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Hop on Hop off Bus Tours NYC

If you are looking for a fast and very comfortable way to tour the city, here is everything you need to know to get on the tourist bus.

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

7 min read

Hop on Hop off Bus Tours NYC

Views of the city from the top of the tour bus | ©Kate Brown

Visiting New York by tourist bus is a very practical idea, since it allows you to see the most important areas of the city in a quick way while you travel comfortably seated.

It is a great option to visit the Big Apple in a short time or even to move between the main attractions to see in New York without having to depend on public transportation schedules. I'll tell you everything you need to know to enjoy it to the fullest.

The best option

New York Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Tour

Select between the two-day and three-day passes

Perfect if you want to enjoy the city while taking a break from intense walking and getting around New York while still taking in the sights of its streets and skyline. Includes a one hour cruise.

This two or three-day pass for the New York sightseeing bus allows you to visit, following the guided commentary on board, the most famous sights of New York such as Times Square, Central Park, the Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center, etc.. The bus is from the famous Big Bus company and has two floors with an open roof to take all the pictures you want from the best angles.

You can choose a Classic ticket for the Downtown and Uptown Manhattan tours or opt for a 2-day Premium pass with Brooklyn tour, Harlem tour, the panoramic night tour and a 1-hour Circle Line sightseeing cruise.

Another possibility is to choose the 3-day deluxe pass with all the tours included, the night tour and the one-hour Circle Line sightseeing cruise. You have several different routes and passes to choose from so you can explore New York freely using the bus as transportation, hopping on and off at more than 30 stops throughout the city.

This option also includes a 1-hour cruise on the Statue of Liberty Circle Line and nighttime sightseeing tour with a Premium or Deluxe pass.

Why I like this option: This is the cheapest and most complete option to enjoy the New York sightseeing bus. You can hop on and off as many times as you want during the tour and you can also enjoy a cruise on the Hudson.

Big Bus routes

Times Square| ©Hellotickets
Times Square| ©Hellotickets

Downtown - Red Route

The Red Route lasts two hours and operates between 8AM and 5PM. This guided tour of downtown New York can start at any of the 17 stops on this route. The tourist attractions linked by the Red Route are the main attractions you need to see in Manhattan:

  • Empire State Building
  • Rockefeller Center and Top of the Rock
  • Times Square
  • Flatiron Building
  • Battery Park
  • Charging Bull (Wall Street Bull)
  • SoHo
  • Greenwich Village
  • Little Italy
  • Union Square Green Market
  • Herald Square
  • High Line

Uptown - Blue Route

The Blue Route operates between 9 AM and 5 PM. This guided tour of Uptown New York City lasts 2 hours and can be started at any of its 10 stops. The tourist attractions that are part of the Blue Route are:

  • Carnegie Hall
  • Columbus Circle
  • Central Park Zoo
  • Frick Collection
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Grand Central Terminal
  • Bryant Park
  • Times Square
  • Central Park

Brooklyn - Purple Trail

New York Big Bus| ©Can Pac Swire
New York Big Bus| ©Can Pac Swire

The Purple Route is 1 hour long and runs at 10 AM, 12 PM and 3 PM. This guided tour summarizes the best things to see and do in Brooklyn and can be started at any of the 4 stops that make up the route. Sightseeing attractions on the Purple Route are:

Harlem - Greenway

The Green Route operates at 10 AM, 12 PM and 3 PM. This guided tour of the best things to see and do in Harlem lasts 1 hour and can be started at any of its 4 stops. The tourist attractions that are part of the Green Route are:

  • Apollo Theater
  • Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine

NYC by Night - Yellow Route

The Yellow Route is 1 hour long and operates from 6 PM to 8 PM. This night tour is non hop-on hop-off, that is, it does not have the option to get off and get back on at any part of the tour. It has one stop and the tourist attractions that can be seen on the Yellow Route are:

  • Times Square
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Wall Street
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Empire State Building
  • Manhattan Bridge

How much does a New York City Sightseeing Bus ticket cost?

Tower Street stop on the Tower Street Tour Bus| ©Matt Towe
Tower Street stop on the Tower Street Tour Bus| ©Matt Towe

From 39 Euros in Hellotickets you can find a ticket that allows you to access the tourist bus of the city from any of its stops and get on and off as many times as you want. If you want to do the night tour, the price is a little higher, it will cost you around 50 Euros.

