When it comes to transportation, most travelers concentrate on the big stuff – getting a flight to their distant destination, and perhaps getting some kind of rail pass or car rental for longer journeys in country. But there are lots of options when it comes to transportation, and which ones are best for you depend on the distance you’re trying to cover and the place you’re traveling around.
Now, while we can’t give you specific pointers for every city or country around the world in one short article here, we can – in a manner of speaking – “teach you to fish” by giving you a few general rules of thumb that you’ll want to keep in mind when you arrive in any new location and are trying to figure out the best way of getting around.
- When you’re facing a long journey – either between countries or between major cities that are some distance apart – your first thought should be to take a flight. In some cases, that’s going to be your only option; but even when you might ordinarily think taking a train would be the least expensive alternative, it can’t hurt to look at what airline tickets cost anyway. There are so many low-cost airlines out there nowadays, even many which only operate within one country or a relatively small region, that you might be able to fly for less than a train ticket would cost you. Of course, by taking a plane you’re sacrificing the romance of the train and you won’t see as much of the countryside zipping past your window, but a short flight could save you time as well as money – two commodities most travelers never have enough of – so it’s worth looking into.
- For some big distances, there aren’t going to be reasonably-priced flights available – so you’ll need to look at either taking a train or taking a bus. Sometimes you’ll have a choice between the two, and sometimes the one you wouldn’t automatically think of has not only a better schedule but a lower price, so it pays to keep both in mind. In some parts of the world, you may have bought a rail pass in advance to make train travel easier – the Eurail Pass is probably the best-known example of these kinds of passes. If you’ve bought a rail pass, be sure to know what extras you’ll get with it (these can include discounts on bus trips and ferry rides) and whether you’ll need to buy reservations in addition to the pass (which is your ticket) for any of the train trips you’re planning to take. When in doubt, ask a kind ticket agent. And of course, if the distance you’re trying to cover is over water, you’ll have to figure out the ferry system or hire yourself a boat.
- Many people want to get away from the places where even buses and trains go – and others just prefer the independence that comes with renting a car. But what many people forget is that you don’t have to arrange for your rental car before you leave, or keep it for your entire trip. Driving in most big cities – especially when you’re not familiar with the area – can be a major headache, and finding parking in historic city centers is an exercise in frustration. So instead of picking up your car at the airport and keeping it until you fly home, rent a car just for the days when you want to get way off the beaten path or once you’re heading out of the city for good.
- When you’re in a city or town, even if you’ve got a car at your disposal, stick with taking public transportation. Historic city centers the world over weren’t designed for modern cars, and you could end up doing damage to your rental if you’re trying to negotiate a 4-door sedan through tiny streets. Instead of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, do what the locals do – hop on a city bus, tram, or the subway if there is one. Better yet, use the transportation option you were born with – walk! Many popular tourist destinations have very walkable neighborhoods where you’ll find lots of tourist attractions grouped together. In fact, depending on where you are, you may never need to learn the local bus routes – if your destination is compact enough, you could end up walking everywhere. You can’t beat it for price, and what better way is there to see a new place than literally at your own pace?