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Comparing London's hop-on hop-off sightseeing buses

Tootbus compared with Big Bus + Golden Tours with previously asked questions

Tootbus (Original London Tour) Open Top Sightseeing Bus

Tootbus has routes to major sights and free cruises

London's hop-on sightseeing bus tour providers

Nowadays sightseeing tours of London are dominated by London's three hop-on, hop-off open top sightseeing operators:

1. Tootbus (formerly The Original Tour) 2. Big Bus 3. Golden Tours

If you see anybody else offering a hop-on, hop-off tour for London they are acting as an agent for one of the above.

At first inspection all three London sightseeing operators offer a very similar product. But spend an hour or so studying each service and you begin to identify the differences.

This page aims to save you that time and present the differences as concisely as possible.

The traditional guided coach tour of London is still available, but in terms of market share this is tiny compared with London's popular hop-on, hop off sightseeing buses.

Premium Tours also run a small fleet of open top vintage red London buses. These fall somewhere between the guided coach tour and the hop-on, hop-off sightseeing buses. The London red vintage bus tour has no hop-on, hop-off facility and is basically a guided orientation tour of London's main sights with a few photo stops and a river cruise.

Comparison table of London's hop-on bus prices 2022

BOOK HOP-ON BUS TICKETS   Compare 3 hop-on bus companies   Ticket differences   London Pass - Big Bus or Golden Tours   River Cruise   Money saving - Hop-on bus plus attraction   Covid-19   Hop-on bus price comparison table   Previously asked questions about hop-on buses  

London

TOOTBUS (ORIGINAL LONDON TOUR) HOP-ON HOP-OFF BUS TOUR

Combine Big Bus hop on hop off bus tour with London attractions

Tootbus (Original London Tour) hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus

• Choose from 24, 48 or 72-hr tickets • Kids tours and Express tours available • Download Tootbus app with guides in English and French • River cruise included on many tickets • Evening tours available

Big Bus London tickets

DISCOUNTED BIG BUS LONDON TICKETS

London Big Bus tours

Hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus London

Choice of 1, 2 or 3-day tickets • FREE River cruises on all tickets • Guided walking tours • Evening tours included on selected tickets • Free Wi-Fi on board • Audio in 5 languages • London in your Pocket app access • Book using this banner to save

Golden Tours hop on bus London tickets

GOLDEN TOURS HOP-ON BUS LONDON TICKETS

London Golden Tours hop on bus tours

Hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus London

Choice of 1-day, 24, 48 or 72-hr tickets • Free one-way Thames river cruise (if selected) • Free Wi-Fi on board • Audio in 11 languages • London in your Pocket app access


Tootbus (The Original Tour) v Big Bus v Golden Tours comparison

Big Bus  hop on bus - top deck evening tour
All companies offer an evening tour
Golden Tours hop on bus with live guide
Golden Tours have a 90-min live guided tour
Tootbus hop on bus - Westminster
Tootbus offer both hop on and themed tours

All 3 London sightseeing tour operators are established operators in the London market. Big Bus and Tootbus (formerly The Original Tour) are owned by large corporates and Golden Tours, the relative newcomer entered the market several years ago after a long history of offering the traditional guided coach tours, which they still do.

All 3 operators offer similar packages, but more differences have opened up in recent years, see below for more details.

Walking Tours

Historically all three companies offered free walking tours included with your ticket.

Golden Tours and Tootbus no longer offer walking tours included.

Big Bus offer the following walking tours (led by expert Big Bus tour guides) available with all walking tours: Changing of the Guard Walk, City of London Walk and Jack the Ripper Walk.

River cruises

River cruises are available with all three tour companies, but not all tours automatically include them; the cheaper (both 24-hr and calendar day) tours do not. If this is important to you, do check carefully before booking.

Routes and vehicles

All operators offer an open top bus experience with routes that all cover the major sights in central London.

