Do you ever find yourself torn between utter travel snobbery, looking for budget solutions and the burning desire to chase the most well-known tourist attractions everywhere you go? I do.
Refusing to ever get on a Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus falls into the travel snob category. Why would one ever take part in an accessible, affordable, well run and fun experience that has been so successful it is now enjoyed in over 150 cities around the world? Ridiculous idea, right?
When I lived in London for almost ten years, red buses filled with holiday-makers must have passed me by at least 20 times a day. I had zero time for them. Just like I had zero time for Madamme Tussaud, and now that the waxy clones of Harry and Meghan have been separated from the rest of the inanimate the royal family I am utterly gutted I never got to see them together. Royals aside, even when I moved to Sydney – hands down one of the most beautiful places to admire from the heights of a double-decker bus – I had no interest in joining the ride. I guess I was way too busy running away from spiders, avoiding snakes and refusing to get into the ocean because of sharks?
So, of course, I had no intention to use those services during our round the world trip. I wasn’t going to all these new destinations to jump on a bus and bypass ‘the real’ experience.
How could you try Bangkok’s delicious street food from the top of a double-decker? Would Turkish coffee taste the same inside of a bus in Istanbul? And would Warsaw’s Palace of Culture look as impressive through a plate glass window?
Guess what? While I would not recommend drinking a scorching beverage during a bumpy bus ride, I soon found out that Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus was fantastic for pretty much everything else. Yet, I had to go all the way to Cape Town to realise that.
There we were, in this stunning location too big to tackle on foot – and not exactly accessible on public transport either. After venturing on a massive walk on our first day in the Mother City, we made a controversial decision: not willing to spend too much money on Ubers, cabs or car rental, we had no choice other than to go with a Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus.
I was in full mourning over the authentic South African spirit we were clearly not going to experience now that we chose this globalised, homogenous and un-authentic mode of transport. And even as a die-hard public transport fan, buses were never my thing. I have always been a train kind of girl. And so I didn’t expect much from an ordinary bus ride filled with a bunch of travellers who didn’t know any better, ourselves included.
But what a joyful experience it was. Convenient, informative, mind-expanding and fun.
A very affordable ticket got us all-day access to the tour. The journey had four different routes around the bustling metropolis, with a bus stopping at evenly distributed stops every 15 to 20 minutes. Onboard, we got two sets of headphones, and as we marvelled at the city and broader Cape Town area, we listened to immersive and fascinating facts and stories about the region.
Stops covered not only the most central part of the city – with the Table Mountain cable car being one of the leading destinations. The route takes you all around the beaches, Kirstenbosch Gardens, Constantia wine region, Imizamo Yethu Township and Haut Bay. It makes broader Cape Town’s diverse arena incredibly accessible.
We had a lovely time learning about the area from atop of the double-decker. And it was so freeing to give a boot to the inner snob and fully embrace the touristy character of the ride.
Wrapped in a colourful kikoy, with a sun hat planted on top of my head, I clutched a printed out city map as I pointed at things we cruised past with enthusiasm. Needless to say, all the photos I took during the trip feature either the back of somebody’s head or the railing of the bus.
I never even went up Table Mountain because I liked the new tourist bus perspective so much. Let that one sink in. I still find it pretty shocking myself.
Of course, nobody should ever skip a trip up Table Mountain during their time in the Cape. Still, everyone should add the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus experience to their next trip itinerary. And with the Capetonian winds reaching speeds of up to 120 kilometres an hour, you might want to grab one of the stunning kikoys to stay warm on the open roof top-deck.