This post reviews and compares the various different bus tour options available to you in NYC. Bus tours are a great way to see the most sites in the least amount of time. Especially in a city as vast and intimidating as New York, bus tours offer guests a way to get a taste of the Big Apple without having to deal with the stress of navigating these busy streets on your own. However, occasionally that means quantity over quality. So, which New York bus tour is best?
TIP: Many of the bus tours mentioned below are included in one form or another with the New York tourist passes.
Traditional hop-on, hop-off bus companies provide transport to major sites all over the city, which is appealing if the New York subway system seems daunting. Typically guests purchase 1,2 or 3 day access passes, and can then get on/off the bus at any of the company’s designated stops at any time. Most multiple-day tickets include a night tour and a boat cruise as well as discount coupons. Prices for these combination tickets are sometimes too good to pass up. Some have live guides and all offer audio headsets with commentary in multiple languages. The market is very competitive with companies outdoing each other’s prices regularly. Be sure to check on our listed prices.
However, there is no information provided off the bus, and commentary on board occasionally consists of a recording. For that reason, these tours are best for those looking for a shuttle service between attractions rather than detailed information about the city. Leave the detailed touring to our free walking tours, many of which start and end near popular bus stops. However, during busy season guests may have to wait for multiple buses to pass through one stop as seat availability is not guaranteed. Also, keep in mind that though bus tours guarantee easy transportation around the city, they are not always the quickest as all bus tours are subject to NYC traffic!
Big Bus Tours consist of 35 stops around New York City on 4 routes, including Downtown, Uptown and Midtown Manhattan routes and one route in Brooklyn (see map detail). You can also download their app, which has the maps to help you plan your route. Guests listen to either an English-speaking guide or an audio recording in one of 10 languages while on the bus, and then are free to wander around on their own at each stop. Their night tour is not a hop-on, hop-off tour. They also offer a combo packages. If you are also planning on traveling to Washington, DC, Big Bus offers a package that combines both cities.
Review of Big Bus New York
Big Bus is the best reviewed hop-on, hop-off bus tour in NYC and the company regards itself as the premium hop-on, hop-off bus service in New York City. This company sports an overall 4 star rating on TripAdvisor, with over 800 positive reviews for their hop-on, hop-off service. Most negative comments focus on the amount of time that it can take to get on the bus, but that’s bound to happen in such a popular tourist destination. Even those who didn’t enjoy their experience typically reported that this bus service was worth considering. Many passengers describe their trip as both informative and fun, with some going so far as to say it was amazing.
Learn more and/or purchase tickets here. Big Bus also offers even more combination passes (see below), which could include access to One World Observatory (Freedom Tower), the Statue of Liberty, Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, Madame Tussauds and much more.
Note: If you are considering a tourist attraction pass, the New York Pass includes both the 1 and 2 day Big Bus tickets. Be sure to read our post comparing all the different tourist pass options in NYC.
GRAY LINE BUS TOURS (also known as CitySightseeing NYC) –
Double-Decker, open top bus tours that offer a huge range of loop tours that can be combined with other attractions. Guide does not accompany guests off the bus and . They also offer combo packages. This outfit has the largest fleet and the widest selection.
NOTE: Get 15% off all Gray Line bus tours and packages with promo code FREETOURS15.
Reviews of Gray Line NYC
When it comes to their hop-on, hop-off service, reviews on TripAdvisor are mixed. Gray Line has earned an overall rating of 3 ½ stars, but they’ve only received roughly 100 more positive reviews than negative. As with most bus services in New York, the negative comments focused mostly on long wait times. Sadly, this isn’t necessarily the fault of the company, but they still get blamed for the queue. Those who were pleased with their experience reported that the bus drivers/guides were both helpful and knowledgeable. Previous guests have complained about experiencing a lot of pressure to tip the guide/driver at each stop, so be prepared to ignore these pleas or carry $1 bills to distribute at each stop.
City Sights NY – (Enter code FREETOURS15 and get 15% off all CitySights NY bus tours.)
Similar to Gray Line Bus and Big Bus Tours, City Sights NY provides loop tours of the city with a guide who remains on the bus for the duration of the trip. They also offer combo packages.
