Trafalgar Square I can then get on the full yellow tour – is this correct. And is is correct that on the way back I just do the same in reverse the blue tour will take me back to where I started. I have bought an Oyster card so all bases are covered. What times do all your tour buses finish. Feeling very panicky as only down for two days whilst visiting gosh and worrying about wasting time and/or getting lost

    • Bob

      Hop on buses are a very slow way of getting around London
      For just 2 days, if you have a firm list of what you want to see and do I’d suggest that just keeping to the Oyster and the Underground supported by public buses will enable you to see far more than if you use hop on buses significantly.

      If this is the first time in London then a Hoho bus might be a good way of getting orientated and getting a great overview of what London has to offer but that would mean only one day or little more for hard sightseeing

      I suspect you are time challenged and would recommend you locate where all the places are in London you want to see then invest some time in creating an effecient outline itinerary which can maximise what time you have

      • Samf

        Hi, thank you for the reply. Yes we have a list and was going to write down specific bus roots etc. Was thinking that the hop on hop off would be quicker than me trying to navigate. I have downloaded an app called city mapper than seems to be exactly what I need. Should I decided whilst there to use the hoho buses I assume I can get a ticket from the visitors centre. Im actually from Fulham but been some 30 years since I have been back to London and wanting to give my 10 year the experience- so much to do so little time. One question. Last time I was there madam tssauds had the planetarium next to it, is this no longer the case as I can’t see it in their website.

        • Bob

          The Hop On Hop Off buses are really slow – on a good day they may only be 3 or 4 times slower than the tube, normally much more.
          Use the official travel planner linked below for getting the best way from a to b

          The Panetarium at Madame Tussauds closed many years ago.

          The daily cap using an Oyster is £6.50 in the central zones which covers all the sights in the central areA including Fulham
          So essentially using an Oyster the most you’ll pay for fares in a calendar day is £6.50
          If you only use the red buses not the Underground its £4.50

          You have to pay a £5 deposit when you buy the Oyster
          At the end of the trip cancel the Oyster in a ticket machine and you’ll get back the £5 deposit plus any cash up to £10 left on the Oyster

          If you have a debit or credit card that supports contactless payment you can use that as an Oyster Card
          The advantage being you don’t have the hassle of deposits and cancelling the Oyster entails. Your contactless card is debited each day for the fares you have amassed

          Children under 11 travel free without a ticket on both the Underground and buses

          • Samf

            Lovely, thank you so much you have been really helpful.

  • Bob

    Certainly news to me.
    It looks like this scheme means you have first access to the small number of tickets Highclere keep back when they are open in july and August – may be wrong

    Feedback I’ve heard is that most people who go to Highclere in the hope of getting one of these tickets are dissApointed – maybe its because people on this scheme get priority?
    I see they don’t guarantee you’ll get in so I’d contact the people before you buy and get their input on the chances of you getting entrance if you just turned up under this scheme at Highclere

  • Ruth Ann Henke

    If we are very good at Google maps and getting around and have studied about attractions, would we be just as well off to have an oyster card and travel on our own, or do you still recommend the bus tour?

    • Bob

      If you have an independent outlook then by all means just use the Underground and to a lesser extent the buses to get around – it will be much more effecient in time and of course much cheaper.

      The HoHo buses are worthwhile if you are a first time visitor and a first day on the HoHo buses is a very good way of getting orientated with London and up to speed very quickly.

      • Ruth Ann Henke

        Again, thanks!

  • Izzul Rani

    hello Bob .I will be in London for the first time .so u recommend the yellow route and finish the circuit before decided to hop of at the places we want to spend more .is this the suitable journey for the first timer like me ? one more question .does the bus stop for a few minutes at the destination ?if yes how many minutes does the bus stop at the landmarks ?
    thank you for your cooperation .

