When traveling in foreign countries they often offer tourist special discount rates on a variety of things. One is using their subway/public transportation systems. First find out what their subway system is called – places like Paris and Hong Kong it is called the “Metro” and in London it is called the Underground. With a little bit of research you will find the city is easy to get around and you will enjoy your time there just that much more.
If you look at the websites for these cities (and any major city you are going to visit) there is normally a lot of very helpful information, it is well worth your time to look at it closely. This includes planning your trips around town, time tables, maps, costs…
When you have determined how long you are going to be in a city, then you can look and see what specials they have. For example in London and Paris they have a variety of day passes you can by 1 day, 3 days…
Be aware in the larger systems they are broken into areas, if you are planning to travel to and from more then one area it is recommended that you do buy a pass.
In Hong Kong you can buy a discount card called an Octopus Card. We were able to buy one at a kiosk in the metro station we went to. They also spoke some English, which was very helpful. We still have our Octopus Cards, they make great souvenirs and hopefully we will be able to use them again some day.
In most cases your subway pass will also be accepted on the other public transportation in that city like buses and trolleys. When we were in Hong Kong we road on the metro, the bus and the tram all in the same day. In some places passes are even accepted by taxi drives.
Things you should think about –
- What is the system called?
- Type of passes that are available?
- Do you need to get the discount passes before you leave home?
- Who accepts the passes – subways, taxies, buses, trams, trolleys…
- What is the etiquette of getting on and off?
- Does the website have a trip planner?
- Do they use colors, names or numbers to help you know which subway train you are on?
There are many tricks that can be helpful like in Paris it was important to know the name of the last stop on a train. By knowing the last stop it was easy to know which direction you were going and if you where on the right train.
Now when we went to Prague I was worried because of the language. Some of the street names there are so long and/or complicated to say that I was sure it was going to be a problem. Of course it ended up not being a problem. We were able to get from the hotel to many of the tourist areas quickly and easily.
One important tip if you have left your hotel and go to the subway, be sure to look at how you get there. Some underground stations can be VERY large with multiple exits. By taking the wrong exit you can end up getting very lost and very far away from where you want to be! It is easy to get turned around when you are underground, look for signs and/or things that will help you find your way back to your hotel. Another idea is to take pictures with your cell phone of where your are.
Another thing we learned that was helpful, is that in Hong Kong and Prague for their trams and buses you get on one way and get off another. Some you get in at the front of the vehicle and some you get in on the back, so do your research. Learn what is the proper way to ride public transportation.
Beware of Stairs – some subway stations have what seem like a million stairs. If stairs are a problem for you, you may want to take buses and taxies. Stations very greatly, many have escalators, but many do not. And just because the station you get on at has an escalator it does not mean that the station you are going to get off at will! This is one of the reasons we normally take a taxi or shuttle service to get to the hotel when we first arrive. Lugging luggage around and trying to get up and down stairs can be a chore.
The subway (underground, metro..) is a wonderful way to get around – it is quick, cheap and easy.