Do you like HoHos? I don’t mean the snack cake kind. (Which, sweet tooth sufferer that I am, amazingly enough I’ve never had an affinity for.)
I’m talking about the touristy kind of HoHos, as in Hop-On, Hop-Off tours.
There are some travelers who find these sorts of tours too touristy. It’s not novel enough for them. Anyone could have that experience.
They seek out the destinations less visited, the paths less traveled –at least by other tourists. They’d rather find an out of the way place, or where they can get more of the real local flavor.
I’ve never really been the type of traveler to seek out the “true local character” side of travel. However, once upon a time, I did think hop-on, hop-offs were too cheeky too. Too canned. Too rudimentary.
That was before I actually took one.
More to a HoHo Than Meets the Eye
In 2010 we opted to take our first HoHo in New York City thanks to my plantar fasciitis flaring up. We only had limited time and I was struggling to walk, but we wanted to see as much of the city as possible. The Double Decker sightseeing bus was the way to do it.
That’s when we realized hop-on, hop-offs weren’t nearly as hokey as we’d assumed. In fact, now we try and take them every time we’re in a city that has one.
Because we’ve discovered five reasons to love them, specifically:
1. Time Saver
We cruise a lot. We usually only arrive into the city we’re sailing from the day before the cruise. That leaves little time to see very much.
And then the ship is usually only in each port for mere hours. Sometimes you’ll get a good 10-12 hours, and on some itineraries you may even be lucky enough to get an overnight in a port. Normally, however, six to eight hours is about all the time you have.
If it’s a big enough city you want to make the most of that time seeing all you can. At least we do. (Because you can buy excursions through the ship and have some really neat experiences, but for us that’s usually too pricey and confining. We’d rather go at our own pace and take in as much as we possibly can.)
Hop-on, hop-offs allow us to do this.
2. Cost-Effective Way to Get Around
The other thing we’ve discovered is that HoHos are a great, money-saving way to get around.
Sometimes it works out that we have enough time in port to do both the full hop-on, hop-off tour and get off at a couple of the stops to see one (or more) of the major attractions.
One example that comes to mind is when we were in Glasgow, Scotland. My friend Chris Davis (of Davis Graveyard) had suggested if I ever found myself in Glasgow, be sure to see the Necropolis.
Well, there we were thanks to our British Isles cruise. But we only had so much time before we had catch the train back to Greenock, where our ship was docked.
But the Necropolis would’ve been a fair hike from the train station. Doable, but then it would’ve been a mad rush to walk other parts of the city before hauling butt back to catch the train.
We could’ve grabbed a taxi. But that can get expensive.
Luckily I had bought City Sightseeing Glasgow Hop-On Hop-Off Tour tickets ahead of time. It had a stop near the Necropolis. Perfect!
We got to see so much more, with the option of getting off to explore at our leisure whatever else struck our fancy.
3. Knowledgeable Guides and Good Information
Besides just being a bus with stops at key attractions, HoHos also serve another purpose. They are sightseeing tours in and of themselves.
Not all hop-on, hop-offs have live guides narrating the routes, but even when they don’t they have some kind of informative narration. Usually courtesy of headphones you plug into your seat.
There are pros and cons to having a recorded narration versus a live one. I can’t say we’ve really ever had a bad live guide, but some guides are definitely more passionate than others.
Like the live guides, the recorded versions are usually pretty informative and packed with interesting tidbits you might not otherwise learn. (You might, if you take the time to go to certain places along the route and explore them more in depth. Something we don’t normally have the luxury of doing.)
4. Great Option for the Mobility Challenged
Like I referenced above, I was down and out walking-wise one trip. Not that I couldn’t walk, but I could only do so much before my foot would protest.
However, for those in wheelchairs or that require walkers, etc., most HoHos are handicapped accessible.
This makes for a nice, laid-back tour where you can just sit back, relax and enjoy.
Some cities are very busy, very crowded, very foreign. HoHos provide a measure of security.
At least in so far as someone else is doing the driving and you have to have a ticket to board. You’re not likely to encounter hawkers and the like.
Although, in Cartegena, Columbia the sidewalk salespeople were super aggressive and were basically scaling the sides of the bus trying to tempt tour-goers with their wares. But other than trying to entice people to buy their souvenirs, they were harmless.
Of course it’s always wise to stay vigilant when traveling, but if for whatever reason you don’t feel comfortable walking around a strange city but still want to see the sights, or if you want to get your bearings first, hop-on, hop-offs offer a safe way to do that.