Woohoo, you booked your flight and accommodation. Now, should you rent a car? Use the public transportation? Uber or Lyft? Walk? Let’s navigate your options and how to choose the best one for you!
Some things to consider when selecting how you will get around in your destination are:
- Frequency of use
Are you going to a big city with plenty of easy to use public transportation? Are you going to a remote island? Let’s say you are traveling to a city like New York City or Barcelona. You can definitely count on being able to use the subway, bus system, taxis or ride shares. Now let’s say you’re going to an island such as Martinique or Curacao, then I highly would recommend renting a car as the bus system is not as consistent and dependable like in big cities. Always do research, check to see what others who have traveled to the destination recommend.
Will it be cheaper to rent a car or use the public transportation? If you are a budget traveler like myself then you will want to compare your options based on how much money you will save. In some places, renting a car is fairly cheap and after calculating the cost of public transportation or ride shares it can make sense to just rent a car and be able to visit places on your time. However, the same can be said of using public transportation. For example, in Miami a day pass to use for the city bus and metro system can cost $5.65 USD. Ubers in Mexico City are fairly cheap, from the airport to the city center can run you about $6 USD.
Frequency of Use
How often will you be needing to take a bus or drive? Can you reach the places you want to visit by walking? Would it be easier to drive? Is parking available? Is there an extra cost? Or would the bus leave you close enough? I would say, first use Google maps to pin the places you want to visit, then use that as an idea to plan out your days and limit your commute.
What would be safer to use? Is it safe to drive in the destination? Is public transportation a good option or are there certain times when it should be avoided? When I visited Athens, I took the metro from the airport to my hostel in the city center. I had heard it was very risky due to petty crimes on board but I decided to give it a try since it was broad daylight. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel anxious the entire ride, but I could not afford to show it. When I got off, I must’ve looked lost because a lady hurried up to me and told me it was not safe for me to be walking alone with my luggage and insisted on walking me to my hostel. This could obviously go one of two ways but my anxiety was so high at this point I allowed her to. Thankfully, nothing happened and I made it safely. Always listen to others recommendations but also make your own judgement. Again, always do your own research as well as know that everyone’s experience may be different depending on a lot of factors.
How to Navigate Public Transportation
If you made it this far, I want to teach you how to get around abroad using public transportation. You can download apps such as Maps.me, Google Maps offline and Citymapper.
It is an app that lets you navigate your destination even when you have no service or wifi. Just ensure to download the map of the country or city you are visiting before you arrive. Meaning, you need data or wifi to download the map in order to be able to use it when you do not have data or wifi. For example, if you are visiting different cities in Colombia, make sure before you leave home to download the map of the country in the app so that when you arrive in Colombia you will be able to find walking, driving and transit directions anywhere in Colombia.
Google Maps Offline
To be honest, I have not used this one myself but have heard of many people who use it. Apparently, there is an offline mode that allows you to use the maps and find your pinned locations when you do not have data or wifi.
I found out about Citymapper when I was in Barcelona. It is really good for telling you how to get places using the city’s public transportation system. It will walk you step by step and show you times of departure and arrival. It is fairly new, therefore there are only some major cities available at the moment. The app has an option that lets you suggest which cities it should add so it is worth a try. It also offers an offline mode that allows you to still use it when you have no data or wifi.
I love this one. You can use it on a computer or download the app. It gives you all the possible ways you can get from point A to point B. It usually gives you an estimate of the cost of each option along with the duration of travel. Makes it easier to see what would be your best route.
Whatever you decide to use, remember that you have options. Always plan ahead to avoid spending more than you need, risking your safety or spending hours finding a parking spot amongst other avoidable situations. As always, your feedback is always welcomed and I hope this post helps you in your future travels!