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Comparing London's Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Buses

Big Bus v Original London Tour v Golden Tours With Question & Answer Facility

Golden Tours Open Top Sightseeing Bus

This a broad discussion of the Hop on, Hop Off Sightseeing buses so popular in London.

The menu below has links to dedicated pages of each of London's three main hop on, hop off sightseeing tour buses plus some alternative close equivalents to see London's highlights.

London is a 24x7 city and the HoHo buses run very crudely between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

We would suggest you only need 1 initial day of using the HoHo buses to get a feel of London, two days maximum.

As a means of getting from A to B the hop on hop off sightseeing buses are slow and inflexible compared to public transport. Use the guides on the buses to bounce of ideas then use public transport to get around for the rest of your trip.

The three main operators of hop on. hop off sightseeing buses in London are:

a) Original London Tour

b) Big Bus

c) Golden Tours

Original London Tour and the Big Bus are the long established operators and arguably are near mirror images of each other in term of the product being offered.

Anecdotally they seem to have around equal market share.

Golden Tours are the relative new kids on the block and after several years of operation now offer a product almost on par with Big Bus and OLT, however Golden Tours tickets are usually still the softest on price.

What Are The Differences Between the 3 Operators?

In summary all three of London's Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Bus services offer essentially the same product in very similar vehicles.

London is quite spread out and all services have more than one service route to cover the attractions.

Each operator has two routes that largely duplicate one another covering the West End and along the river to the Tower of London, this is where the biggest customer demand is and all the most popular attractions are.

To the west of this core area are the Kensington museums, Harrods, Kensington Place and the hotel districts around Gloucester Road. For the purposes of this article we'll treat this area as also part of the core area.

All three services main routes cover this core sightseeing area with very little variation between each operator.

Main Attractions Not Covered by HoHo Service

Notable attractions not being visited by any HoHo bus are the London Zoo, Camden Lock Market and the Imperial War Museum.

Hotel Districts Not Covered by HoHo Service

Big Bus London Open Top Sightseeing Bus

The only major hotel district in the centre of London not covered by HoHo buses is Earls Court - but you can walk to Gloucester Road in 10 minutes where all 3 operators stop .

For those in the Bayswater, Lancaster Gate and Paddington areas Big Bus has a main route stopping while the other two have hotel connector services.

Commentary, Audio Guides & Apps

OLT : French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, German, Japanese & Kids Channel.

Big Bus : English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Portuguese, Mandarin, Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese & Kids Channel.

Golden Tours: : English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Mandarin & Russian

Big Bus have a free app for iPhone and Android that provides interesting facts and information on attractions, landmarks, shopping and dining. Find your chosen destination with ease and locate the nearest bus stop to you, using the 3D map that also integrates with Apple/Google maps.


All three services start up main sightseeing services around 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and start winding down about 5 p.m.

Frequencies vary by season but in the peak summer season you'll be very unlucky to wait 10 minutes.

WiFi on the HoHo Bus

Original London Tour Open Top Sightseeing Bus

Only Golden Tours advertise free WiFi availability on their buses.

Night Bus Tour

There have been various attempts at providing night time hop-on, hop off tours in the last few years, most running are themed tours, and do not offer hop on, hop off service.

In 2016 Big Bus did operate a limited summer only hop on /off service in the evening that was sold as a separate service.


Broadly Big Bus and Original London Tour go head to head on price with only small differences. At any one time either can be cheapest. They both offer a very similar service with only subtle differences.

In general, Golden Tours tend to be softest on price.

All operators watch each other like hawks, if one makes a move on price, the others normally follow within hours.

Ticket Durations

Big Bus, Golden Tours and OLT all offer 24 and 48 hour tickets. Golden Tours also offer a 72 hour ticket.

Golden Tours and Big Bus also offer a 1 calendar day ticket that is slightly cheaper than the 24 hour ticket. By calendar day it means the ticket expires at the end of the calendar day whatever your start time. Its worth noting the calendar day tickets do not include the river cruise.

Note: Big Bus, OLT and Golden Tours tickets all use ticketing measured in 24 hour blocks, whether it be 24,48 or 72 durations.

So, if you start using a 48 hour ticket (the time you step on the first bus or get your ticket validated) on a Monday at 2 p.m. the tickets expire at 2 p.m. on the Wednesday.

The Cheapest Tickets Are In Advance, Purchased On-Line.

Tickets bought on the day and from most ticket outlets and hotels are full price. Tickets purchased on-line at each companies own web site offer discounted advance purchase tickets with a significantly discounted price.

You will also find other promotions on the companies web sites from time to time not available elsewhere.

