I once dreamed that I was being photographed while I was on a hop on hop off bus. That was a scary dream. If this had happened in real life I would deservedly never again be taken seriously as a co-founder of Spotted by Locals and someone worried about overtourism.
I haven’t done a poll, but my guess is that most of our 480 locals in 79 cities are not a fan of hop on hop off buses. Yes, they’re a super efficient way to see all the major tourist highlights in a very short amount of time. But is that something you should strive for? I personally think it’s a pretty stupid goal.
On the bus as well as on the tourist sites where they’re dropped off customers will be among tourists only and shielded off from any contact with locals. For me there’s little that symbolizes overtourism and dis-interest in local culture better than a line of hop on hop off buses. For me personally that is enough motivation to swear I’ll never take one in my life.
Hop on hop off buses are not just polluting to the eyes. Some hop on hop off bus operators like The Original Tour in London have started using electric engines (because of London’s strict new emission laws), but most of the hop on hop on buses run on polluting diesel and are rarely ever full of passengers. Many drivers leave their engines running all the time, even they are waiting for passengers or on a break. In London the city council has proposed a parking ban for idling tourist buses.
The local authorities in Rome and Oslo have banned or discouraged hop on hop off buses (and other types of tourist buses) from entering city centers since 2019. The Paris’ deputy mayor has announced his city also want to take measures to ban tourist buses from entering the center.
So: do we think tourist buses be banned? No, we’re not a fan of banning anything. We wouldn’t mind if cities start to discourage tourist buses from historical city centers and we think this is what will happen in more and more cities.
Travelers like you and me play a much more important role though. Next time you’re thinking about taking a hop on hop off bus we encourage you to think like Marie Kondo: will it really spark joy, or would it be more fun to spend the few hours you have walking around, meeting locals and experiencing some local culture? Our locals in 79 cities have 12.000 tips!
I invite you to join my #deathbeforehoponhopoffbus pledge
— Bart van Poll (@bartvanpoll) January 8, 2020