Children under 12 years old have access to a reduced price and only pay 35 Euros, so it is a good option if you are traveling to New York with small children or as a family. You can also bring your baby and he/she won't need a ticket.

Tips for using the New York City Sightseeing Bus

Night Tourist Bus in Time Square| ©Elliott Cowand
Night Tourist Bus in Time Square| ©Elliott Cowand

If you are willing to board one of these double-decker buses, it is best to consider the following recommendations to get the most out of the experience.

Activate your ticket first thing in the morning

Tickets can be activated automatically from the first moment you board one of the buses, so it is best to do it first thing in the morning to make the most of the day. No time? Don't worry, if you have a busy morning you can always activate it after 15:00 and the ticket will last for 24 real hours, so you can use it until 15:00 the next day.

Take one of the full routes to take advantage of the sights

If you get a good seat on the top floor of the bus (which is not always the case because there are usually more travelers wanting to take the same seats as you) take advantage of the opportunity to take the full route: you can take photos, take the opportunity to rest and use the route as a good way to locate yourself in the city and then decide at which stops you want to get off.

Do it at the beginning of your trip

If you are going to be in New York for several days and it is your first time in the city, the tour bus is a good way to find your way around the New York City map. Take the tour at the beginning of your stay there to calculate distances, discover new neighborhoods and decide which stops and attractions you will visit during the rest of your travel agenda.

Take advantage of the sightseeing card ticket

Many of New York's tourist cards include a free ticket to the sightseeing bus or a cruise on the Hudson River. Keep this in mind because if you purchase one of these New York City sightseeing cards you will have free access and it is worth taking advantage of it.

Use it as public transportation

Yes, you read that right. The New York subway is very well connected and its frequency is enviable, but if you want to move between one attraction and another, most likely they are well connected in one of the tourist bus routes. Make the most of your trips and enjoy the scenery as you make your way from a museum to a skyscraper or to the next stop on your travel journey.

The sightseeing bus at night

View from the Night Tourist Bus| ©Hellotickets
View from the Night Tourist Bus| ©Hellotickets

Another option offered by the City that never sleeps is to take the tourist bus at night. This will allow you to close the day in a relaxed way while resting after a long walk watching the lights of the city. The New York night tour bus is also a good option if you are traveling to New York in winter and want to protect yourself from the cold when the low temperatures are lurking.

It is also a great way to enjoy the Christmas lights if you are traveling to New York at Christmas, undoubtedly the most magical time of the year. On those days when the crowds take over the streets, sitting relaxed on the tour bus cruising through the city at night will seem magnificent.

Other interesting activities in New York

Night views of the city from the tourist bus.| ©Hellotickets
Night views of the city from the tourist bus.| ©Hellotickets

If you're considering booking a tour bus pass, you've realized that the sheer size of New York City is often beyond the walking ability of travelers. If you want to delve a little deeper into all the areas and neighborhoods of the city, I've created this guide about Best New York City Neighborhoods so you can get your bearings and start organizing your itinerary.

And if what you want is to directly discover the most interesting points of the city with a guided tour, my favorites are the Contrasts Tour and the Upper and Lower Manhattan Tour. Here are the details of both tours: New York Contrasts Tour y Upper and Lower Manhattan Tour.

Frequently asked questions

  • What are Hop-on Hop-off bus tours?

    For many major cities, you may have noticed that certain tourist services offer Hop-on Hop-off buses, buses that allow you to decide your itinerary and hop on and off at different points in the city to explore it at your own pace.

  • How long does a Hop-on Hop-off bus tour of New York last?

    The length of the entire tour depends on the route you choose and the service offered. Most tours last between 2 and 3 hours, but some may be slightly shorter, about 90 minutes. Fortunately, most Hop-on Hop-off passes are valid for at least 24 hours.

  • What points of New York can I see on a Hop-on Hop-off bus tour?

    Most bus tours of downtown New York give you an overview of the city, which means you will see many of the major landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial and numerous skyscrapers. There are also other routes, which allow you to see places like Brooklyn and upper Manhattan in greater detail.