Navigating Public Transit Abroad

Munich subway map

I used to be very wary of taking public transit, and not just abroad – everywhere. I saw it as a confusing nuisance that wasn’t worth the effort – but WOW was I wrong!

I am proud to say that I have now navigated the public transit systems in several of the worlds major cities including: Rome, Tokyo, New York, Munich, London, Paris, Amsterdam and many more. So, I am here to help you conquer your fears and learn to love the trains, subways and buses that make travelling within (and around) cities pretty easy and cheap! Not to mention the benefits to the environment when you pick a more sustainable form of travel. Public transit moves a lot more passengers than cars do, so taking a bus instead of a taxi helps to reduce fuel emissions and allows us all to breathe a little easier. Win-win, right?!

Here are some of the best reasons to take public transit while travelling abroad:

It is one of the most affordable ways to see everything you want

Public transit is designed to be taken regularly by residents and local commuters; therefore, it has to be at a price that people can afford to pay, every single day. In some cities, taking a taxi can cost you 10x-20x more than taking the local public transit. Budget-minded travellers will want to take public transit wherever they are able, to keep costs down and make sure their money stretches out for as long as possible. I mean, who wants to cut their trip short and go home early because of one too many taxi rides?

It is a way to mingle with the locals – and feel like a local!

Nothing made me feel more Parisian that taking my fresh baguette and bag of groceries on the Paris metro to have a picnic in one of the local parks. The Paris transit system is fantastic, convenient and easy to navigate – even if you don’t speak French. The one thing you should know is that it doesn’t run 24-hours so, like me, you might find yourself stuck after a show at the Moulin Rouge, nowhere near your AirBNB apartment, and the metro is closed. Yup, it happened.

It is better for the environment

Except for walking or biking, public transit is easier on the environment than many forms of transportation. The pollution and emissions from public transit is usually less per person than from private vehicles (unless those vehicles are electric!!). This helps local air quality and also reduces our greenhouses gases – yay, happy planet!

It teaches you a new skill

Like I mentioned earlier, I used to avoid public transit like the plague and full disclosure, it was because I was afraid. Afraid of getting lost, afraid of looking dumb, afraid of not being able to read the signs or figure out how to buy a ticket, etc. For me, the train station names in Germany were so hard to get used to – “what was my stop called again…Fraunhoferstraße? Friedenheimer Straße? Quiddestraße? Well, I’m lost”.

What I realized once I was finally brave enough to give it a try, is that once you do figure it out, you feel like a total badass – look at me! I can do this! World here I come! Luckily, you do get used to the systems quickly and they all work in a similar way, not to mention friendly and helpful strangers that can point you in the right direction. Besides, mis-adventure can sometimes lead to new exciting things, and navigating the world’s public transit systems definitely gives you a new and super-useful-totally-awesome skill.


So, if it taking public transit could be better for your wallet, better for your health and better for the planet – why not give it a try?!

I want to hear from you!

What is your favourite way to get around while travelling?


~ Earthly Traveller

2 thoughts on “Navigating Public Transit Abroad

  1. great article! I couldn’t agree more. Took it all over Europe and met so many local people.

  2. Great post. In whatever city I am in, I often make an effort to get lost (mind you, you have to take care not to end up in dangerous parts of town). Often I discover all kinds of interesting new venues and it’s a great way to get to know the area. Also, for any students out there, having a student card gets you discounts on everything from public transit to theater productions and local entertainment events!

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