The Only Time It Is Acceptable To Take A Tour Bus

Segway is still a big no-no.

Portugal Tour Bus
PHOTO Gillian Rose

There are four types of people that I judge immediately before speaking with them:

  1. People who put pineapple on pizza.
  2. People who ride segways.
  3. People who enjoy cream cheese on sushi.
  4. And people who take tour buses.

After traveling alone through Europe for six months, #4 had become very prevalent in my life. I seriously looked down on young people who paid 20+ euros to “explore the city” by bus.

However, last week during a road trip from Lisbon to Seville, my whole world changed. I rode in one of those awful double decker Hop-on Hop-off tour buses. And. I. Liked. It.

Following a few days of driving through the Algarve, stopping at gorgeous hidden beaches, eating fresh fish, and walking along jaw-dropping rock formations, my travel companion and I arrived late and spent our last night in the magical city of Seville. The following day we knew that our plane was leaving at 3:30pm so we had just a few hours to explore Seville by day.

I think that the best way to truly see a city is to put on some ugly, super comfortable sneakers and get lost in the streets. Unfortunately, with minimal time, we did not have that luxury. After debating a bit about which sites to see and how to see them, my companion suggested we take a tour bus. I thought it was a joke.

“That goes against everything I believe in,”

I said to him, in shock that he would even see a tour bus as a possibility. After traveling through Europe alone for four months, I had always looked down upon those that took tour buses.

“You have legs, so use them!”

I’d constantly say to myself (and occasionally to others). There’s so much more to see in a given city than the top ten TripAdvisor sites. Rather, the soul of a place is often shown through the people themselves and by the smaller, lesser known spots that take some time to find. “Seeing” a city by bus completely disconnects you from the people and the land. So naturally, I was incredibly turned off by the thought of getting on one of those horrible tourist mobiles.

But after some serious convincing, my companion persuaded me to suck up my pride and get on the bus. I hesitantly walked up the stairs to the second level of the bus and we took our seats in the back. He handed me a pair of red headphones and I plugged them into the outlet next to me. The bus began to move. I relaxed a bit. I looked around at the breathtaking Moorish buildings passing by and realized that with this great height, I had a 360 degree view of the city. The wind swept against my body and blew my hair back gently. The information being transmitted through my earphones was actually very interesting, as it explained the history behind the sites and plazas that we passed. Suddenly, a smile crept across my face. Oh my god, I’m actually enjoying myself.

At each historical site, we had the option of exiting the bus, walking around for a bit, and then hopping back on the next big red tour bus that came around. I have to admit, when being in a city for such a short time, it is a great way to see some of the typical sites. And the ride itself was unexpectedly enjoyable.

While short-stay tourism is not sustainable and also does not provide a real experience or perception of the city, if you find yourself in an unknown city for a day or two, taking a Hop-On Hop-Off tour bus isn’t the worst idea. In fact, it can actually be pretty darn fun.

But I still refuse to ever ride a segway.

Gillian Rose

Contributing Editor

Since graduating from Berkeley with a degree in international development, Gillian has lived in four continents and currently calls Tel Aviv home. She speaks five languages and is an avid traveler, foodie, and lifelong student. As a yoga, breathwork, and meditation teacher, Gillian has a deep passion for somatic healing.

Jetset Times in your inbox

Sign-up for our newsletter

By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Policy and European users agree to the data transfer policy.