I’m all about budget travel. Being a thoughtful saver before and during my travels is one of the ways I’m able to travel for as long as I do. I recently wrote about ways to save money while you’re on the road. As I landed in Cairns, Australia this past weekend, I did something I don’t do often which is pay for a shuttle bus.
Sometimes in resort type or touristy cities it can be impossible or just a real pain in the neck to take public transit. But when you can, I highly recommend taking public transit. Not only will you save money, but it’ll be a new experience and you’ll feel more like a local, While hopping on a bus or train can be cheap, it’s important to be prepared.
I have a rule for myself that if I am arriving to a new city or traveling at night alone I’ll cough up the money and pay for a taxi. I typically structure my travel so I arrive before 3 pm with daylight on my side, but sometimes there are exceptions. I find that public transit takes on a whole new personality at night, which I tend to avoid. During the daytime buses and trains are used more often by commuters and other tourists which makes it more appealing during the day vs. the night.
Read on to learn 5 quick tips for taking public transit!
1) Know where you’re going.
This one might seem obvious, but when I see some travelers it’s obvious they don’t know where they are going. Do your research as to start and end points, and potentially transfers in-between. Get background information like how much a ticket costs, what time the last train leaves, how far you’ll need to walk, etc. Set yourself up for success by checking into a few details. Many cities will have numerous public transit options so look into which one works best for your destination.
2) Get a real map.
However I arrive into a new city, whether it’s by way ferry, plane, train, or bus I always do my best to get a hard copy map ASAP. Stations typically will have a tourist office nearby. Stop in to get a map and familiarize yourself with the local area. You’ll likely get a chance to speak someone and have initial questions answered. Call me old fashioned, but there’s something about having a real map in my hand. I don’t like carrying my phone when I’m walking the streets in a new city with all of my gear on my person. Maps are also great to paste into your journal for a memento too!
I read a travel trip from Wandering Earl years ago and it’s really stuck with me. He suggested taking a breather after arriving to a new city. Essentially just take a moment and park it before you continue your traveling. If you get into an airport, you’ll probably be a little frazzled, so take a moment to relax before venturing out to your hostel. This can be getting a cup of coffee for 15 minutes, or just finding a bench and sitting. This has been so helpful to me. On the days when I haven’t done it I typically am grumpy or make directional mistakes. It gives you time to get your head straight before the next leg of your journey.
Even if I think I have it all down, I’ll typically ask someone if I’m on the right path. This also gives you a chance to speak to someone! You don’t have to google everything to get an answer. If I’ve been walking down a city street and it seems longer than it should be, I’ll duck my head into a café and ask if I’m getting closer. It only takes moments, but it can save you extra time if you’ve taken a wrong turn.
Don’t wait till you’re in a foreign county to take public transit. Practice while you’re at home! I think one of the reasons I’m so comfortable using public transport is that I used it in the states. It gave me the courage to navigate maps, stations, and purchasing tickets. So give yourself an edge abroad and practice hopping the bus before you leave.
And there you have it. 5 quick tips for taking public transit. I sure hope you get out of your comfort zone and hitch a bus or train. One last bonus tip, make sure you’re insured. I always travel with World Nomads for peace of mind, especially when I’m in transit. However you get from A to B, may it be safe and hopefully fun along the way. Get out there and see this great big world and save some of your hard earned money along the way!
Written In: Cairns, Queensland, Australia