¨Transportation is the center of the world! It is the glue of our daily lives. When it goes well, we don’t see it. When it goes wrong, it negatively colors our day, makes us feel angry and impotent, curtails our possibilities.¨
Introduction: International Public Transportation Tips (Airplanes Not Included)
For trips under 300-500 miles, I prefer buses or trains to airplanes. I do not mind spending five or six hours on a bus or a train, and I like having the option of just deciding to buy a bus ticket at the last moment rather than planning far in advance for a plane ticket. I find time aboard a bus or a train to be an excellent time to read, write, and watch the world go by out the window.
In contrast, all the security, check-in procedures, waiting in airport lounges, transportation to and from the airport, and the complications of buying the right airplane ticket, wear me down. I will suffer through all the rigamarole involved in airline trips when I have a long journey to save time. However, I do not think I will ever enjoy traveling on a plane as much as a bus or a train.
However, I sometimes get frustrated trying to find my way around a city by public transport.
Over time, I have been on thousands of public transportation trips throughout the world. I have learned a lot of lessons from these experiences, which you will find in more detail below:
Seven International Public Transportation Tips
- You can sometimes save money by buying tickets for inter-city transportation online. You also can save money by buying round-trip tickets rather than one-way tickets.
- Not all bus and train stations have a kiosk to purchase tickets. Keep in mind, you may be able to buy tickets at travel agencies or through your hotel for a small fee.
- In most of Europe, you must validate most public transportation tickets. On city buses, the machine for validating intercity tickets is within the bus itself. On both intracity and intercity trains, these machines are usually somewhere near the train tracks or ticket vending area. If you forget to get the ticket validated, you can sometimes get away with writing in the date and time on the ticket. If the police catch you without a validated ticket, you will be subject to a substantial fee (up to $100-200). In some countries, like Italy, the enforcement of this rule on city buses is so lax that you could pay less for fines than tickets if you were daring enough not to buy tickets. In other places, like Poland (at least when I was there in 1994) the rules may be very strictly enforced causing unsuspecting travelers to pay significant fines. The Poles in 1994 found every conceivable excuse to fine friends of mine for not putting the validation stamp on the right place on the ticket.
International Public Transportation Tips: Planning Your Trip
- Often, plane tickets can be cheaper than bus and train tickets and sometimes the flights can be exceptionally convenient. (In Europe, low-cost carriers like Ryan Air and Easy Jet fly non-stop between many unexpected destinations. Though not as large and well-known similar carriera, like Allegiant Air in the US or Air Asia, in most of the world).
- Rome2Rio is quite good at showing you a variety of options -planes, trains, ferries, and automobiles- to get between one city and another (also called intercity transportation). I would recommend, however, that you always double-check the costs for the different options that are quoted on the site, sometimes they are not accurate.
- You can find a lot of good deals for buses and planes by looking for signs advertising deals in airports, train, bus station, and billboards while you are traveling around Europe (and, to a lesser degree, the rest of the world).
- Unless you are in a big city, buses and trains can be surprisingly infrequent in Europe. In Italy, I frequently spent between an hour anf three hours waiting for a bus and even longer for intercity trains. Public transit is so scarce in Sicily that it is almost useless for most travelers. Most areas outside big cities in the US and Canada also lack convenient public transportation.
- Consider taking slower, second-class buses and trains instead of express ones, particularly in Europe. In most countries, you will be able to save about one-third by choosing local trains. Many travelers make the mistake of buying tickets for express trains before they know that local trains are available. Yes, it takes more time (usually about 50% more time), and many local trains are less comfortable. However, you do get to see more countryside (partly because the trains stop more often and move slower) and the cost savings are considerable. In most Third World Countries, the quality and slowness of these buses and trains are bad enough so that I would recommend that most travelers stick to first class and express buses and trains.
- You can often save on accommodations by choosing to travel at night. If you can sleep on a train or bus and do not care about seeing the countryside, this can save quite a bit. This cost-saving technique is so commonly used by many Third World Country residents, that you may find it hard to find long-distance buses, trains, and even planes that travel during the day. I must admit that I do not like traveling at night because I cannot comfortably sleep on buses and trains, and I need a full day after I arrive to recoup my lost sleep time.
Want Some More International Public Transportation Tips?
Check out the following:
- A comparison of different public transportation options from the Rochester Institute of Technology
- This short post from the Intern Group for more international public transportation tips.
- this outstanding post on third world transportation. (Note: This post is mostly about transportation in the poorest third world countries. In some of the more developed parts of the third world like Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Thailand, and Malaysia transportation is excellent).
- 200+ of the Best Expat and Long-Term Travel Quotations From Fifty-Plus NomadAll of my blog posts lead off with a quote that is relevant to the subject of the post. I also frequently post quotes on my Facebook group page: Long Term Traveling and Living Abroad Over the Age of 50. This page of quotes is from my blog and Facebook group page mostly. However, I have added a few extra of my favorite travel-related quotes.
- 7 Secret International Public Transportation TipsRead these seven secret international public transportation tips and save money and problems when taking public transportation abroad.
- 10 Taxi Travel Tips: A Guide to Safe and Trouble-Free Rides at Bargain PricesDiscover 10 tips to help you avoid being ripped off or worse (I was once kidnapped) while using taxis or tuk-tuks.
- Top 9 Train Travel Tips for a Comfortable JourneyTrains are my favorite ways to travel: relaxing, comfortable, and convenient. However, they can be problematic unless you follow these 8 train travel tips.
- Top 11 Subway Travel Tips: The Ultimate Guide to Trouble-Free Subway TravelI love traveling by subways whenever possible, They are much easier and more convenient than intracity buses. After being on twenty subway systems worldwide, I developed this list of 11 tips to help you use subways trouble-.free.
- 4 Car Rental Tips: How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off at the Car Rental CounterRenting a car is probably the travel decision most fraught with potential problems. Long-term travelers should ask themselves if a car rental is essential, and they should also watch out for car agency rip-offs and other issues.
- Top 13 Little-Known International Bus Travel TipsA basic primer on finding the best international bus travel options for travelers. Learn how to avoid costly mistakes and potential safety issues on busses.
- 15 Uber Travel Tips: A Guide to Best Safe, Budget, and Trouble-Free RidesThis post contains a list of 15 tips to make your Uber trips safe, convenient, and low-cost. It also explores how Ubers are different from traditional taxis.
- 8 Horrifying Lessons From An Express Kidnapping In MexicoIn January 2020, I was a victim of an express kidnapping in Puebla, Mexico. I discuss what happened to me and what I learned about travel safety from the incident.
- Ancillary Travel Fees: Why Are They Increasingly Becoming An Industry Lifeline?More and more the travel industry depends on the sale of other products to expand and maintain its profitability. Expect to be bombarded with hints to buy other things (ancillaries) on your next cruise, flight, etc.
- Why the Sharing Economy Has Become So Popular in the Travel Industry?The sharing economy like Uber and Airbnb has made a major influence on the travel industry and will continue to affect the industry far into the future.