Hop-on, hop-off buses are a great way to get a lay of the land, learn some basic New York City history, and get off your feet for a few hours. Discover the best way to hack the ho-ho buses, so you don’t get stuck in traffic or find yourself waiting in lines to board. You’ll also find out who should take the buses, how long to budget for a ride, and ways to get discount tickets.
Why You Should Take the Hop-On, Hop-Off Buses in New York City
Iconic: Millions of tourists take the ho-ho buses every year. It’s probably one of the most touristy activities in the city. That being said, I highly recommend using the ho-hos—just in the right way. Check out some of the tips below to get the most out of your ticket.
Architectural: Ditto for architecture. Sit on the top deck for views of the Empire State Building, Times Square, and other architectural icons.
Historic: Though you won’t get an in-depth history lesson, you can get a great overview of the city’s history in buses that offer live narration.
Kid Friendly: Kids love sitting atop the double-decker buses and taking a break from walking.
Comedic: You won’t see Louis CK or Dave Chapelle on the ho-ho buses, but most live guides are budding comedians and actors and pretty punny.
Celebrity: I’ve known plenty of ho-ho bus guides who’ve seen their fair share of celebs acting just like us.
Cinematic: You’ll see most of the iconic sites of Manhattan and some of Brooklyn from the buses—most you’ll recognize from your fave woody Allen and meg Ryan flicks.
Outdoorsy: Sitting atop the double-decker buses won’t offer all the sights, sounds and smells walking the city offers. But from the upper deck, you’ll still be able to enjoy some fresh air.
How Much Do the Hop-On, Hop-Off Buses Cost in NYC?/Money Savers:
- Adults: $30-$65
- Children $20-$55
- These bad boys are pricey! Check out one of the discount passes to save some serious dough on the ho-ho buses.
- Check out Groupon for some decent deals on bus tours in NYC.
How Much Time Do the Hop-On, Hop-Off Buses Take?/Time Savers:
Fly-By: 1.5 hours to 1 day to do the entire loop or to hop on and off all day.
In-Depth: Several hours to several days if you get the multi-day pass.
Need to Know:
- Hop-on, hop-off buses are not a reliable form of transportation in NYC (despite what ticket sellers will tell you). Don’t expect to arrive anywhere on time via ho-ho bus.
- There are several hop-on, hop-off bus companies in NYC. They range in price, route, and level of service. I personally prefer the City Sightseeing buses run by Grayline. Check out TripAdvisor to make an informed decision on which hop-on, hop-off bus is the best for you.
Why You Should Skip:
If you completely despise the typical touristy activities in a city, you should skip the tourist buses.
When to Take the Hop-On, Hop-Off Buses:
- First thing in the morning before the buses get crowded.
- My hot tip for the ho-ho buses is to catch the first bus in the morning and ride the entire loop without hopping on or off. You’ll get a great overview of the city, get your bearings, and spot the neighborhoods you’d like to return to.
How to Get to the Hop-On, Hop-Off Buses:
How you get to your hop-on, hop-off bus greatly depends on the company you choose to ride with. Most of the buses have stops outside some of the larger tourist attractions and offer maps of each stop.
Related Attractions/Other Ways to See:
NYC MTA Buses: Ride the MTA buses for a cheap alternative! Though I often suggest visitors opt to ride the subways instead of public buses to get to and from attractions, using them for sightseeing is a great way to see the city (without the guided narration).
Need more inspiration on how to focus only on what you love in NYC? Check out a full list of attractions.
Don’t forget to read a few articles on how to hack New York City, so you can see more, do more, and stress less!