Can I be honest? I never liked the idea of taking a hop on hop off city bus tour. I am kind of a travel snob and I like to think of myself as a “traveler” and not a tourist. So, I like to get a feel of the city, even if it means not checking off a few tourist destinations. Well, on our last trip to Miami, we did it. We booked tickets for Big Bus Miami for a city sightseeing tour.
Now for those unfamiliar with Big Bus. Big Bus is essentially a tour company and they run a fleet of double decker buses. The buses are open at the top and passengers can choose to sightsee from either the top of the bus or from the comfort of an air conditioned bus downstairs. They are pretty popular in lots of major cities such as New York, London, Dubai, San Francisco to name a few.
When traveling, we generally prefer to either walk through the city or drive if its not pedestrian friendly. This trip we were staying in Miami Beach and the overnight parking was crazy expensive. So we decided to skip renting a car and travel using public transport. Luckily enough, we were getting a great deal on Groupon for a two day tour via Big Bus Miami and we decided to take it. Frankly, I went in with low expecations, but I was pleasantly surprised and overall had a pretty decent experience.
Big Bus Miami offers three different routes, the Red Loop, which is essentially a tour of Miami city, Blue Loop, a tour of Miami South Beach and the Yellow Loop which takes you to the city’s top attractions and Museums. We only experienced the Red Loop, because we were already staying in the Art Deco district in Miami Beach and decided to skip the blue loop.We were also visiting Miami just a couple of week after Hurricane Irma and the yellow loop was closed down because a few attractions such as Jungle Island were badly hit and still closed down.
- The City Loop of Big Bus Miami covers all the major attractions of the city such as Little Havana, Wynwood Walls, Coconut Grove, Vizacaya Museum.
- You don’t need to rent a car or a car seat or figure our parking, or navigations, or driving in an unknown city, if you get my drift.
- Neighborhoods such as Coconut Grove where there isn’t a whole lot to do and more to be seen, can be observed from the comfort of a bus.
- Great for kids who love buses and trains like mine. Plus you can involve them in the sightseeing too, explaining things as you go.
- If your tour guide is good or enthusiastic, they will have lots of tidbits of information or trivia about the various places. I say if, because we had a few good tour guides and some who weren’t as informative.
- If you download the big bus app, you can track the bus, so that you don’t miss a bus or don’t have to stay too long at a destination.
- You generally don’t need to wait for a long time to get another bus if you miss one. About 30-40 mins is the standard.
- Sitting on an open top bus looks pretty cool, but it doesn’t come with its own share of perils. Every time you pass a flyover which seems low, you duck for your dear life. And there are some really low hanging trees in Miami. I got smacked HARD once.
- Sitting upstairs is great when you’re taking a city tour and the bus doesn’t have the chance of going really fast. But when you’re driving across MacArthur Causeway, going at a speed of at least 55 mph, you better hold on to your hat and your lightweight toddler.
- Now anyone who is familiar with Miami weather knows it can get HOT! And I’m talking about the weather in October, not August. A couple of hours of sightseeing while sitting on top can make you feel pretty sunburnt. And you can’t sit downstairs because the air conditioning wasn’t working in a lot of the buses.
- Some of the tour guides were exceptional, enthusiastic and had a lot of information to give. A few, not so much. One of them had earphones on and was listening to music almost the entire time.
Despite some cons, I have to admit I was wrong about Big Bus Miami tours. I feel like they are a great way to get a feel of the city and check out the important tourist destinations. Especially if you are new to the area or country, or don’t want to hassle of driving in an unfamiliar place, these hop on hop off city sightseeing tours are a great option. Would I take them again? It would really depend on the circumstances but I’m definitely not ruling them out. And I do look back at our Miami trip fondly, even the bit about getting smacked with a tree. So do give them a chance if you have the opportunity, you never know, you might like them,
Until next time!