From the London Underground to the New York Subway to the Paris Metro – almost any major city around the world will have an extensive public transit system that allows locals and visitors to zoom around the city quickly and conveniently. Using the public transit system is a very affordable way to get around large cities, enjoy what they have to offer and save time.
However, sometimes these transit systems can be confusing and overwhelming for the first time user. If you are attempting to navigate the transit system of a foreign city, here are some helpful tips that you can apply anywhere in the world.
1. Research the Payment System in Advance
Every public transit system in the world has a slightly different payment system, which could leave you standing clueless in the terminal wondering how to get yourself a ticket from the strange machine with instructions in another language. But it doesn’t have to be this way! There are detailed guides and even Youtube videos for how to pay for pretty much any transit system in the world online – so all you need to do is a quick google search and write down the instructions before you leave. For example, here are guides for London, Paris, New York and Tokyo.
2. Pick Up a Map
Every transit system will have a map that you can use to find your way. These maps are usually very visual, which means that you don’t have to speak the language to understand them. Some major transit systems even offer online journey planners, or you can plug your destination into Google Maps and follow the instructions that it offers.
3. Consider a Day or Week Pass
If you plan on using the public transit system a lot during your stay in a city, you might want to consider a daily or weekly pass. Many transit systems offer this option and if you will be making many trips per day they often work out as a great bargain. However, make sure that you understand what is included on your transit pass so that you don’t find yourself caught out if you venture outside of a particular zone.
4. Avoiding Theft
Unfortunately, the public transit environment is an ideal situation for a thief. People are often carrying their bags or valuable possessions while distracted or tired and within a large crowd, making it easy for a crafty pickpocket to snatch your stuff and disappear off the train or into the masses of people. Here are some ways that you can keep your possessions safe:
- Be wary when someone is standing unusually close to you in a subway car or train. Keep your hands on your wallet and your eyes on them.
- Be alert when a large crowd of young kids pushed onto a train right before the doors shut and crowd around you. With this technique, they will grab your things and jump off right as the doors start to close.
- Be careful when using your phone if you are standing near the doors. Thieves have been known to reach in and snatch your phone or tablet right as the doors are closing.
- If someone offers to “help you with your bag” and carry it up the stairs, be wary. Some scammers use this technique to distract you while their friend pickpockets you. The stranger might just be a good Samaritan, but just be wary.
- Busy turnstiles are another point where thieves tend to strike. One person will cut in front of you and then stop, with another person coming up behind you and trapping you – making it easy for them to lift something from your bag.
- Pack light. If you are towing two suitcases, a backpack, a shoulder bag and a purse you will struggle to watch over all of your things. Keep it simple.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
No matter where you are in the world, if you are confused about where you are going you can always approach a local and ask them for help – whether you need to confirm that you are at the right platform or you aren’t sure where to get off. If you don’t speak the language, learn how to say, “Where is ____, please?” and “thank you” – they are two of the most helpful phrases you can memorize.
Most people are friendly and will be happy to help you. They are probably used to lost tourists in their city and they will be able to point you in the right direction. In some cases, you might strike up a conversation and make a new friend.
Keep these tips in mind and using public transit in a new city doesn’t have to be as intimidating as you might think.