Although they each have a different number of routes, where they visit is almost identical, with all three sightseeing tour operators almost duplicating each others routes in the very heart of London.

You can click through on the links below to study each operators route map in detail.

Tootbus are the only operator to offer the unique Kids Tour which is a non-stop tour (not hop-on, hop off) but which is cheaper and offers a commentary that is very family friendly. In addition they are also the only company to offer a 1.5-hr Bar Bus tour, again, not hop-on hop off but a memorable experience with bar on board.

Vehicles used are almost identical, all offer free Wi-Fi and audio guides providing commentary in English and at least one other language.

Tootbus route map London 2022

Big Bus Tour map London 2022

Golden Tours route map London 2022


Live guides vs audio guides

This is one area that has also changed in recent years. Traditionally all three companies offered live guides on at least one of their tours.

Today you will find this is no longer the case. Tootbus and Big Bus for example, no longer offer a live guide service on any of their tours (with the exception with Tootbus who offer seasonal/promotional tours on a first come first served basis - see website for details.)

Golden Tours are the only company to offer at least one live guide (in English) service, however this is not hop off, hop on but rather a 90 min non-stop tour. The price is similar to the 1-day tour but many people really value having a live guide if English is a language they speak fluently.

Languages

Tootbus no longer offer the range of languages it once used to; now audio is either in English or French. Big Bus have an audio guide with 5 languages. Golden Tours have the most with 11 languages.

Times and frequencies of buses

All operators start up around 8.30am and start running down the service around 5pm. Evening services are also additionally available as a separate tour with all three operators.

All three operators, even in the winter months operate frequent bus services, however of the three operators perhaps Golden Tours is slightly less frequent. You shouldn't generally have to wait more than twenty minutes however.

London's hop-on buses - differences between tickets for all 3 operators

Tootbus (Original Tour) hop on bus London
Tootbus and Big Bus both have apps
Big Bus hop on bus London
Big Bus offer calendar day tickets
Golden Touors Warner Bros Studio with hop on bus London
Golden Tours - hop on bus with WB Studios

Standard tour ticket durations

24-hr tickets or 1-day?

Each operator offers something slightly different.

Tootbus call their tickets, '1-day' and '2-day' but the actual validity is 24, 48 or 72 hours.

Big Bus tickets are valid for calendar days - which means they run out at end of service the same day. To clarify, this means that if you boarded your first bus at 1pm with Big Bus and with a 1 day ticket, your ticket expires at the end of that day. Whilst with Original London Tour or Golden Tours with a 24-hour ticket it expires at 1pm the next day. They have tours running from one to three days.

Golden Tours offer both: cheaper calendar day tours plus 24/48/72-hr tickets. The calendar day tickets do not include the river cruise.

Shorter tours/express tours (not hop on, hop off)

Both Tootbus and Golden Tours offer shorter tours, of 1.5 hrs which are different to the traditional hop on, hop off buses in that you stay on them for the duration of the tour. Tootbus call theirs as 'Bar Bus' as drinks are available on board (over 18s only). River cruises are not included with these tours.

For Golden Tours this is their only product featuring a live guide. Although much shorter therefore, the price is nearly as much as a 24-hr hop on bus tour.

Tootbus' similar offering is in the same price band but does not feature the live guide. Many people really appreciate the difference between having a live guide and an audio guide.

Evening tours (not hop on, hop off)

All three companies offer evening tours which are non-stop for around 1.5 hours. Again, Golden Tours is the only operator offering the live guide on this experience.

Big Bus also include a separate evening tour with their Premium and Deluxe tickets.

Discounted - cheapest tickets

Hop-on, hop off sightseeing tickets are freely available in London from hotels, tourist centres and on the day from the representatives of the tour companies you find around the bus stops.

Do not expect to find discount vouchers or codes, if you do find one it's the exception rather than the rule.

However, cheaper tickets can be found using our banners on this page. By booking online ahead of our hop-on, hop-off bus tour you will always save money.

