Hop On Hop Off Tours Vs. Public Buses in Washington DC

If you’re wondering whether a hop-on hop-off bus tour is worth it when you visit DC I’m going to give you some important information to help you decide. HELLO! Welcome to Trip Hacks DC. My name is Rob. I’m a tour guide here in the nation’s capital. If you’re coming to Washington DC and you’re looking for the best tips, tricks, and hacks for exploring the city, make sure to subscribe to this channel and hit the bell notification icon so that you don’t miss anything. And if you’re interested in having me personally show you around when you come head on over to my website TripHacksDC.com afterwards, to see the tours that I offer. In this video I’m going to compare hop on hop off buses to the regular public buses here in Washington DC. The three factors that I’m going to compare them on are: price frequency of service, and the information that you get on the ride. And make sure to stick around to the end because I’m going to give you my personal recommendation on when it’s worth it to book a hop on hop off tour and when it’s better to just skip it. If you used a hop-on hop-off bus in DC or another city, leave a comment on this video and let me know what you thought about it. Before we get started I actually want to talk about exactly what I mean when I talk about public buses and hop on hop off buses. There are actually several public transit agencies in the Washington DC metro area. If you’re staying downtown you’ll probably notice just two: the Metrobus and the Circulator. Metrobus is run by WMATA, the same folks who run MetroRail, and they have routes all over DC, Maryland, and Virginia. It’s probably the most similar to the Regional Transit Agency that your own city might have. Circulator is run by the DC Department of Transportation, and it has routes only in DC. If you do use the public bus when you visit it will probably be the Circulator because there are very convenient routes around the National Mall, Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and other popular tourist destinations. Hop on hop off buses, on the other hand, are run by private bus operators. They’re called hop on hop off buses to distinguish them from the more standard sightseeing buses, where you might drive around and see the sights just from your seat. Hop on hop off buses are priced where you typically pay for a one-day or a two-day pass and then get unlimited rides during that time period. There are at least four different hop-on hop-off tour operators in Washington DC right now. They all have slightly different routes and slightly different pricing, but they more or less offer the same service. OK, so now that we’ve covered that let’s get started…. Price-wise the one-day pass options that hop on hop off buses offer usually are in the range of $30-$40 with the two-day pass usually in the $50-$60 range. On the other hand, you can ride the Circulator right now for $1 per Ride or the Metrobus for $2 per ride. And you can pay for the public buses using your SmarTrip card, which you probably already have if you’re going to be riding the Metro. In my monuments memorials video I suggest using Circulator for transportation around the National Mall. It’s easy to use and for only $1 a ride It’s really cheap transportation. So in the price category I’m going to say that the public buses are the clear winner. Circulator advertises that all buses on all routes will run every 10 minutes; however I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t always work out that way. The hop on hop off buses vary depending on the company and the route, but based on my research they advertise frequencies of one bus every about 20 to 40 minutes. However if you read Yelp and Tripadvisor reviews for these companies those estimates might not be accurate either. Another thing to keep in mind is the operating hours for these services. The hop on hop off buses end every day around 5 or 6 p.m.. The Circulator’s National Mall route ends at 8 p.m. during the summer season and 7 p.m. during the winter season. Another nice thing about the Circulator is that you can download the NextBus app on your phone or just navigate to nextbus.com from your mobile browser. It will show you an estimate for the amount of time you have to wait at the stop where you’re standing, and you can look at a map of every bus on the route so there’s no guessing about where a bus is or how long you’re going to have to be standing there. With longer hours and more frequent service I’m going to have to say that the public bus is the winner in this category too. Information is where these two services really start to split apart. Public buses are transportation. Period. There’s no tour guide and you can’t expect to get any information about where you’re going. If you’re not going to sign up for a walking tour or a bike tour or anything like that, then you might actually find it valuable to pay extra for a hop-on hop-off to get this information. Some of the hop-on hop-off bus routes have live narration, which is exactly what you want. Steer clear of any bus company that only uses a recording. The one exception to this is if you want the tour in another language, in that case a recording might actually be the better bet. In any case the winner in this category is obviously the hop-on hop-off bus. So here are some of my final thoughts and my opinion. If you just want transportation between the monuments, the memorials Georgetown, and some of the other very popular tourist destinations. check out the Circulator. if you want a narrated tour but you don’t want to sign up for a walking tour or anything else on the ground, then a hop-on hop-off might be worth it. The most important thing is to do your research in advance and make sure that the hop-on hop-off company that you pick has routes that go to the places that you want to go, and has a live tour guide and not a recording. So there’s a lot to consider, but hopefully in this video I’ve given you enough information to help you decide. And that’s it! Thank you for watching this video. If you found it helpful you can subscribe to the channel by clicking on the Trip Hacks DC logo which is popping up right now at the bottom of the screen. And if you’re coming to DC and you want to sign up for a private guided tour with me, you can click on the Capitol dome which is on the left side of my head right now, it’ll take you over to my website TripHacksDC.com where you can see the tours that I offer. Enjoy your trip!


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