My Disappointing Hop On Hop Off Bus Experience

First off I would like to apologize for the lack of photos. The tour was underwhelming and I took very few pics.

After a full day of exploring Santa Monica, and biking along the sandy beaches that never seem to end, Emily and I were ready to check out downtown Los Angeles.

My preferred way to get around a city is always via public transit. Not only is it usually the least expensive, but you can take your time exploring at your own pace. However when Emily and I were in the planning phase for LA, we kept hearing form friends and colleagues about how difficult it is to get around there without a car. Then I read the article Los Angeles Without A Car, where traveller Jenifer Duncan describes her rather horrific experience of trying to navigate the public transit in LA. This was the tipping point that made us decided to try out the Star Line Tours Hop On Hop Off (HOHO) bus for the day. I have seen HOHO bus tours available in most major North American and European cities, but I have yet to go on one… until now. If you’re not familiar with the HOHO tour busses, they are are double decker busses which run along designated loops within a city. While they tell you all about the city, the bus stops at major tourist destinations, where tourists can hop off, take a look around, and then hop back on the bus to continue the tour. Sounds great … right? Wrong. It was a VERY disappointing experience.

What I did not like about the HOHO bus tour


This is the view from the interior of the bus.

1) The advertisements on the bus made it difficult to see out the window. This one REALLY annoyed me. It was a very chilly day with occasional rain showers, which meant that sitting on the upper level in the open air was unbearable. However, the visibility of the lower inside level was obstructed by the advertisements painted on the outside of the bus. We had to stare through a maze of little peep holes to outside, which made me dizzy and it was rather difficult to see things clearly. To me this said “It’s more important for us to attract more customers, than for our paying customers to have a good tour.”

2) There was no tour guide. I was shocked when we first got on the bus to find there was no human guide, rather a pre recorded audio tour. In fact, it was necessary to plug in headphones to listen, and since the bus driver neglected to offer usa pair of the complimentary p headphones, we missed the first five minutes of the tour until we realized they were available. It was especially frustrating when the recording would say “see that building over there?”, Over where? We had no guide to point to where the actual building was.

3)Waiting for the Bus. A lot of time was wasted waiting for the u
s. I know what your thinking, if you took public transit, you would a
lso be waiting. This is true however while waiting for our first bus of the day, at least 10 city busses passed by before the HOHO bus showed up, 15 min later than scheduled.

4) The dialogue was boring, not educational and celebrity driven. The only interesting thing I learned on the tour was that there is only one kind of palm tree that is native to California, the rest are imported. The rest of the tour was about; where one should go to spot a celebrity and which star took a dump at the Mc Donalds two years ago, and where the stars shop. I enjoy a bit of film history as much as anyone else, but that was all they talked about. The most ridiculous comment on the tour that cracked me up was when we were driving through in Beverly Hills. “You may notice that there are alley ways behind the houses,” said the automate recording “If your wondering what they are, this is where the residents hide their garbage bins so the street stays clean.” I’m so thankful that I now know where the residents in Beverly Hills hide their garbage bins – sheesh.

5) The recorded voices had British accents. I think British accents are fantastic, but we are touring in California! … alright, maybe this one is a bit nit picky, but it just added to my annoyance.

6) It was expensive. At $44 per person, I did not feel I got the value for my money.

As you can probably guess, I would not recommend this tour to anyone, and will never go on a Hop on Hop Off Tour again. To be fair there are some benefits to taking the tour: You dont have to do much planning, or worry about where to get off or driving through traffic. However in my personal opinion, its just not worth it. Next time I’m renting a car!


R2D2 and C3PO’s foot prints at Sid’s Chinese Theatre


Donald Duck

6 responses to “My Disappointing Hop On Hop Off Bus Experience

  1. That’s too bad! I’ve had some great hop-on, hop-off bus trips before. There is a government-run HOHO bus in Barcelona that includes three different routes- I’ve done it twice (once alone, and on a later trip with my family) and really enjoyed it. I also found it was a great way to see Mexico City and Budapest (in the latter, it even came with a free river cruise!). I will definitely think twice before trying one in North America, though, after reading about your experience!

    • Glad to hear you had a better experience than me! I guess it’s important to remember that every city is different 🙂

  2. Guess the hop on hop off busses are more suitable for the tourists who are not very adventurous and brave, sounds rather boring to me, perhaps the tour operator will take some heed of your comment and improve their offering for future clients. I might add I enjoyed the London hop on hop off bus, usually have very entertaining live guides!

    • Hi Wendy, I think having a person leading the tour would have made all the difference! It would have been great to ask questions and hear advice from a local.

  3. Oh man, that’s a huge bummer (I’m also laughing at the garbage bin thing – somehow I highly doubt that’s why they had alleys built behind the houses!). And why wouldn’t they have actual staff on the bus? Sorry to hear that the experience wasn’t what you hoped.

    • Ha ha, I think you’re right about the bin story! Luckily during our amazing two weeks, this was the only low point 🙂 Next time ill rent a car as you suggested !

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