I’d like to take this moment to come out to the world as a proponent of bus tours.
Now, I’ve heard three main takes on how you’re supposed to explore a new city: There is the ultra-tourist, who is signed up for a guided tour of the entire city, with fast pass tickets and a fancy walky-talky headphone set-looking thing to keep in constant contact with the tour guide.
Then there’s the tired tourist, who follows all the big crowds of people and stands in every three-hour line he or she can find.
Finally, there’s the free spirit, who hoofs it around the city in a day and will tell you that they’ve connected with it on a personal level.
I’m not here to say that any of these is right or wrong; I’ve done a bit of each and enjoyed them all.
But I would like to say that if anyone tells you that bus tours are a waste of time, they might be doing the bus tour wrong.
Let me walk you through it. Step one, you find a bus stop with a bunch of brightly colored double decker vehicles zooming in and out, with a couple people passing out pamphlets and selling tickets.
You buy your little ticket, hop on the bus, and either pick up a set of headphones to listen to the recording, or go to the upper deck to listen to the live speaker.
Now, your tour guide is almost always going to be a sassy middle-aged man who has very loose respect for the things he’s not actually supposed to mention on the tour, so you’re going to learn a lot of interesting tidbits about the city that you’d have to comb the internet to find.
For the most part, the tour will be two to three hours, if not less. By the end, you’ll have seen most of the main tourist attractions, heard some interesting stories, and gotten a look at where all the good shopping is.
Now, depending on which kind of ticket you’ve bought, you can either hop off the bus and explore each place before catching your next ride, or you can go back to your lodging and map out a plan for which places you’d like to see in more detail, and which ones were not as interesting as you had hoped.
Bus tours may not be for everyone, but so far they have served as a nice introduction to a new city for me, and I recommend that any new traveler give it a chance.
Bridget McSorley is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City double majoring in Business Administration and Languages and Literature. Bridget spent the academic year abroad with the University of Lyon 2 exchange program in France.
Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.