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20.10.12

The Original Bus Tour

With limited time in London and so much to see we decided to go on one of the open top bus tours. Before we went to London we quickly researched on the internet and was shocked by the prices. £25+ per adult.
If you are having a weekend in London then this price is a bit more reasonable as you would get more for your money. In most cases the companies offer a second day for free plus you get a ride down the Thames within the package.
We went for the bus tour on the Sunday. We had a while to sightsee with our train from Liverpool Street to Norwich not leaving until 7:15pm so we thought we would have enough time.

We were lucky in that right outside our hotel was a bus stop for the tour. We paid in the hotel (although the tour isn't run by the hotel but you can buy tickets through them) and made our way to the bus stop.
We kept Harry in the push chair whilst we waited for the bus. As the bus pulled up both the driver and the ticket scout (?) told us just to put the push chair onto the bus with Harry in it and that we could sort him out on there. We'd made it clear that we planned to sit upstairs.
So, my husband got Harry out of the push chair, folded the push chair up and carefully made his way upstairs. Charles followed behind him with me at the back.
Then the driver decided to move away from the bus stop, and not gently. We all jolted, and very nearly fell into a heap at the bottom of the stairs. My husband, in a bid to save Harry from flying through the air, was able to grab him even tighter but got thrown around and bashed into a railing. This bruised his chest and had him in pain for a week. Thank goodness it wasn't Harry.
The driver briefly stopped, although not a gentle stop but more of an (unnecessary) emergency stop. My husband had already managed to sit down at the back of the bus (upstairs) but I was still stuck on the stairs holding on to Charles with one hand, and holding on for dear life with the other.
Two very lovely gentlemen tried to guide Charles upstairs, and with comfort and encouragement from me he went up with them. Once we got to the top, after again being thrown around a lot, one of the gentlemen helped Charles to the back of the bus to my husband.
I was still holding on for dear life. Once the bus, again came to a sharp stop I ran to my family. We were all pretty shaky at this point and didn't exactly feel safe on an open top bus!
We thought it would be ok now we were sat down but no. We were thrown around everywhere and on a couple of occasions myself and Charles almost fell from our seats onto the aisle in front.
On this trip we went past Harrods, The British Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Ritz and Ripleys Believe it or Not.

The bus came to a standstill around 20 minutes later, and noticing the driver standing having a cigarette we made the decision to move downstairs so we could get off at the next convenient stop.
This was probably the most fun of the whole bus tour because Charles decided to wave at everyone as the bus was stopped on the street! I had to keep hiding my giggling face due to embarrassment.
He then decided to keep doing this as we drove into the center of London, towards the attractions. It was sweet seeing people smile and wave back, especially when men did it. It's nice to know that Charles put a smile on those peoples faces. He was loving it.

Anyway, I digress. We got off near West End and walked around for around an hour and a half.
It came to half past one and we decided to get on the bus again but to do another route before having a late lunch as we were all still full from our big breakfast.
There are 4 routes, all taking you around different areas of London. This route would take us around Trafalgar Square, past Buckingham Palace and down to Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament.
After the experience we had previously we sat downstairs.
Now although this tour was great to see so many attractions, and it was a great route BUT it was long!
Not only was it long but it was hot. Very hot. No windows were able to open and there was a lack of air conditioning. both boys ended up going to sleep, and we didn't blame them.
At 4.30 we sat down in Planet Hollywood (West End), in a mad panic thinking we may not get our bus and tubes back to Liverpool Street on time. We also still needed to go to the hotel to pick up our bags.

Planet Hollywood was amazing but I think our waiter was a bit shocked at how quick we were and worried that we didn't enjoy our meal. Quite the opposite, the meal was fantastic but the bus tour had put us behind so much that the meal had to be brief.

We then met the bus and headed back to the hotel. Harry was in his push chair, with the wheels locked but on so many occasions he almost toppled out due to heavy braking. My husband made it very clear that the bus driver was causing danger but she didn't seem to care.

Pro's to this service: the hop on hop off aspect. You can get on and off the buses as many times as you like. You just pay your (extortionate) £25+ and that gives you a full days ticket.

Con's: crazy drivers who not only have no consideration for their passengers, but who also have no consideration for other road users. I felt sick seeing the fear on many car drivers and users of 'Boris' Bikes' as the buses almost pushed them off the road. And I got sick of hearing the buses horn every 30 seconds. I get that buses are an important aspect to the tourist industry and that buses have certain rights on the roads but these drivers were causing so many dangerous situations it was unreal.
The cost was also far too overpriced. Next time we would get a tube ticket and just hop between stations, especially as so many attractions are within walking distance of each other.
Another con is the commentary. You have to wear headphones, which is obviously their way of catering to other nationalities, understandable. But the volumes are so low that you can hear hardly a thing, even with the speakers turned up as loud as they will go.
Also the commentary doesn't run in line with what you are seeing out of the window.
I guess we really wanted a tour guide. A bus with someone stood, speaking to us and telling us about the places we were driving past. Although we couldn't see evidence of any such bus anymore as most seemed to favour the headphone facility.
You will get very little photos from the windows. Maybe it's better from upstairs but after the way we were thrown around during the morning journey, it's not something we'd risk again.
The staff are quite rude and think it's professional to swear a lot at each other in a jokey way. Which is ideal when you have an inquisitive 3 year old with you...!

Would we do this bus tour again? Definitely not!
Would we recommend it? Definitely not! Unless if you want to waste money and be thrown around a hot bus for a few hours.

Although we got to see lots of London and the sites we wanted to see, we feel we really wasted a day and wasted £58(!!!). We nicknamed the tour 'The Buses of Death'

Original Bus Tour. Sort your drivers out. Please.

I obviously wasn't given anything to write this review. All words above are honest and my own. I chose to write this as a warning for those looking for a London Bus Tour.