Our partners Travel Compendium bring you exclusive discounts on hop on bus tours in London with Golden Tours and Big Bus.

Pre-booking tickets - flexibility and ease/cost of obtaining tickets

All three operators now require you to select your date of tour at purchase. However all 3 tours companies offer a 'flexible booking guarantee' should you need to amend your tour date at any time (Tootbus allow this up 12 months from date of purchase, Golden Tours allow a cancellation for full refund up to 24 hours before boarding, Big Bus require 72 hours to amend your booking.)

For Big Bus and Golden Tours tickets are e-tickets and are shown to the driver at your first bus stop. Here they give you a receipt which you keep for the validity of your hop-on bus tour.

Tootbus accept mobile tickets but encourage you to download your tickets on to their app, for ease of use.

Apps

Both Big Bus and Tootbus offer an app offering similar features such as:

Maps, route planning, real time bus tracking, walking directions to nearest bus stops, nearby eateries and attractions and even the secrets of must-see landmarks with audio commentaries.

With Tootbus you can also import your pass (tickets) ready to scan directly on the bus.

London Pass - choice of 2 hop on bus companies: Big Bus or Golden Tours

Big Bus or Golden Tours hop on bus included with London Pass
Big Bus or Golden Tours hop on bus included with London Pass

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 more than 60 London tourist attractions and a river cruise on the River Thames.

The London Pass also now includes use of either Golden Tours or Big Bus hop-on hop-off bus for one calendar day, whatever the duration of the London Pass.

Tootbus are not part of the London Pass scheme.


Key points of the London Pass Ho Ho bus offer

  • You can choose to ride on the Golden Tours or Big Bus hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus for one calendar day. Tootbus (Original Tour) is not covered.

  • The Ho Ho bus offer is for one calendar day not for 24 hours.

  • Most people use the Ho Ho facility on the first day of their London Pass, but there is nothing stopping using it on another day when the London Pass is valid.

  • The Ho Ho bus offer with London Pass doesn't include the walking tours and river cruises included in the standard tickets issued by the Ho Ho companies concerned, only the bus tour (but you do get a river cruise included in the London Pass separately anyway)

  • You show your London Pass to the driver or tour guide of the first bus you board. They will scan your London Pass and issue you with a separate ticket for the bus company concerned valid for the rest of the day. You cannot switch to the other bus company once you have made your first journey.

London Pass more details

Free river cruises

St Paul's from top deck Tootbus tours London
See the majesty of St Paul's by river

While all three tour companies have a river cruise option, not every tour comes with a river cruise automatically. The cheaper tours for example, do not feature a river cruise.

Both Big Bus and Tootbus use the same river cruise company, City Cruises, while Golden Tours use Thames River Sightseeing.

Golden Tours/Thames River Sightseeing operate a cruise between Westminster Pier and Greenwich Pier.

Tootbus and Big Bus cruises run between Westminster and Tower Pier (or Greenwich Pier for Big Bus Premium or Deluxe ticket holders).

All operators run river services approximately every 40 minutes and later services are usually available until around 6pm in the summer season from April.

The Thames Cruise should be a highlight of your day and we recommend you take advantage of the facility.

 

Thames river cruise ticket options by company

Big Bus

A complimentary one-way river cruise offered by City Cruises (lasting around thirty minutes) is included in your Big Bus London ticket.

Tootbus

Tootbus' cheaper ticket doesn't come with the river cruise included - look for it on the 'Must See London' ticket. Your one-way river cruise starts at either Westminster pier or Tower of London pier.

Golden Tours

Golden Tours' river cruise is only available on the 24-hr ticket, not the calendar day ticket. There is also another ticket option to choose 24-hrs without cruise. Cruises are also one-way.

Hop-on buses in London plus attractions - money saving

Madame Tussauds with Big Bus hop on bus London
Combine top attractions like Madame Tussauds

Save money buying attraction tickets & bus tour in one package

Many people opt to combine their hop-on bus tour with one or more top attractions in London, in order to save even more on entrance tickets.

