How to get around when you travel

Once you arrive at your destination, you’re going to have to make your way to your hotel, but what’s the best way to get there? And what’s the best way to get to all of the cool places you want to see? Depending on where you go, there are probably many options. Here’s a short guide to help you to get around.

Traffic in Bangkok. No thank you!

Public Transportation

Taking public transportation is usually the cheapest way to get around in many cities and countries. Many times the airport is connected to public transit, which makes it easy to get into town. I prefer to take public transportation when I can find a hotel that is close to a stop. Taking public transportation can also be advantageous if traffic is a problem. In places like Bangkok and New York City, you can take the subway and bypass much of the traffic that plagues the city. One downside of taking public transit is the possibility of delays. It can also be inconvenient if you still have to walk a ways from your stop to the place you are staying, especially if weather is a concern. 

Google Maps Transit will give you great public transportation directions for most cities and is accessible from the google maps app on your cell phone. You can also download Google Maps to use offline and see what’s around you. Google Maps will even give you turn by turn directions while offline, ensuring you don’t get lost on all the adventures you’re going to take.

If you are going to be taking public transportation, you can usually buy single ride tickets, or day passes/multiple day passes. If you plan to be using the public transit a lot, you may save some money by buying at ticket for the day or a few days. 

We probably should have thought more about the weather when we made our plans to walk a mile to the bus station in Iceland!

Uber/Lyft

Ride-share companies have gained popularity because they’re convenient and relatively inexpensive. It used to be that you had to call a cab company dispatch and wait up to an hour for a cab to maybe show up where you are. Now, you can have a private car within minutes. This mode tends to be more expensive than public transportation, but you have the added convenience of being pickup and dropped off right where you want. Sometimes if you have more than two people, it can be cheaper to use a ride-share company. Most airports have a designated location for ride share, which makes it easier. 

If you’re traveling by yourself or one other person, both companies offer a carpooling service in major cities that allows you to split the cost with another person by riding with them for part of your trip. This can sometimes be comparable to the cost of taking the bus or subway.

These apps do have something called surge pricing, where the cost of the ride will be more expensive than normal because of high volume of users. If this is the case and you have the time to wait, checking the app every few minutes might result in a lower price. (But it could also go up.)

Taxi

This is generally not one of my preferred ways to get around in a different city, but sometimes all you have access to is a taxi. There are some airports without good public transportation links into the city. This happened when we landed in Budapest. We chose to take a taxi over the bus in order to save an hour. While this was more expensive, it was worth it to us to get to our hotel faster to relax from our overnight flight. Taxis aren’t the most reliable, in my experience, so I would give yourself extra time when booking in case you have to come up with new plan last minute. 

Trains

One of our favorite ways to travel is by train. Part of it is the fact that in the United States we aren’t able to easily travel by train between most major cities. However, there is decent train access on the east coast, and now Amtrack has some newer routes that we hope to check out in the future. 

If you’re visiting Europe, train travel is much easier than flying, and can sometimes save you time and money when traveling between cities. If you’re looking at a flight between two cites that is only 2 hours, you might save time by taking the train. Many airports in Europe are located far outside the city center and you have to show up early to check bags and go through security. If you choose to take the train, many stations are located within the city center and you don’t have to go through security. You can show up 5 minutes before train leaves and hop aboard without a problem. It’s also usually only a small difference in price to buy first class train tickets. So you can travel in style and feel fancy without breaking the bank.

And, did you know you can bring whatever drinks and food you want on the train? Whenever we take a train, we always hit up a grocery store or convenience mart and grab some sandwiches, or olives and a bottle of wine to drink while we enjoy the countryside whizzing by.

Helpful things to know for train travel:

If I’m taking a train, when should I book ?

Many train schedules in Europe do not open up until 90 days before the departure date. The cheapest time to purchase is right when the tickets are available as they get more expensive the closer to your departure date. Generally the first and last trains of the day will be the cheapest, but this isn’t always the case. Choosing a high speed train will also be more expensive then slower trains. One thing to consider is an overnight train if the ride is longer than 6 hours. This will allow you to skip a hotel for the night, saving a few bucks and then you wake up in a new city!

Where do I buy tickets?

There are three main options for purchasing European train tickets: through a US based company before leaving home, through the train companies website, or at the train station. One of the best websites I have found for researching train routes is The Man in Seat Sixty-One. This website goes into detail about the train amenities and where to purchase tickets.

On Foot

Walking is always a great way to get from place to place if a city is walkable and you are physically able. It’s such a good way to find hole-in-the-wall places, secret street art and just random things! My suggestion would be to use the Maps app (I prefer Google Maps) and download the area you are in for offline (instructions here) so that you have a map to look at even if you don’t have service or Wifi (if out of the country). 

When we are doing research before a trip, or given recommendations for places to check out, I save all of the places we might want to go in Google Maps. Then we can look at the map and see that an area of town has several of our saved locations. We can wander around without a set schedule, leaving space for exploring, but still get to see the things we want.

Scooter or Bike

Lime scooters along the canals in Paris

Our most recent trip to Paris was our first time renting those pay-by-the mile scooters and we had SO MUCH FUN! There are several companies, like Bird or Lime, that have apps which match up to several scooters they have in an area. You put your credit card into the app, and then scan a code on the scooter and it monitors how far you go and charges you. We went a few miles scootering along the Seine river in Paris and it was maybe $5 a person. It’s not the most affordable way to go long distances, but it sure is a lot of fun!

There are also several companies that do something similar with bicycles. The only downside to these companies is that you have to use an app on your phone, so you have to have Wifi or 4G service, so if you’re in a foreign country, you have to have a plan to stay connected if you plan to use one of these. 

Depending on where you are, there may be places to just outright rent bikes or scooters. So do a little research to see what there is in the place your visiting. If you visit somewhere like Holland, it’s a major biking country and a must-do to get the full experience of the place, especially if you’re staying in Amsterdam. 

Other ways to travel

Tuk tuks in Thailand

Some places have other modes of transportation that you may want to consider. In Thailand, they have tuk-tuks (like little golf carts), and when we visited some of the islands you have to take a ferry to get there, and some of the beaches are only reachable by boat, like this long nose boat. 

You can also book private cars or shuttles. And some hotels have shuttle services that pick you up from the airport. 

A suggestion to find out what your options are would be to do a Google search for “Transportation in (insert city name),” or “How to get from to B.” Take into consideration the cost, amount of time you’ll lose/save, and the overall experience. 

Which ever way you choose to get around, don’t forget to look up, enjoy the view and enjoy your trip!

-Connor & Carissa

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