Whenever I go traveling, it is always my wish to get to the heart of the culture, of whatever destination that I happen to be in. Whist I enjoy a tourist attraction as much as the next person, there is something very special about learning about the people, rather than the place as such. One of my favorite thing to do when I land somewhere new, is to take public transport, and people watch.
Now, using public transport is not always recommended and whilst intelligent people such as Boris Blanche, Managing Director at the International Road Transport Union, will tell you just how much public transport around the world has improved, it is still worth taking care. If you are looking at using public transport in your destination, here are some tips on doing so.
The first thing which you should do is some background work on the safety of the public transport, wherever you happen to be. A perfect example of this is the last time that I was in Mexico City, I wanted to take the bus and looked online first. In just 5 minutes I learned of the different busses that there were, as well as finding out that the smallest, and most populous busses, were in fact the most dangerous and they were regularly robbed. The day before I did this research, I was going to take one of the busses back to my hotel, this is why you must do some research. So stay safe and comfortable while traveling and do the work ahead of time!
Thefts thing that you want is to appear too much like a foreigner when you travel, public transport included. Now, given that all bus networks have different rules in terms of payment, some require exact change, some take cards, others may not care, it makes sense to ask someone how you should pay. The best bet then, is to ask a waiter when you are in a restaurant, ask the hotel reception or even ask someone on the street who you have been chatting with. Find out what the payment process is, and then you can help yourself by appearing more natural.
The biggest problem I have found whenever I have taken public transport traveling, is knowing when I should get off. Some busses for example will have set places where they will stop, others will have a system where you simply shout and then jump off the bus. In order to manage your bus travel then, I would suggest two things. The first is that you speak to the bus driver, tell him where you want to go, and if he or she is nice, they will give you a shout as you arrive at you destination. The second thing that I would suggest, is that you keep an eye on the maps on your phone, to see when you are near your destination. Even if you don’t have data abroad, you can use GPS on Google Maps, and it will function when you are not connected.