For on-line purchases you are e-mailed e-tickets immediately after purchase. Tickets come in the form of a voucher which are exchanged in London for tickets used.

Operators differ slightly, but you print the e-ticket or store it on your mobile and show the ticket on boarding the first bus of the day. Your tickets are time validated on boarding and for 24/48 and 72 hour period tickets start from this time.

With OLT & Big Bus the discounted advance purchase tickets can be redeemed at any time within six months of purchase - there are no restrictions, the best companies with regards flexibility.

The OLT & Big Bus flexibility is particularly useful if the first day in London it rains or you oversleep. The flexibility allows you to delay the start by a few hours or indeed by a day.

With Golden Tours you have to stipulate the first day you want to travel when you purchase.

Promotional Pricing Activity

Whilst there are from time to time the odd promotional code available for small discounts, this is not North America.

The best price is gained by simply purchasing the advance on-line tickets and if you are visiting one of the major attractions getting a sightseeing bus and attraction package, (see section below).

Winter 24 Hours Extra Free Promotion

In the winter months all operators traditionally offer a free days promotion. This historically has been made available by all operators from around late October to early March.

Exact dates vary from year to year and are not publicised in advance. Its a case of one operator firing the starting gun and the others following with the same offer within hours.

Big Bus 10% Off Discount Code

Big Bus have made available to us a special 10% discount code you can use on 24 and 48 hour ticket purchases.

Big Bus Discount Codes - More Details

Golden Tours - Now Included In The London Pass

London Pass Sightseeing Information

The London Pass is a flat rate sightseeing pass to many (but not all) of London's main sightseeing attractions. You can buy a London Pass for 1,2,3,6 or 10 day durations.

The London Pass gives you entry into over 60 London tourist attractions and a river cruise on the River Thames.

The London Pass also now includes use of the Golden Tours Hop On Hop Off bus for the first day only of you using the London Pass, whatever the duration of the London Pass.

Save Money - Buy Attraction Tickets & Bus Tour In One Package

If one of London's major sights like the Tower of London, St Paul's Cathedral, London Eye etc are on your must see list when in London, you can get an additional discount by purchasing attraction tickets plus sightseeing tour in one package in advance from the Original London Tour.

Original London Tour & Attravtion Packages

Free River Cruises and Walking Tours

Both Big Bus and OLT use the same river cruise company, City Cruises. In our opinion City Cruises are better received than Thames Clipper used by Golden Tours.

The cruise is between Westminster Pier and Tower Bridge. With both OLT and Big Bus, if you purchase a 48 hour ticket your river cruise can be extended beyond Tower Bridge to Greenwich, (though only one-way and no hop on buses at Greenwich to bring you back).

The Thames Cruise should be a highlight of your day and we recommend you take advantage of the facility. The core cruise itself between Westminster and Tower Bridge lasts about 30/40 minutes.

You have to take the river cruises and walks on the same days as your bus tour ticket. You cannot take them another day.

Note with the Golden Tours and Big Bus for the 1 calendar day ticket no walking tours or river cruises are included in the ticket.

Big Bus and OLT both offer three walking tours. A royalty/changing of the guard walk, a pop music/media walk and a Jack The Ripper or Harry Potter walk.

Golden Tours just has at the moment a daily royalty walk and a not daily Beatles themed walk.

We have only joined the OLT walks and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the guiding offered. They will each take 75-90 minutes of your day though.

Big Bus London Tour Tickets
Original London Tour Tickets
London's Main Open Top Hop On, Hop Off Sightseeing Tours
(Discounted On-Line Advance Purchase)


On-Line Advance Ticket Price Adult (Child)

Walking Tours

1 day‡

24 hrs

48 hrs

72 hrs


Original London Tour





Changing of Guard Walk
Rock N Roll Walk
Jack The Ripper Walk

Big Bus





Royal London Walk
Harry Potter
London Rocks

Golden Tours





Diamond Jubilee Walk
Beatles Walk

* Includes 24 Hours Free (see promotional activity section below)

† No river cruise included in this ticket

‡Valid for one calendar day expiring at the end of the day irrespective of start time


Big Bus - 10% discount code available for 24 and 48 hour tickets at our Big Bus London dedicated page.

Big Bus - 24 hours extra free on 24 & 48 hour tickets that are issued and claimed up to 28th February 2017.

Original London Tour - 24 hours extra free on 24 & 48 hour tickets that are used by 31st March 2017.

Golden Tours - 24 hours extra free on 24 & 48 hour tickets.

London's Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Buses - Your Questions Answered by Bob

If you have any questions or have anything you wish to add please use the discussion facility below.

I'll normally get back to you within 24 hours.

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