 

Golden Tours hop-on buses plus top London attraction

At the moment Golden Tours probably offer the best range of hop-on bus tours combined with attractions.

Please see our full listing of your choices of hop-on bus plus top London attraction

 

Madame Tussauds or St Paul's Cathedral with Big Bus Tours hop on bus London

Big Bus also offer a couple of options for combining a hop-on bus experience with a London attraction.

They are: Madame Tussauds and St Paul's Cathedral and are purchased as separate tickets.

BOOK HERE: Big Bus + Madam Tussauds or St Paul's Cathedral

As well as saving money, the really popular attractions in London like these often have very long waiting lines so this option can save you time as well as money.

Purchase Big Bus tour with London Dungeon through third party

In addition to buying combination tickets through the Big Bus website it is also possible to purchase Big Bus tickets in combination with top London attractions such as the London Dungeon through third party sellers such as Discount London. (See banner below.)

Tootbus and add-on attraction in London

Tootbus do not currently offer an option to add on London attractions to their hop-on bus services.

London bus tour Big Bus night

SAVE 24%: COMBINE LONDON DUNGEON WITH HOP-ON HOP-OFF BUS TOUR

Combine Big Bus hop on hop off bus tour with London attractions

Combine attraction tickets with hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus package

• Visit London Dungeon plus Big Bus hop on bus ride and river cruise • Save a bundle by combining tickets with Discount London

Warner Bros Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter plus Golden Tours hop-on bus tour of London

The other tour operator that offers a hop-on bus tour combined with a top London attraction is Golden Tours with their hop-on bus plus Harry Potter Studio ticket combination.

Experience the magic of Harry Potter at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter.

This tour gives your great value: a 4-hr hop on bus tour seeing all the major sights in London plus return transportation and entrance tickets to the Warner Bros Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter.

At the Studio, you will get to adventure through The Great Hall where Harry Potter, Hermione and Ron were chosen for Gryffindor, see Harry’s bedroom, discover spells at the Ministry of Magic, step onto Platform 9 ¾ and wander through the Forbidden Forest.

Click the link below to step back into Hogwarts...

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter - what to expect


London

GOLDEN TOURS 4-HR HOP ON BUS PLUS WARNER BROS STUDIO TOUR LONDON

Combine Big Bus hop on hop off bus tour with London attractions

Combine Harry Potter Studio with Golden Tours hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus package

• 4-hr Hop-on Hop-off London Bus Tour - all routes • Transport and entrance tickets to Warner Bros Studio Tour London

Hop-on, hop-off bus safety measures during COVID-19

Currently there are no real restrictions in London.

If you are worried, then travelling in the open air and distanced from other passengers will help ensure your experience is a safe one.

Visit Britain has put together safety guidelines which reputable companies like Tootbus has signed up to. You can see what procedures have been put in place on this "Good to Go" safety video.

LONDON'S OPEN TOP HOP-ON, HOP-OFF SIGHTSEEING TOUR PRICING 2022

 

Online advance ticket price adult/child/family

Tour

±Non-stop
Express (Tootbus with bar)
‡1 calendar day bus only *24 hrs
bus only

24-hrs
or 1 day
with cruise

48-hrs
or 2 days
with cruise
72-hrs
or 3 days
with cruise
London
Evening
tour
Tootbus (Original Tour) Adult
Child
Family
£36.00
N/A
N/A
N/A £27.90
£16.20
N/A
£34.20
£19.80
N/A
£36.90
£22.50
N/A
£39.60
£25.20
N/A
£22.50
£13.50
N/A
Big Bus Adult
Child
Family

N/A

N/A

N/A

£35.00
N/A
N/A

£51.00
N/A
N/A

£58.00
N/A
N/A

£26.00
N/A
N/A

Golden Tours Adult
Child
Family

£29.00
£14.00
N/A

£29.00
£17.36
N/A

£35.00
£20.45
N/A

£36.00
£21.45
N/A

£42.00
£22.73
N/A

£46.00
£25.09
N/A

£24.00
£13.00
N/A

London's hop-on buses - 3 hop on buses compared

Save by clicking through on banner above

Prices shown offer savings compared with booking through provider's website.

