Tuesday, August 13, 2013
TRAVELING ON A BUDGET, PART TWO | TRANSPORTATION
We're on part two of the Traveling on a Budget series - Transportation! EDIT: This post is not about transportation TO your destination, but once you get there. This info can be used for short journeys and/or once you get to a particular destination.
One of the best tips I could ever give you is to get around like the locals. Tour buses, taxis, and renting your own car can be pricey. Instead of doing that, figure out how the locals get around! Wherever you are, there are means of cheap (or cheaper) transportation. Often times, local transport is not only much cheaper, but also lets you see a real glimpse of the culture and life in the place you're in.
Here are some tips to start you out on getting around in a place you're not used to:
1. Research transportation options from a city's government website, other travel websites, or even forums on travel websites (I love TripAdvisor's forums). Knowledge is power, and can save you money!
2. Plan your route and transportation method(s) before you start. How are you going to get to the next museum? Planning it out will help you to not get lost and to get there in a timely manner. Planning your sight-seeing route will help you have the best way to get to every place without backtracking or without wasting time deciding which place to go next and which route to take. This will also help you not get duped by street vendors claiming that their taxi is the only way to get somewhere.
3. Ask for information from the locals on the best way to get around. Don't ask the tour guide company or a taxi driver, because they'll just want to sell you their way of getting around.
4. Know where you are. Always have a map or GPS with you, and be checking it often. Not knowing where you are can be your first mistake, which could cost you time and money.
5. Use Google Maps or another GPS for step-by-step directions on almost any way to get around. Google Maps has options for driving, walking, cycling, and even public transportation. For public transportation, it'll tell you when the bus and/or subway/metro will be at your stop and even which line or number to get on. I used it like crazy when I lived in Hawaii.
I was once in San Francisco with friends (before the days of GPS). We thought we could walk to the Golden Gate Bridge from where we were, but it turned out it was WAY too far away. After walking for more than an hour, we finally figured it out and had to call a taxi to pick us up, since we weren't on the bus route. We ended up waiting another hour for our taxi before finally being picked up. If we had researched before starting, planned our route, known where we were at the time, or asked locals from the start, we could have paid pennies for the bus instead of lots of cash for the taxi. Also, we lost precious time wandering about and waiting for our cab. Time is money, folks! If we had followed ANY of the tips I listed above (even one!), this story would've been completely different. Lesson learned.
Now that you know my tips, here are some different ways to get around a city or area:
1. Local trains, rails, subways, or metros. These city-based railways have multiple stops, and sometimes cost only pennies depending on how far you're going. It is also easy to plan, considering that if you miss your subway, another one will come in a few minutes time. Even Google Maps will tell you when your metro is making its way to your stop, and which line to get on.
2. A city bus system. Some places don't have metros or subways. But almost every city has a bus system. It costs barely anything, and though it may take longer to get to your destination, buses can go anywhere.
3. Ferries. If you're going across a bay, channel, or even a sea, ferries can be a cheaper and faster way to reach where you're going, especially if you don't have a car to ferry across.
4. Bikes. If you're on a road-trip, take your own bike. Not on a road-trip? No matter. You can rent a bike in almost any city. Biking around on trips is getting more and more popular, so the cities are getting behind it too, creating more bike lanes, bike racks, and more places to rent from. In some places, it is preferable to ride a bike around vs. driving a car.
5. Your own two feet. Walking is my number one. Walking doesn't cost a thing and it is the best way to get a feel for the beat of a city. You won't miss anything when you walk, and you can stop whenever you want! Walking is allowed everywhere, and locals do it all the time.
When Mark and I have had to rent a car, it is of necessity, and I can't help but whine and pine for cheaper substitutes. I LOVE traveling like the locals, mostly because it's cheap and within my limited budget, but also because it's fun!
The subway in NYC is full of character, and yes, I may look out of my comfort zone, but I can't help it that I love to people watch. The Metro in DC is so fast and I can get anywhere that I want to go in minutes or even seconds. Same with the train in Munich. Honolulu is considered the best city for public transit and I couldn't agree more - I loved being able to reach the other side of the island on a bus while only spending a few cents. Cycling around Interlaken is a beautiful way to see and feel the majesty of the Alps. Walking in Florence was so easy and fun - there's gelato on every corner, and if I were in a car, I'd miss it! :)
Using public transit, walking, or biking around while I travel has given me some of the best memories, and saved me so much money! Following these tips is worth it, and it feels great coming home without regretting a thing.
Don't forget to check out part one of the Traveling on a Budget series - accommodations.