Sightseeing doesn’t have to be expensive. Some of the world’s most thrilling journeys cost very little. Here’s our pick of the best ways to get around some popular travel destinations using bus, train, tram, ferry – or even cable car. Did we miss your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.
Emirates Air Line, London
Easily the most exhilarating river crossing in London, the Emirates Air Line is a cable car link between Greenwich Peninsula on the south bank of the Thames, and Royal Docks. The views from the 90-metre-high gondolas take in the nearby O2 Dome, Canary Wharf to the west, the Thames Barrier to the east, and beyond.
The 1km journey can be paid for using an Oyster card and costs £3.20, or £4.20 without. There are 34 gondolas in use at any one time, with a capacity of 10 people each, so the service can carry about 2,500 passengers an hour – the UK’s only urban cable car is a genuine commuter option.
Bosphorus Ferry, Istanbul
One of these white, black and green boats was a filming location for the James Bond film ‘From Russia with Love’. There’s no surprise, then, that the Bosphorus Ferry is the most popular way to see the sights of Turkey’s largest city, offering views of Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque for about £5.
The route starts at Besiktas, home of the Dolmabahçe Palace, former administrative centre of the Ottoman Empire, and the well-known football team. Passing Kanlica and Yeniköy, seaside towns from the days of ‘old Istanbul’, and the castle near Anadolu Kavagi, it’s easy to visualise the past of the historically crucial city.
151 Bus, Sydney
Starting on Market Street near the Romanesque Queen Victoria building, this route passes the inner city haven of Wynyard Park and Observatory Hill. It then joins the Bradfield Highway, which sounds unimpressive until you learn that it becomes the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Look right to see the Sydney Opera House and the Royal Botanic Gardens behind, before moving towards picturesque St Leonard’s Park. Pass through upmarket suburbs of Neutral Bay and Mosman before crossing the water again at Seaforth, to alight the bus at Manly. The Sydney Harbour National Park is then just a 10-minute walk. A single for all zones costs €4.60 (Australian) – about £3.
Snowdon Sherpa, Wales
The Sherpa services link some of the National Park’s best destinations, including the royal town of Caernarfon and the Capel Curig, home of the UK National Mountain Centre. Day tickets for the network start from £4.
For sightseeing, take the S97, which affords views of the mountains and the coast. Starting in Pothmadog, a port town surrounded by 262-metre-high Moel y Gest and the expansive Glaslyn estuary, the bus winds through the hamlets of Preteg and Beddgelert. It passes the lake at Llyn Gwynant, used in the film ‘Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life’, before finishing at Pen-Y-Pass, a common starting point for hiking.
Star Ferry, Hong Kong Harbour
This Hong Kong Island to Kowloon service was voted The Most Exciting Ferry Ride by the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) in 2009. Each day, 70,000 passengers pass the oscillating skyline of Victoria Harbour, including the 346-metre-high International Commerce Centre, which mimics the dynamic shape of the mountains behind. The harbour now hosts A Symphony of Lights – the world’s largest permanent light and sound show – which features lasers, music and fireworks at 8pm every night.
Make sure you buy an upper deck ticket, not only to get the best views but avoid the crush and oil smells below – after all, it’s still only about 30p.
Giant’s Causeway Rambler, Northern Ireland
The Causeway Coast is one of eight Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Northern Ireland, thanks to the 60 million-year-old basalt columns of the Causeway itself. The hourly Rambler service leaves Coleraine for Dunluce, where the now-ruined medieval castle stands on a rocky outcrop.
The next stop is Bushmills, with its world-famous distillery, before the stop for the crystallised lava causeway. Just down the coast is the sweeping White Park Bay, and then the bus terminates at Carrick-a-Rede, where the adventurous can cross a rope bridge across a 30 metre-deep chasm. Buy a £9 day ticket for unlimited rambling.
H Bus, Rome
Let your driver fight the traffic as you gawp at some of the most celebrated architecture in the world. The H bus leaves from the main station, Stazione Termini, and passes the Esposizioni Palace on Via Nazionale. The route winds past shops and museums on the way to the ornate Piazza Venezia, which houses the Santa Maria in Aracoeli Basilica, the church of the city council of Rome.
A quick hairpin around Teatro di Marcello and the bus crosses Ponte Garibaldi, which looks out towards St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican. Alight and explore the intricate streets of medieval Trastevere. A single fare, which allows 75 minutes’ unlimited travel, costs €1 or a day ticket is €4.
Hudson Line Train, New York
If a commute is cool enough for Don Draper from ‘Mad Men’, then it’s definitely cool enough for the rest of us. In the AMC series, the lead character commutes from Ossining, Westchester County, to Grand Central Station via the Hudson Line train. This journey costs $9.75 (off peak) or you could continue to the end of the line for $17.
The ride takes in renowned cityscape such as Yankee Stadium and the Tappan Zee bridge, as well as natural scenery like the 150m-high Palisades cliffside and the fjord-like Hudson Highlands. Even historic landmarks are included, as the train passes through the middle of Sing Sing prison and Dutch-settled Poughkeepsie.
