On of the biggest benefits to going to Paris is the various ways of getting around this great city. There are bicycle tours, car tours, walking tours, Segway tours, and last but not least hop on hop off tours. This post will focus on the Hop on Hop off tours.
There are two main operators of hop on hop off tours in Paris. The biggest one that covers the most ground is Le Open tours,and then there is Big Bus tours ( formerly Le Car Rouge) that covers only the major sites. Both tour companies have audio commentary recorded in a multiple of languages, that is accessible for via the set of disposable head phones that are provided on the tours. Passes for both companies can be purchased for 24, 48 or 36 hours. They can both be booked in advance via the internet, which we found very convenient. and then we printed off the ticket at home and brought it with us.
In a previous trip to Paris, my wife and I only had a limited amount of time to see the city so we paid for a 48 hour pass with Big Bus, it took us to all the major sites with the ability to hop on and off as many times as we liked for the duration of the pass. It served the purpose and the bus completed the circuit in about 2 hours.
On this trip to Paris we opted for the Le Open tours, because one of their stops was close to an attraction that my daughter wanted to see. Le Open tours has 4 different routs, and as I said covers a great deal more territory. Each rout has a connection point with every other rout so it can be a useful way of getting around the city if you have the time. Each rout takes about 2 hours to complete if you stayed on the bus to complete the rout.
As with any type of mass transit operation there are drawbacks, some of the stops are crowded and require more than one bus to take all of the passengers. In some cases there is standing room only, which I am sure is a traffic violation. Be cautious of the stupid tourists that like to disregard the safety signs and stand on the top deck of a moving double decker bus to get the perfect photo op. One of the big differences that we noticed between the operator is that Le Open tours did not actually stop at the attritions. They had stops down side streets or other locations that were close to the attractions, where as Big Bus had stops directly in front of the attractions. Another difference was that Le Open tours seemed to more crowded than Big Bus. I have to guess the reason for this is that it goes to more places. The stops for Le Open tours were difficult to find, where as Big Bus were not.
Both tour operators offer a night tour of the city, which I do recommend, however the Big Bus pick up location is more centrally located at there Arc De Triomphe stop.
So my advice when considering a a hop on hop off tour, bigger is not always better. If you have a lot of time in Paris then Le Open Tours may be the one for you. But if I had to make a choice between the 2, I would take the Big Bus tour. The stops are better situated, not as crowded, and they have a night tour pick up point that is more convenient.