Review of City Sights NY
Although this company only has an overall rating of 3 stars on TripAdvisor, reviews for their hop-on, hop-off service are far more favorable than you might expect. They have received over 200 positive comments about this tour, with many passengers describing it as a great way to discover New York. Unfortunately, the service from this company is not universally praised. According to some passengers, their tour guides can be very hit or miss.
As you might expect at this point, several of the negative comments discuss how long they had to wait for a bus. In a city with this much traffic, there’s not much that any company can do to improve upon the problem. Other complaints revolve around lackluster buses and guides.
This hop-on, hop-off sightseeing bus tour features 40 stops throughout the city on 3 routes. Covering Uptown, Downtown and Midtown as well as Brooklyn, all of New York City’s major attractions are available to see in the comfort of their brand new double-decker buses. In addition to their daily trips, they also offer night tours and combo packages. Tickets for this service are typically cheaper than other competitors, but you may want to read some of the reviews before booking your trip.
Review of Open Loop NYC
The overall 3-star rating you’ll find for this service on TripAdvisor won’t tell the whole story. In reality, a majority of ratings for their hop-on, hop-off tour are two stars or less. Although there are a few people complaining about long wait times, it would appear that there are far more complaints about a general lack of decent customer service and tour guides. Positive comments suggest that this isn’t a constant problem with the company, but it’s worth noting that a lot of people have been unhappy with their experience on this trip.
As a company that primarily offers walking tours, we prefer these types of bus tours as they include all the benefits of a bus tour without any of the cons! The guide accompanies you off the bus at each stop so you get detailed information about all the major sites, rather than just wandering around on your own. You are also with the same bus, driver, and guide for the entire duration of the tour, so you never have to worry about getting a seat and are able to enjoy the tour in a more intimate setting. These are premium tours, so they are usually more expensive than the traditional hop-on, hop-off variety.
USA Guided Tours – Hop-on, Hop-off w/Guide
Visiting New York can be an exciting and bewildering experience. If you’re looking for a nice overview of the entire city, you might want to consider the NYC Day Bus Tour. In addition to a fully guided trip throughout the Big Apple, you’ll also enjoy a boat cruise around Manhattan. The full trip will take roughly 5 hours to complete and you will see a lot of significant landmarks along the way. For those who don’t feel comfortable hopping off at various locations on their own, fear not – your tour guides hop off at each stop to help show you around! Available Daily from 10 AM – 3 PM.
TIP: If you are planning on visiting Washington, DC, you will get 30% off the Discover DC Tour (normally $69) if you purchase it at the same time as your Discover DC Tour. You will need to call USA Guided Tours to confirm your NYC tour date.
Reviews for USA Guided Tours NYC
All of the reviews for USA Guided Tours are positive. With a full 5 star rating on TripAdvisor, it’s safe to say that this is one of the highest rated tour companies in NYC. One happy customer went so far as to exclaim that this is a must for any first timers in New York. This seems to be a common sentiment, as several visitors left similarly positive comments. A majority of the reviews for this service were left by couples, indicating that this may be a great trip for anyone who wants to discover New York City with their significant other.
NOTE: Our bus tours are not currently running. We periodically offer 2 public bus tours: Uptown Tour, which include Midtown Manhattan, Central Park, and Harlem, and a Downtown Manhattan Tour, which covers Wall Street, SoHo, Chinatown and Greenwich Village. Each tour is 3 hours and involves guided narration both on and off the bus.
So far, our bus tours have not received any negative reviews on TripAdvisor. Free Tours By Foot NYC has an overall 5 star rating, and comments about our bus services are very positive. One guest was wary of a free trip around the city, but they eventually discovered that our tour guides are very friendly and knowledgeable. Everyone who has left a comment about their experiences on this journey has enjoyed their adventures throughout New York.
OnBoard offers both day and night time tours, including an 8 hour Premium See-It-All Tour, which covers the length of Manhattan and comprises a visit to the Statue of Liberty. Just like our tours, OnBoard guides accompany guests on and off the bus.
