If you are a follower of our blog you will have read our previous posts about Big Bus Tours. We love this company and always use them whenever we are in a new city where they run routes from Hong Kong to Dubai and not forgetting New York. When we booked our trip to San Francisco we secured our tickets for the bus straight away. As we have never been disappointed before, I didn’t even check out the routes or the added extras you always get with the Big Bus Tours before we booked them. Yet again Big Bus Tours didn’t disappoint, they were great and it was the perfect option for us in order to explore San Francisco, especially as we only had a few days to do so.
San Francisco isn’t that big of a city but still big enough that walking everywhere just wasn’t an option for us as we wanted to see all the major sites and landmarks including the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and Lombard Street. Plus even though it was only early June when we visited it was fairly warm, especially for us Brits who are unused to it, add the steep streets of San Francisco in to the mix and that gave us another reason not to attempt to walk everywhere. We visited for 4 nights, so we had 3 full days and on one of them we were heading out to Napa Valley and Sonoma on a wine tasting tour, therefore it only actually left us with two days. Bearing this in mind we opted for the 2 Day Deluxe ticket ($68 online, $75 on street*). This gave us the added extras of a Sausalito and night tour, but more about them later. However other tickets are available.
Frequent and easy to use
We stayed a stones throw from Union Square, which as a big tourist attraction seemed to be a hub for the Big Bus Tours, and its competitors, so make sure you get on the right bus. We ensured that we got on the first bus both mornings (9.00am) to make the most of our two days, also it meant that we were guaranteed a seat on the upper open deck which, as the day went on became more and more difficult. With 20+ stops, I’m sure if you chose Big Bus Tours there will be a stop near your hotel/accommodation if you are staying in central San Francisco. You can check the routes out on their website.
We found the buses to be very frequent and were never waiting long for one. Depending on what time of year it is does depend on the frequency. As we visited in June, the summer schedule was running meaning buses were running every 10 – 20 minutes. We also downloaded the Big Bus Tours mobile app so we could track the bus, often this allowed us to grab a bottle of water or take a loo break as we knew we had the time to do so.
A major benefit of the Big Bus Tours is the commentary that you can listen to whilst on the tour. As you pass something of importance it is explained to you what it is, which is great as you are made aware of things that you may not have realised you were passing. On the main routes the commentary is prerecorded and you listen to it through the complimentary earphones that you pick up as you get on the bus. The commentary is offered in 10 languages, therefore most nationalities are catered for.
One of the great benefits of the deluxe two-day ticket was the included Sausalito tour. Sausalito is a city located 7km north of San Francisco. Everyone had recommended that we visit and seeing as though it was part of the ticket, we timed it right so that our red route bus got to the change point to the green route at the right time. The change point is located at the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge which means that even if you don’t jump off or don’t have a deluxe ticket you still get to ride across the bridge. Unfortunately for us on the day we visited the famous San Fran fog had come to pay a visit and the top of the bridge and the views over the bay were none existent (booo). We jumped on the Big Bus Tours trolley bus with the very talkative (and loud) Patrick who, once is bus was full set off for the charming seaside city of Sausalito giving a running commentary about the sites and landmarks we were passing with a quick stop at a great pier which, would have given perfect views of the bridge if it wasn’t for that pesky fog!
Once in Sausalito we wandered the streets which were lined with art galleries, cafes, boutiques and souvenir shops. Not only was it a foggy morning in San Francisco it was also a cold one and as we had been sat on the top deck before hopping on the trolley bus, we were chilled to our bones. After a quick pit stop at Starbucks we headed to the waterfront and just sat and watched the world go by. As time ticked on the fog lifted and we were greeted with a lovely sight – all the beautiful houses built into the hillside and also a faint glimpse of the San Francisco skyline. Whilst waiting for the bus we also had a very quick wander around the marina, marvelling at the yachts and planning where we would go if we had one.
We headed back to the change point, and even though there was still a bit of fog remaining we could see more of the bridge then we could earlier that morning. Luckily for us we had another opportunity later in our trip to revisit the viewpoint and on that occasion it was a crystal clear day. However, if you are changing buses and was going to use it as an opportunity to take photographs of the bridge or just see it in general then I would suggest visiting during the afternoon as the fog lifted every day by lunchtime.
Another added bonus of the deluxe two-day ticket was the included 2 hour panoramic night tour. The night tours operate daily from Stop 1, Fisherman’s Wharf at 6.30pm, 7.00pm, 7.30pm (departures at 7.30pm are seasonal from April 1st to Oct 31st). I recommend getting to the stop at least 30 minutes before your chosen departure time to ensure that you get a good spot on the bus, especially if you want to sit upstairs. The night tour allows you to see the city and its top sights, it does take a slightly different route to the day tours, therefore you get to see more than you would if you only did the day tour. It does finish back at its original stop, however a courtesy shuttle is then offered to Union Square, which was great for us as that is where our hotel was. I personally would have liked it to run later as it was still light when we did it, it would have been great to see the city lit up at night.
Other things to note
Tickets can be bought in advance via the Big Bus Tours website, they are then valid for six months, from one of the many ticket sales people who can be found at most of the major stops and also at the Big Bus Tours sales office located in Fisherman’s Wharf.
All in all, it was a great couple of days and the Big Bus Tours was the perfect way to see everything we wanted to in such a short amount of time.
- Tickets were provided on a complimentary basis, however we would have bought them as we really do love this company!