First, an admission: Until recently I had never, ever taken one of our many hop-on hop-off bus tours.
That’s despite the fact Viator offers them in tons of great locations, like Rome, Paris, New York, London, Barcelona, Florence, Washington DC, etc. But I’ve always looked down my nose at them, thinking they were way too “touristy” for me, and that I could find lots of other ways to get to know a new city without rubbing shoulders with the hoi polloi or getting sunburned on an open-topped bus.
(Editor’s note: strictly speaking, hoi polloi means “the masses” so “the hoi polloi” is a bit redundant. But I’m the Editor and Rod is the Chairman. Say no more.)
Anyway, a few days in New York recently cured me of that elitist view, and now I’m a fully-fledged convert. An evangelist, even. And just so you don’t cling to the same viewpoint, I want to share my new-found awareness, and I’ve put together these five pretty good, possibly even compelling reasons, to take one of these tours next time you have the chance.
1. The Cure for Jet Lag
When you travel you have to do a little, or maybe a lot, of adjusting to ensure you don’t sleep through the best part of the day. Sitting on the top deck of a sightseeing bus is about the best possible thing you can do to defeat jet lag, because it allows the sun to tell your brain it needs to adjust the hour hand on your body clock. I’m not sure how it does that, but believe me, it does. Lesson one: spend your first available time in a new city on a hop-on, hop-off bus, not under the fluorescent lights at the museum!
2. Discover Which Way is Up
Or, more specifically, where is the Lower East Side? The Left Bank? Trafalgar Square? The White House? The Magnificent Mile? Where can I get dry cleaning and breakfast close to the hotel without paying crazy prices? Reason two: these and a million other questions can best be answered from atop your sightseeing bus, not from the subway, a taxi, or a limo!
3. Comfort Zone
How many visitors to New York City miss the opportunity to visit Harlem, Brooklyn, or the Lower East Side because of some baseless concern about taking the subway, or the expense of taxis, or even some perceived danger in “straying off the beaten path?” Well, nothing could be safer than the comfortable confines of your top-deck perch, where you’ll quickly see that a city’s previously off-limits neighborhoods are inviting, not too far from your hotel, full of regular people, and just as safe as your own neighborhood back home. Reason three: you can get comfortable with a city quickly, once you’ve seen it in comfort!
4. Travel Fitness
A typical sightseeing day in a big city involves so much walking, standing, waiting in line, eating, exploring, and generally wearing yourself out that you need all the help you can get to see it all. Okay, here’s another way of saying this, less diplomatically: you probably aren’t quite fit enough to do half these things AND take a walk down to Greenwich Village. Or the White House. Or The Rocks. Or Pont Neuf. If you really want to see everything, you have very few choices: walking (you’ll only see 5 percent); subway (hello? it’s underground!); taxi (limited view, expensive); limo (ditto and more); skateboard / rollerblades (really?) or … hop-on, hop-off . QED.
5. Hello, and Nice to Meet You
Of course you have your own posse with you, whether it’s just your partner or the whole tribe of kids, grandparents, and the other usual suspects. But there’s just nothing quite as much fun as meeting someone from another place—like, really another place, say Iceland, or The Isle of Skye—and discovering that you are both celebrating birthdays, or that they can help you get your new camera to work, or that they know the name and the address of the seafood restaurant you read about in the Times last month. Meeting new people is the best part of being a traveler, and the top deck of a bus is just a perfect place to meet them. I might even be there.
Okay, are you convinced? I hope that, like me, you can put away your prejudices and jump on board next time you are in a big city. You won’t regret it.
Rod Cuthbert for Viator