Reviews of OnBoard NYC Tours
Reviews for this company are very good, resulting in an overall 4 ½ star rating on TripAdvisor. Over 1,000 reviewers have left positive comments about this service, suggesting that OnBoard NYC is a very reliable tour company. Some went so far as to indicate that they visited locations you wouldn’t typically see on a tour of New York City. This tour has received particularly positive reviews from families and couples, so you can feel safe bringing larger groups.
Few of the negative reviews seem to have much in common, but it’s worth noting that some guests have experienced less than stellar customer service. Some passengers who had an unpleasant trip suggested that they might have caught the tour on a bad day. A majority of their unfavorable reviews were provided during the summer months, so you may want to consider another company if you’re planning a trip between June – August.
The Ride is Broadway on a bus! A totally unique experience that, according to their website is “equal parts theatrical show and immersive tour.” It’s designed to be fun and entertaining, with street performers scattered throughout the tour route. The information about the city is rather limited and the route is confined to the area around Times Square, so guests looking for a comprehensive city tour should take a look at “The Tour” or look elsewhere.
Reviews of The Ride
This service has received an overall rating of 4 stars on TripAdvisor, with one reviewer stating that the tour was “like nothing I have ever done.” Mosts guests enjoy their experience on The Ride, but some have said that the quality of this tour has decreased over time. It would appear that this trip does not appeal to all audiences, but it’s worth noting that hundreds of customers have left positive feedback about their adventures. If you’re looking for something a bit different, many passengers have suggested that this is one of the most original and unique bus tours in New York!
This fun and educational trip actually comes from the company that brought you The Ride. The Tour is less about the performance (there are no singers or dancers along the route) than it is about the city itself. If you’re not interested in a more theatrical journey around New York, you may want to consider this trip instead. Clocking in at 15 minutes longer than The Ride, this service is more affordable and it covers a slightly larger area. You might not get the song and dance, but you’ll still learn a lot about NYC and discover the city from a different point of view.
Much like the other services from this company, The Tour has an overall 4 star rating on TripAdvisor. There are a few negative comments, but the overwhelming majority of their ratings are positive. Some passengers suggest that this is a great option for anyone who might be short on time, while others say it’s the best tour they’ve ever taken. Several of the negative reviews indicate that they were expecting the same experience that is offered on The Ride, but that simply isn’t the case. Please make sure to select the right bus tour from this company in order to avoid any confusion.
If you’re a major movie buff, then this is the tour for you! On Location Tours specialize in showing guests where all their favorite movies and TV shows were filmed. Some of their most popular tours include NYC TV & Movie Tour, Sex and the City Hotspots Tour, Gossip Girl Sites Tour, Sopranos Sites Tour, TCM Classic Film Tour, When Harry Met Seinfeld Tour, The Real Housewives of New York City Tour and the Central Park TV & Movie Sites Walking Tour. Guides also pepper the tours with history about the different neighborhoods you drive through.
Reviews of On Location NYC Tours
With a 4 ½ star rating and over 1,500 positive reviews on TripAdvisor, it’s safe to say that On Location Tours has impressed a lot of customers. That being said, they have received hundreds of negative reviews which might be of concern. Some unhappy passengers complain that the tour wasn’t as long as they were promised, while others simply found it uninteresting. Although these comments may be troubling, it’s worth remembering that there are ten times as many people who absolutely loved their experience with this company. Several guests recommend this tour for film buffs of all ages, stating that it is both informative and fun for movie lovers.
Whether you are looking to bust a move or bust a rhyme, Hush Hip Hop Tours has the perfect tour for fans of the genre. They claim to be the only hip hop tour company in the world with pioneers of hip hop, DJs, and professional break-dancers leading its tours. As you travel from one location to the next, some of the people who helped make the movement possible will explain how this art form was born in the streets of NYC. Their tours will take you to Harlem, the Bronx and Brooklyn.
