My first hop-on, hop-off bus tour experience was during a solo trip to Los Angeles. Prior to the trip, I ambitiously told a colleague that I wanted to go to Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Downtown LA and Santa Monica – all on public transport!
That’s when he reminded me that LA goes on for miles and some parts would require several transits between trains and buses to get to. The next best option? A tour on board a sightseeing bus.
Fast forward to present day, I’m at a bus stop along Jalan Ampang in front of the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur on a weekday morning – waiting to board the KL Hop-On Hop-Off bus.
About 20 minutes later, a big double-decker bus splashed with white-and-purple livery featuring “10 must-buy items” at a shopping mall pulls over.
I immediately make my way to the open deck platform on board. From above, one gets an uninterrupted 360˚ view of the surrounding.
It’s a sight that you won’t get on a regular bus. Seeing the Twin Towers on the elevated platform is certainly a novelty and before long – I’m snapping photos on my phone like an actual tourist.
From the KLCC area, we make our way past morning traffic to the Malaysia Tourism Centre. Here’s where the bus begins to get packed with other tourists. But with a maximum capacity of 60 people, one doesn’t ever really feel cramped as passengers frequently get on and off at various stops.
Tickets range from RM15 to RM95. You can check out the full price range at myhoponhopoff.com.
The KL Hop-On Hop-Off bus boasts being the only open top double-decker bus in the city. But with the country’s hot and humid climate, one does wonder how practical the design is.
That is why the other half of the top platform is covered – and air conditioned – says KL Hop-On Hop Off chief marketing officer Zamilla Hasan.
“Western tourists love our sun, but there are some passengers who are afraid of the heat,” she offers with a laugh when we meet at Stop 6 in Bukit Bintang on my first “hop-off”.
About 700 to 800 passengers on average board the buses every day. The number could spike up to a thousand during peak holiday season.
Zamilla says a tour on board the bus would be a good way for travellers to be acquainted with KL on their first couple of days.
“Take a ride around and discover what the city has to offer. Then you can return again to the place on your own time,” she says.
If anything, taking a hop-on hop-off bus tour takes away the hassle of getting around the city. Intervals between buses are around 20 to 30 minutes – ample time for travellers to check out a venue and take some photos before moving on to the next destination.
From Bukit Bintang, I hop back on another bus to complete my tour. At this point, the weather is beginning to get warmer but I insist on sitting at the open deck – just for the sheer glee of waving excitedly at amused pedestrians.
For a while, the sun is the least of my concerns as we drive past modern office towers and swanky hotels. The cocoon of skyscrapers around the Golden Triangle area provides plenty of shade from sunlight.
Now, the number of towering buildings in the city is probably the first thing one would realise when riding on the top deck. The second thing would be – how loud KL is!
For someone who is used to driving around in a car, “hearing” KL on the road is definitely an experience.
The KL Hop-On Hop-Off bus covers a total of 21 designated stops on its 42km route in Malaysia’s capital city. The journey passes more than 70 attractions.
Informative commentary is provided whenever the bus pulls over at a designated stop. In the past, pre-recorded audio guides were used. However, the tour began to incorporate live commentary beginning this year on certain buses. The company operates 10 buses in KL.
Listen carefully and you might pick up a few interesting bits of trivia. Like when we pull over at KL Sentral, I learn that it is actually the largest railway station in South-East Asia.
And over at the National Mosque, I discover that the nearby Makam Pahlawan is the burial ground of some of the country’s most iconic individuals like premiers Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and Tun Hussein Onn.
A complete loop will take between two-and-a-half and three hours, depending on traffic conditions.
The first half of the tour covers popular tourist places such as the KL Tower, Jalan P. Ramlee, Chinatown, Central Market, Little India and Muzium Negara.
But as we travel further away from the heart of the city, the sight begins to take a greener turn. Driving into the Lake Gardens area reveals lush foliage and a much cooler surrounding.
The route certainly gives passengers a comprehensive tour of KL. From the main shopping district, passengers move on to historical places, nature sites as well as cultural attractions.
As the bus completes the route and stops at KLCC, I disembark with a fresh perspective of my city. It’s amazing the things that you learn sometimes when you play tourist in your own backyard.