16 Bus, Edinburgh
Taking in everything from the striking Arthur’s Seat to the pedestrianised Multrees Walk, Edinburgh’s 16 bus shows the best of the city’s past and present. Heading north from near Bruntsfield Links golf course, the bus passes the Scottish National Gallery and Calton Hill, home of the Scottish government.
Moving through the city’s shopping area including Princes Street and towards Leith Dock Basin, there are its fantastic views over the Firth of Forth and Edinburgh Castle. The bus joins the coastal road at Newhaven and passes the Royal Firth Yacht Club where you can look across to Dunfermline. A single is £1.50, or a day ticket costs £3.50.
For most city people, the daily commute entails dark tunnels and crowded spaces. For the lucky workers in Vancouver, their trip can include (fog permitting) imperious mountain peaks, soaring skyscrapers like the Marine Building, and shimmering sea.
For here, between Vancouver’s North Shore and the downtown Waterfront Station, the Seabus journey includes taking a passenger ferry across the Burrard Inlet. The 12-minute traverse costs €2.50 (Canadian) – about £1.50 – and is part of the city’s popular Translink system, which also includes the SkyTrain, Vancouver’s elevated light rail line. There is a crossing, with a 400-person ferry, at least once every 30 minutes.
X94 Bus, Dubai
Bus journeys don’t typically scream ‘grandeur’ – but this is Dubai. Board the bus near the Gold Souk, where pedlars offer necklaces and bracelets, before moving into Deira, which offers a more Western-style designer shopping experience.
From spending money to making it, the bus heads through Dubai’s mesmerising web of skyscrapers such as the imposing World Trade Centre tower and Tetris-like Latifa Tower. But even these will be dwarfed by the Burj Khalifa, which looms ever larger on the way to the decadent Dubai Mall, with its overwhelming 1,200 shops. A gold class ticket, for all zones, will cost about £2.50.
Staten Island Ferry, New York
Very few commutes can claim to be the subject of Oscar-nominated films, but the Staten Island ferry, featured in the 2003 documentary ‘Ferry Tales’, is an exception. The film depicts the ship’s usual journey through Upper New York Bay (or New York Harbour), past the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan.
The journey, between the terminal near Battery Park and Richmond Terrace on Staten Island itself, has been completely free to passengers since 1997. The Staten Island Ferry – popular with tourists and New Yorkers – takes more than 21 million passengers annually.
28 Bus, Paris
Gaze down the Champs Elysees and marvel at the Parisian riverside on this journey, leaving from Gare St-Lazare. The 28 bus will pass the magnificent Grand Palais on the way to the river, where you should be sure to look out for Pont Neuf bridge, the Musée D’Orsay and the Eiffel Tower.
Continue to the Assemblée Nationale, the seat of the lower house of French Parliament, and the Ecole Militaire, where a young Napoleon Bonaparte trained. Alight near Jardin du Luxembourg, the city’s second largest park, for the chance to ascend the 210m Montparnasse Tower, Paris’s only skyscraper. A single costs €1.70 – buy two if you want a ‘return ticket’.
182 Bus, Buenos Aires
This journey takes in many of the major sights of Argentina’s capital, including the gorgeous town square Plaza de Mayo and the Japanese Gardens – the largest of this type in the world outside of Japan. The journey starts La Bombonera, the Boca Juniors Stadium, where Diego Maradona used to play, and passes Lezama Park and colonial San Telmo.
The 182 bus then passes the president’s office, the Casa Rosada, and the Metropolitan Cathedral en route to Recoleta, the city’s wealthiest neighbourhood. This is full of French architecture and high-end brands like Hermes and the Four Seasons hotel, and the route finishes in the fashionable Palermo neighbourhood. Not bad for 50p.
28 Tram, Lisbon
Portuguese tourist attractions in their own right, the bright yellow Lisbon trams also serve as a great sightseeing option. The most impressive line on the network is the route between Campo de Ourique in the west of the city and Martim Moniz, the central town square. Buy a day ticket for €5 from a metro station to avoid overpaying once on board.
The route starts near the Praça São João Bosco monument and down the leafy suburban road Rua Domingos Sequera to the Basilica de Estrela. Continuing through the sloping Bairro Alto neighbourhood, the Igreja de Magdalena and San Antonio churches glide into view before Lisbon Cathedral takes over the skyline. Be warned: there have been numerous reports of pickpockets operating on this route.
* Photo credits: Emirates Air Line by Warren Chrismas, Giants Causeway by Sean MacEntee, Dubai by Rob Young, Edinburgh Castle by ADTeasdale, Hudson Highlands by Elizabeth Bean, Lisbon tram by HoaX_pl, Buenos Aires by Ikesken, Rome by Allie Caulfield, Vancouver by Sue Manus, Snowdon Sherpa by Denis Egan, Hong Kong by Chi King, Staten Island Ferry by Paul Young, Sydney by Duncan Hull, Istanbul by Joseph Kranak, Champs Elysees by Sam Greenhalgh