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A Guide to Using Local Transportation While Traveling Abroad

Last updated :
March 10, 2024

minutes read

You, a young Indian traveler, are ready to take on the world with your backpack and wanderlust.

The foreign lands are calling your name, and your heart races with excitement. But wait! Navigating the maze of local transportation can be a daunting task, right? Fear not, my adventurous friend!

This guide will help you embrace the chaos and confusion of new experiences while maintaining a light-hearted tone. Because what's travel without a little fun? So buckle up, and let's dive into the world of local transportation.

1. Researching Your Destination

A. The Internet: Your Friend and Savior

Remember the wise words of your college professor: "Google is your best friend." It's true, especially when it comes to exploring foreign lands. Google Maps, local transport apps like Citymapper, and travel blogs are essential tools in your journey. Just a few clicks can save you hours of wandering aimlessly or asking for directions in a language you barely understand. Did you know that 79% of travelers plan their trips using smartphones? So, join the club and read reviews, follow locals' recommendations, and avoid accidentally boarding a train to Timbuktu!

Here are some additional examples of free apps and websites that can help guide you while traveling:

  • Rome2rio: A website and app that helps you plan your journey from point A to B, taking into account various modes of transportation like buses, trains, and flights.
  • Maps.me: A free offline maps app that allows you to navigate even without an internet connection. It also provides walking, driving, and public transport directions.
  • TripIt: An itinerary planning app that allows you to organize all your travel plans in one place, including flight and hotel reservations, car rentals, and activities.
  • Yelp: A review website and app that helps you find the best restaurants, cafes, and bars in your area. It also provides ratings and reviews for hotels, attractions, and shopping.
  • Google Translate: A language translation app that can help you communicate with locals and understand signs and menus in foreign languages. It also has a feature that allows you to take pictures of text and get an instant translation.

B. Learning the Lingo

No, we're not asking you to become fluent in Swahili overnight, but familiarizing yourself with local transportation terms is a must. Bus, tram, or metro, knowing what they're called in the local language will save you from that awkward "lost tourist" moment. Can you imagine the confusion when you find out that buses are called "guaguas" in the Canary Islands? Trust us; it's better to decode the mysterious language of public transport signs before you embark on your adventure.

2. Ticketing: The Art of Mastering the Commute

A. The Different Ways to Pay

Contactless cards, mobile apps, or old-school cash – there's a myriad of ways to pay for your rides. While some places have adopted the digital era, others still embrace the charm of physical currency. Your bargaining skills, honed in the bustling markets of India, might come in handy, but remember to use them judiciously. Haggling might be a no-no in Tokyo but could be your ticket to a sweet deal on a tuk-tuk ride in Bangkok.

B. Navigating Ticket Machines

Behold, the vending machine beast! It might seem intimidating, but with a little patience and finesse, you'll master it in no time. Keep your eyes peeled for common tourist blunders and ticketing faux pas, like inserting your credit card in the wrong slot or choosing the wrong destination. Remember, you're not alone – even the most seasoned traveler has faced the wrath of a stubborn ticket machine.

3. Modes of Transport: The Good, the Bad, and the Unforgettable

A. Public Transportation: A Cultural Immersion Experience

Did you know that the Moscow Metro is often referred to as an underground art gallery? That's right; buses, trains, trams, and metros aren't just a means of getting from A to B – they're a window into the soul of a city. Sharing the ride with locals and fellow travelers is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the local culture, pick up some new phrases, and maybe even make a friend or two.

B. Taxis, Ride-Shares, and Rickshaw Alternatives

Yellow cabs in New York, black cabs in London, or the iconic auto rikshaws of Thailand – taxis and their local alternatives are an essential part of the global transportation tapestry. While ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft have gained popularity, traditional taxis still hold their charm. So, which side are you on in the great taxi vs. Uber debate? Whatever you choose, be prepared to experience the quirks of local ride-hailing options – after all, who wouldn't want to be a part of the global rickshaw revolution?

C. Biking and Walking: Free and Environmentally Friendly

Want to explore the city while staying fit and reducing your carbon footprint? Renting bicycles or e-scooters, or simply relying on your trusty two feet is the way to go. Walking or biking through the streets is a fantastic way to discover hidden gems, soak in the local atmosphere, and interact with the city's residents.

4. Travel Etiquette: Mind Your Manners and Blend In

A. Transportation Dos and Don'ts

As they say, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." Understanding local customs and respecting personal space is crucial to blending in and having a smooth travel experience. For example, queue etiquette in London is sacred, while eating on public transport in Tokyo is frowned upon. By being mindful of these cultural nuances, you can avoid the dreaded "tourist" label and earn some brownie points with the locals.

