City Sightseeing Bus Review - A Wandering Scribbler
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City Sightseeing Bus Review

City Sightseeing Bus Review

tourbusEven if you don’t know what a City Sightseeing bus is, you probably do.  If you’ve traveled to big cities in Europe or North America, you’ve seen the big red, double-decker busses that have huge colorful writing on the side.  The busses that scream “look at me, I’m a  tourist!” If you’ve read any of my city guides you probably know I think the best way to see any city is to walk.  AND, I always talk about blending in, not screaming out to people that you’re a tourist. So naturally you’d think I’d hate these busses.  And, most of the time you’d be right. BUT.  Sometimes I actually like them.

I travel alone a lot.  And though I like being alone, I’m also really shy.  And after weeks of no real contact with people beyond the basics, I can get really down.  And the worst part about feeling down while traveling, is that the fun and excitement of new places is taken away.  Right now, while I’m happy, and looking forward to travel, I want to tell my “down” self just to suck it up, get out there, and be happy.  But as anyone who has ever been down, while traveling or not, you’d know it’s not that easy.

And so, that’s one reason I like City Sightseeing busses.  Beyond feeling like a total newbie, on a tour that screams “TOURIST” I like that I can jump on, feeling pretty down, ride around a few times, and, if something sparks my interest, I’ll get off, walk around, and catch another bus.  And, at the same time, I can learn about the city and see more of it than I would have seen otherwise.  More about that in a second, here is what  you can expect from a City Sightseeing Bus Tour.


Though prices very from city to city, it’s usually between $20-40.  And while that’s more than I’d usually like to spend, a lot of routes take you all over the city, to places you might not have gone on your own.  It also is a 24 hour pass so you could potentially get 2 days out of it, depending on how you swing it.

What You Get

  • Endless trips around the designated route, sometimes 2 routes.
  • Commentary, either prerecorded or from a guide (depending on city and season).  The commentary is usually in multiple languages you can choose from.
  • Ability to get on and off, sort of like public transport, but with easier maps to read, and they stop at main tourist places.
  • Discounts to other places in the city, and any bus tours in other cities.
  • Maps that point of the major sites in the city.
  • Easy to read map routes.


  • Being around tourists rather than experiencing the locals.
  • The price is pretty steep in some cities.
  • Not finding your own way around the city.

My Thoughts

Like I said, I don’t normally take these bus tours, and I usually try to avoid them at all costs.  I’d rather try to meet locals, eat where they do, and find my own way around the city.  But sometimes, whether because I’m down, because I have a limited time in the city, or another reason that makes these tours worthwhile, I find myself on the bus.  They do what they promise: get you around the city, to the major sites, and teach you about where you are.  If you love bus tours, are looking for a great way to learn about the city, or just want an easy way to get around to the major sites, then these tours are definitely for you.  But if you don’t like being around tourists, want to go your own way, or just want a cheaper way to get around, then this definitely isn’t for you.  But, I’d tell you to rethink it, if only just to experience another way of travel.

While I used to think bus tours like this were “beneath me” (I didn’t think in so many words) but now I see I was really wrong.  I needed to get over my ego of being a “real” traveler, and start realizing that we are all tourists, whether we only talk to locals, and never set foot in a museum or near a major site, or you only take bus tours.

And while I’ll still avoid bus tours because I prefer to tour alone, or with a small group, on foot, I know a bus tour can be an effective way of seeing the city.  So try it.  No one’s going to think less of you. And if, for some reason, they do.  Then they’re probably snotty and you shouldn’t care anyway.

Have you been on a City Sightseeing Bus?  What did you think?


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