12 tips for catching public transport
Catching public transport when you are overseas is a great way to meet the locals, see the sights, and travel to your next destination while saving money. Here are 12 tips for catching public transport overseas, wherever you may be travelling to or from. Limit yourself to one suitcase and pack light for a happy, stress free trip. Backpacks with wheels can be particularly useful for train travellers as many overseas stations have multiple stairs and hard-to-find (or non-existent) lifts.
Drop into a tourist office to collect a local transit map or print one before you leave home. Many transit maps also have major tourist sites marked on them, making it even easier to get around. Check the overall cost of buying a multi-day tourist travel pass compared to purchasing individual tickets. Sometimes it is cheaper to pay as you go, using the same fare structure as the locals. Gone are the days when you could always buy a ticket from the bus driver. Many public transport systems have gone cashless so you may need to buy a local transit card to use public transport.
Some cities offer short use cards for tourists at a reduced charge. Most public transport systems offer reduced fares (or free transport) for kids. Check on age restrictions when you buy your family’s tickets and carry ID if your child is tall for their age. Some tickets include multiple free transfers between different types of public transport within a certain time period. Research online before you go or check details when you buy your ticket.
Some countries such as Italy require passengers to validate tickets in a machine prior to boarding a train or while they are onboard a bus. Even if you technically have a ticket, it is not considered ‘valid’ unless it has been stamped. Not following ticketing rules can lead to fines if you get caught. If you are travelling on a special service such as a bullet train, pre-book tickets in advance. It is not uncommon for these journeys to sell out, especially during peak periods. Some local ticketing agents will drop train tickets at your hotel for a small additional charge.
Changing trains in Europe usually involves changing platforms. At large capital city train stations, your connecting service could be departing from a platform that is some distance away. Don’t cut it fine when you are booking connections or you could miss the train. If you aren’t sure where to go or what to do, watch the locals and follow their lead. If you need help to find the right platform, showing someone your ticket with the destination written in the local language can be easier than trying to communicate verbally.
Avoid using public transport on Sundays and public holidays. Timetables are often limited and missed connections are a common occurrence, especially in regional areas. Keep your ticket somewhere safe in case you have to show it to an inspector or insert it into a turnstile machine to exit the station at your final destination.
Disclosure: The writer often uses public transport when she is travelling overseas.