Do's and Don'ts: Public Transportation Abroad


How to Navigate a City Using Busses, Tramways, and Metros

I never thought that I would depend on public transportation so much. I come from the American suburbs where we drive our car everywhere! So learning to depend on public transportation was a challenge for me. In my early days of travel, I walked everywhere! And by everywhere, I mean see all of Rome by walking. Now, when I can, I buy day or weekend passes that allow unlimited travel and give my feet a break. And while I thought public transportation is incredibly complicated, it's pretty easy once you figure out the basics.


Don't go without a public transportation map. Some tourist maps have the metro lines on them. But for some cities that don't have many metro lines, they don't always put the tramway or bus systems. Go an look for one near the metro stations or ask for them at the tourist information center. I tried to do Brussels without a transportation map and lets just say that plan did not work out. Lesson learned.

Canal Saint Martin, Paris


Look for any kind of public transportation station. In most cases, there is some sort of map stating where you are. Use that map as a reference to figure out what line to take to get where. I usually check these out even though I plan on walking because it gives me a good reference to where I am. For cities that I cannot find a public transportation map, I am constantly looking at these to make sure that I get on the right line.


Don't assume that your bus or tramway is going to stop at all the stations. Metros and trains will always stop at all the stations marked unless there is one under construction. But busses and tramways will only stop if they see people waiting at the station. The way you get off the bus or tramway is by pressing the button when you are nearing your station. Most of the times the button is red and there are many within reach of everyone sitting down. The button will signal for the driver to stop at the next station.


Know how many stations are in between you and your destination and place yourself near a window to see those stations. In Paris its impossible to catch all the bus stations, and not all buses list the next station on the screen. If you get stuck in this situation ask someone, most of the time they will push the button for you and tell you when to get off. By placing yourself near a window (right hand side for busses) you'll most likely see all the stations and can keep up.

One of the best public transportation networks I've seen
TV Tower, Berlin


Don't buy single tickets. Most cities offer some sort of tourist pass. These will include all forms of public transportation and are valid for 24, 48, or 72 hours. Remember there are different zones as well. So if you plan on staying in just the city center, stick to the smaller zones. Buying single tickets is never useful if you plan on consistently using the public transportation system.


Know your direction or end destination. London is one of the few that uses north, south, east, and west as a way to decipher which platform you should be standing on. But for the rest of Europe, look at a map and see where the line ends and what the name of the station is, then choose the end station as the direction to your destination. The same goes for busses and tramways.

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