Reviews of Hush Hip Hop Tours
This may be one of the highest rated experiences on the list, as Hush Hip Hop Tours has earned an overall 5 star rating on TripAdvisor. An overwhelming majority of customers have reported that their trip around New York was not only memorable, but historically accurate as well. Some have even said that this tour is great for all audiences, suggesting that you need not be a fan of hip hop to learn a lot about the city while on your trip. There are only a handful of negative comments, and few of them seem to have anything in common which would suggest any major issues with their service.
Scott’s Pizza Tours are the premier pizza tours of New York City. Scott’s offerings are primarily walking tours. However, on Sundays, Scott offers a pizza bus tour that reaches the outer boroughs of NYC. Free Tours by Foot guests are given $2 off on all of Scott’s tours. To get the discount, be sure to plug in FREEBYFOOT at checkout. Click here to to learn about Scott’s Pizza Tours.
Reviews of Scott’s Pizza Tours
Everyone loves pizza, and according to reviewers on TripAdvisor, learning about the dish can be pretty fun. An overwhelming majority of the reviews for their bus tour are positive. They have received one or two negative comments which don’t appear to reflect any serious issues with the service. This tour apparently takes place on a yellow school bus, so it might not be the most comfortable seating you’ll ever experience. That being said, almost everyone who has experienced the trip has had an absolute blast. Positive reviews suggest that the entire journey is entertaining, and you’ll even have the opportunity to eat a few slices!
Scott also offers pizza walking tours, including:
Fans of Seinfeld will definitely want to consider taking this tour. According to Larry David, Kenny Kramer was the actual person who inspired the hilarious character of Cosmo Kramer. Believe it or not, Kenny still lives in New York, and he provides a fabulous tour of the city to give fans a better idea of what life was like for the people that inspired the characters in everyone’s favorite show about nothing. Visit a lot of the locations you’ve seen in the series and hear about the creation of this concept from Kramer himself!
With the exception of just one negative review, every rating on TripAdvisor is positive. The one negative rating seems to come from someone who simply did not agree with the majority and found the trip uninteresting. Thankfully, this isn’t the common experience, and most guests refer to Kramer’s Reality Tour as an absolute must. Some fans report waiting years to take a tour with Kenny only to have their expectations exceeded in the end. According to many reviewers, this might be one of the more entertaining bus tours in the city, and it’s perfect for any fan of Seinfeld.
If all of the above sounds out of your price range, then you could always take advantage of the public bus system and tour around the city on your own! The New York Times published a great article a few years back about the best bus lines and routes to see all the major sites in the city. At just $7.50, the public bus system offers visitors a great way to explore the city on their own for a minimal cost. Don’t forget that you can also take our free walking tours in combination with this option.
If you interested taking both a boat and bus tour while visiting New York, it’s often cheapest to purchase those two tickets as part of a combo deal. Many companies offer a variety of combinations, including helicopter tours and museums tickets as well. Child prices are even less, but they vary. Click the company links for more details. Be sure to also read our post comparing the various tourist discount passes, such as the New York Pass, CityPass and the Explorer Pass, which may be even better fits for you.
Although Big Bus offers 2 and 3 day tickets (see hop-on, hop-off bus service above), which already include a boat cruise, they also offer their own version of a tourist discount pass, called the Big Adventure Pass. This pass combines the 2 or 3-day bus and boat tickets with other activities around town. You can choose from a list of different activities and/or attractions when you purchase your pass. This is a great option for anyone looking to explore as much of NYC as possible in just a few days!
Big Adventure Pass (2 day $118.20/adult and $92.70/child or 3 day $143.70/adult, $118.20/child) Click here for more information.
Reviews for the Big Adventure Pass are decent, although there have been some negative ratings. Customers who rated their experience poorly suggested that they had trouble understanding how the package worked. Based on their experience, we suggest obtaining this pass well in advance and planning out your trip beforehand. Call ahead and make sure that you understand how to fully take advantage of the combo package before you set your heart on this tour pass.
That all being said, some customers actually had great things to say about the Big Adventure Pass. One reviewer described this opportunity as a great way to see the city, indicating that his family had a great time. One thing is for sure: It’s definitely possible to get a lot of value out of this combo deal. If you’re willing to stick to an itinerary and plan out your trip, this could be a fantastic option.