    • Bob

      Yes a lap on the yellow route is a good start
      The bus only stops to let people on and off – if you want to get off for a few minutes the buses are very frequent, you’ll rarely have to wait more than 4-5 minutes in the summer months before another one comes along

      • Izzul Rani

        hello bob , this question out of the hop-off hop-on bus topic .i bought a virgin train ticket from manchester piccadilly to heathrow airport .the depature time is on 11.35 and arrive at london euston on 1.43 .then i depart from euston london on 1.43 to heathrow airport and will bw arrived 2.44 . i afraid that the distance from the virgin terminal and underground station is far .Would i probably reach at the tube station on time ? does the infromation stated by the vigin trains is accurate ?

  • Thomas

    We (2adults 2children age 5&10)are travelling to London 4th-9th of April. We will be near clapham junction but we also want to see the London eye,sea life, madume tussades, London bridge I would be hugely grateful for the cheapest travel options to get to clapham junction to get in and out of London to see the above attractions including 2for1if possible. I was looking at the package online from coca cola, is that best deal? And what kind of card do you advise for $$$ saving Oyster card or travel card? How does the 2for1 attractions work also? Thanks again

    • Bob

      Ok your options are pretty complex.

      Your 5 and 10 year olds travel free without tickets on London’s red buses, underground, overground and DLR rail services.
      However they don’t go free on train services, including the direct trains from Clapham Junction to Central London (Victoria, Vauxhall and waterloo Stations)
      They can go free on the Overground service between Clapham Junction and west Brompton where you can switch onto the Underground or you can get a red bus from Clapham into Central London.

      For transport alone an Oyster Card is cheapest for adults but it doesn’t qualify you for 2 for 1.
      You can buy a 1 day Off-Peak Travelcard zone 1-2 at Clapham Junction railway Station ticket office and use that instead of the Oyster that day, though the Travelcard day pass is at least 6 GBP per person more than if you used the Oyster.

      If you are travelling every day into London for 6 days you can get a 7 day Travelcard zone 1-2 and that will be cheaper than Oyster. You can buy these at Clapham Junction railway Station too but each adult will require a passport size photo.

      Because your kids have no ticket they do not qualify for 2 for 1

  • Jeanette

    Is there a changing of the guard at Buckingham Oct 29/30?

    • Bob

      In October, changing of the Guard at Buck Palalce is scheduled on even dates, so 29th no, 30th yes.

  • João

    Hi Bob,
    From what i read till now, and having in mind i’ll arrive London after lunch, it seems to be a good option to buy a ticket on the OTL bus (red line) to have a first view of London in this first afternoon and in the next 5 days explore in detail some sites/places that i most liked. However, i have a doubt: i’ll buy a 7 day travel card (2 for 1). I was reading and i saw the option of Local Red Bus.
    1) Can i travel in OTL or Local Red Bus with travel card?
    2) What are the main differences between OTL and Red Local Bus?
    Thanks for all your help.

    • Bob

      As you say the OLT sightseeing buses are very good for an initial orientation. They are not the best way to get around London, far from it.

      The local red buses run 24×7 and are far more comprehensive and frequent than the sightseeing buses that run between about 9 a.m. and 6 p.m..
      What the sightseeing buses offer is a fixed route that covers most of the main sights with a commentary od what you are seeing.
      If you invested in a bus map you could do the same thing using London’s red buses stringing several bus routes together for a fraction of the cost (maximum £4.40 per day with an Oyster Card) about 20% of the cost of the sightseeing bus but with no commentary.
      The sightseeing buses also do not cover many of the hotel districts so you may have to get the red buses or the Underground to get to the sightseeing buses.

      Broadly speaking you will be using the London Underground to get about in London with perhaps the odd red bus journey.
      Walking in the centre of London is the best way around by far for many journeys, unfortunately many visitors do not discover this until its too late.

  • Yvon

    Hi Bob
    To buy the Standard Oyster card, do we need to produce a photo

    • Bob

      You do not need a photo if you are an adult to buy an Oyster.
      If you want to buy a child Oyster you need to apply for what is called an Oyster ID card which requires a photo. This takes some time, you cannot do it on demand.

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