B. Handling Mishaps and Misadventures

Let's face it – we've all been there. Navigating language barriers, getting lost, or missing a train is part and parcel of the travel experience. Instead of panicking, remember to be amused and embrace these misadventures as amusing anecdotes for your future travel stories. After all, it's not about the destination; it's about the journey, right?

5. Safety First: Keeping Your Wits About You

A. Protecting Your Belongings

While exploring new places, it's essential to stay vigilant and safeguard your valuables. Pickpockets can be a nuisance, but with a few precautions, you can outsmart them. The key is to blend in and not draw attention to yourself – you don't want to be a walking target, do you? Here are some tips:

  • Use a money belt or hidden pouch: Keep your passport, cash, and other essential valuables in a money belt or hidden pouch that can be worn under your clothes, making it difficult for pickpockets to access.
  • Keep bags close and secure: Opt for cross-body bags or backpacks with anti-theft features like slash-proof straps and locking zippers. Always keep your bag close to your body and be mindful of it in crowded areas.
  • Blend in with the locals: Try to dress modestly and avoid flashy clothing or accessories that could make you stand out as a tourist. This helps reduce the chances of being targeted by pickpockets.
  • Stay alert in crowded areas: Pickpockets often operate in busy, crowded places like public transportation, tourist attractions, and marketplaces. Be extra cautious and aware of your surroundings in these areas.
  • Distribute your valuables: Instead of carrying all your cash and important documents in one place, distribute them among different pockets or bags. This way, even if you lose one item, you won't lose everything.
  • Limit the amount of cash you carry: Only carry the amount of cash you'll need for the day, and leave the rest in a secure place like a hotel safe. This minimizes the loss in case of theft.
  • Use a decoy wallet: Carry a dummy wallet with a small amount of cash and expired cards. If you're confronted by a thief, you can hand over the decoy wallet, keeping your actual valuables safe.
  • Avoid displaying expensive gadgets: Refrain from using expensive cameras, smartphones, or other gadgets in public places, as this can attract the attention of thieves.
  • Be cautious when using ATMs: Choose well-lit, busy ATMs, and shield your PIN while entering it. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid withdrawing large amounts of cash at once.
  • Trust your instincts: If a situation or person feels off or suspicious, trust your gut and remove yourself from the situation. It's better to be safe than sorry.

B. Staying Alert and Trusting Your Instincts

Recognizing potentially unsafe situations and avoiding scams is crucial for a hassle-free travel experience. If something feels off, trust your gut and don't be afraid to seek help. Remember, safety should always be your top priority, even if it means missing out on that "too-good-to-be-true" deal on a guided tour.


There you have it, young adventurer – your ultimate guide to navigating the world of local transportation with confidence and ease. With these tips in your arsenal, you're ready to conquer foreign lands and create memories that will last a lifetime. So, go forth, explore, and let the world be your playground!

Bonus Tips: Making the Most of Your Travel Experience

Now that you're well-equipped to navigate local transportation like a pro, here are a few bonus tips to make your journey even more enjoyable and fulfilling:

A. Embrace Flexibility and Serendipity

While planning is essential, don't forget to leave room for spontaneity. Unexpected encounters, surprise events, or last-minute changes can lead to the most memorable experiences. Embrace the unknown, and let serendipity be your guide.

B. Be Respectful and Open-Minded

Traveling is a fantastic opportunity to learn about different cultures, perspectives, and ways of life. Approach each interaction with an open mind and a respectful attitude. You'll be amazed at how much richer your experiences will be when you genuinely connect with the people you meet.

C. Document Your Adventures

Whether it's through photos, journal entries, or social media updates, make sure to document your travels. These mementos will serve as precious reminders of your adventures and provide inspiration for your future escapades.

D. Practice Sustainable and Responsible Travel

Be mindful of your impact on the environment and local communities. Choose eco-friendly accommodations, support local businesses, and follow responsible travel practices to ensure that your adventures leave a positive mark on the places you visit.

Final Words of Wisdom

Armed with this guide and your unquenchable spirit of adventure, you're ready to take on the world, one local transport ride at a time. Embrace the challenges, cherish the joys, and remember that the most valuable souvenirs are the memories you create and the friendships you forge along the way. Bon voyage, young desi traveler, and may your journeys be filled with laughter, love, and unforgettable experiences!

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Shuaib Azam
Shuaib is a Marketing & Growth lead at Hubble. When he isn't working on growth initiatives, Shuaib writes fiction and doodles space monkeys.

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