Again, like the top two, Gray Line offers several combo packages. Their packages stand out because they offer a choice of the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock.
City Sights also offers a number of different combo packages at a discounted rate.
This is the best deal if hoping to do both a bus and boat tour. Guests receive a 20% discount on all of their combo passes. Open Loop has several combo offers.
Many of the companies listed above also offer evening bus tours. The New York skyline is breathtaking when illuminated after dark, and a bus tour is a great way to see many different areas of the city in a short amount of time. Night tours do not typically operate as hop-on, hop-off tours, even though many are operated by hop-on, hop-off companies in double decker buses. There are also small group shuttle bus night tours. This is a common complaint for guests of all companies, but this likely stems from misunderstandings. NOTE: many of these night tours are included in the multiple-day tickets offered by each company.
Big Bus offers nightly bus tours that depart between 7-9 pm every 15-20 minutes from Times Square (6pm – 8pm in winter months). Sites include Radio City Music Hall, 5th Avenue, the Empire State Building, the Manhattan Bridge, and the Manhattan skyline from the Brooklyn waterfront. You can view their night tour route map (yellow). Since it is included in just about every multiple day or combo ticket, many people are likely to find it cheaper to get the night tour in a package deal.
GRAY LINE – (a.k.a. City Sightseeing, a.k.a CitySights)
This trip departs every half hour between 6:30 pm – 8 pm from 47th Street and 8th Avenue. Sites include Times Square, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Chinatown/Little Italy, Chelsea, Greenwich Village, Macy’s, and the Broadway Theater District. During the month of December, the night tour becomes the Holiday Lights Tour.
Reviews for Gray Line NYC’s night tour are mixed, but there are twice as many positive comments as there are negative. Some passengers have reported that they learned quite a bit while on this trip, and it would appear that this is a common complement. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of complaints focusing on long lines and unimpressive tour guides, so it’s difficult to say what your individual experience will look like. Most guests enjoy this bus tour, but some find it lacking the depth and entertainment that they expected.
Similar to experiences with Gray Line, most of the reviews for this service are excellent, but there are several negative comments worth mentioning. Complaints range from unimpressive tour guides to the inability to hop off whenever you wish. As with other night tours, this is not a hop-on, hop-off bus tour, and a lot of passengers would prefer that it was. Unfortunately, you won’t find many nighttime bus tours which allow passengers to hop-off whenever they wish.
That being said, there are twice as many positive comments, and some guests have even referred to this as the best tour offered by CitySights. Many of the combo deals offered by this company include the night tour, and several customers who took advantage of those deals report that this was their favorite experience.
In addition to their highly rated daily tour, this company also provides one of the longest and most detailed night tours in New York. Clocking in at 4 ½ hours in length, the NYC Night Bus Tour will take you past some of the most popular destinations in the entire city, including locations such as Times Square, Chelsea Market, Chinatown and Greenwich Village. This excursion also includes at least one short walking tour and a boat tour which departs from the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. Discover how New York City changes when the sun goes down! Available Daily from 5:30 PM – 10 PM.
Every single review for this particular night tour is 5 stars. As a matter of fact, USA Guided Tours has yet to receive even one negative comment about their service. Most guests report that this company is very professional and reliable, describing their tour guides as entertaining and knowledgeable. One high level contributor pointed out that the landmarks and neighborhoods visited on this trip are different from those they visit during the daily tour. Anyone looking to experience New York during both the day and night will no doubt get a lot of value out of both of these bus tours.
OPEN LOOP NIGHT TOUR
In addition to the many other tours and packages offered by this company, you can also take part in their night tour. There are several departures for this particular trip, and it provides a fairly unique look at the city after dark. Compared to the other hop-on, hop-off companies, the later 9 pm and 10 pm departures are great for night owls. Sites include Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building, Lower East Side, Chinatown, Little Italy, and Brooklyn Bridge.
Although there have been some negative ratings, hundreds of passengers have been impressed with this tour. Some suggest that you should take a night tour with another company, while others have said that this was an animated and interesting experience. A majority of their customers have a great time while traveling around New York City at night, but it would appear that Open Loop does have problems from time to time.