Big Bus and Golden Tours prices are those offered through Travel Compendium using banners on this page.

All Big Bus tickets run for calendar days only (not 24-hr periods). These include a river cruise. Big Bus are the only company of the three to offer a free guided walking tour included.

± Tootbus (formerly Original Tour) also offer a 1.5-hr non-stop ticket, with bar on board (over 18s only), while Golden Tours offer a 1.5 hour ticket which features a live guide. (This needs to be booked separately through Golden Tours' website).

Golden Tours offers a cheaper one calendar day ticket - a river cruise is not included. Tickets are valid for one calendar day expiring at the end of the day irrespective of start time.

* In addition, both Golden Tours and Tootbus offer a cheaper ticket, which is 24 hours but no river cruise. Tootbus call theirs 'London Discovery', Golden Tours just call it '24 hours without cruise.'

All other Tootbus and Golden Tours tickets are for 24/48/72-hour periods, unless stated otherwise.

London

TOOTBUS (ORIGINAL LONDON TOUR) HOP-ON HOP-OFF BUS TOUR

Combine Big Bus hop on hop off bus tour with London attractions

Tootbus (Original London Tour) hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus

• Choose from 24, 48 or 72-hr tickets • Kids tours and Express tours available • Download Tootbus app with guides in English and French • River cruise included on many tickets • Evening tours available

Big Bus London tickets

DISCOUNTED BIG BUS LONDON TICKETS

London Big Bus tours

Hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus London

Choice of 1, 2 or 3-day tickets • FREE River cruises on all tickets • Guided walking tours • Evening tours included on selected tickets • Free Wi-Fi on board • Audio in 5 languages • London in your Pocket app access • Book using this banner to save

Golden Tours hop on bus London tickets

GOLDEN TOURS HOP-ON BUS LONDON TICKETS

London Golden Tours hop on bus tours

Hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus London

Choice of 1-day, 24, 48 or 72-hr tickets • Free one-way Thames river cruise (if selected) • Free Wi-Fi on board • Audio in 11 languages • London in your Pocket app access

London's hop-on hop-off sightseeing buses - previous questions answered by Bob

At present we are unable to maintain the discuss service but you can contact us using the Contact Us link at the bottom of each page. We have decided to leave the answers here as they are useful for many of the questions we receive. If you cannot find an answer to your question, we'll be happy to hear from you.



POPULAR LONDON ATTRACTIONS - ADVANCE PURCHASE AND/OR FAST TRACK TICKETS

London Eye Amazing panoramic flight on the world's highest observation wheel. » Fast track tickets available.
The Shard Tallest building in Western Europe with viewing of London from the top. » Fast track tickets available.
St Paul's Cathedral Cathedral of the Diocese of London, venue for royal weddings. » Pre-book to guarantee entry.
Westminster Abbey Along with St Paul's, England's main religious building.» Pre-book to guarantee entry.
Tower of London Home of the Crown Jewels and a rich thousand year history. » Fast track tickets available.
Madame Tussauds See wax statues of the most famous people in the world. » Fast track tickets available.
London Dungeon The creepiest attraction in town, the London Dungeon. » Fast track tickets available.
Hampton Court Palace   Henry VIII Medieval Palace set in vast grounds. » Pre-book to save money.
The London Zoo World class zoo in the centre of London. » Flexi tickets available.

Every effort is made to keep all our information correct and the advertised prices up to date. We endeavour to be as accurate a source of information as possible but Travellers Toolkits cannot be held responsible for any price differential between our stated prices and those of the companies supplying the product or accuracy of information provided on our sites.