#912 Travel Savings: Rely On Public Transportation, Bikes, Your Thumb Or Feet

22 Mar

While you might not be able to live without a car in your daily life, try to live without one when you travel. Just like in daily life, it saves money not to have a car on vacation. Public transportation is cheap and well networked in many parts of the world, which means you should take advantage of public transport to save the expense of a car rental.

Pretty much any city has a great bus, tram or subway network. It might be confusing and you might take a few wrong turns, but asking for help usually sets things straight.

Don’t be freaked out by something that looks like this:

Paris metro map

A general rule (whether you’re in the Paris metro or not) is that subways, buses, trains and any other form of public transportation operate with the END destination advertised.

If you have to take the #4 purple Paris metro line to get somewhere, there are two endpoints – Porte d’Orleans to the south and Porte de Clignancourt to the north. Depending on what stop you are at on the purple line in relation which stop you want to get off at, you either go north, Direction Clignancourt, or south, Direction D’Orleans. You simply hop off at your stop on the way to the end destination. Just because your train or bus doesn’t say your destination, doesn’t mean it’s not stopping there. You just have to figure out what line your stop is on, and which direction train, bus or tram will take you there. Just count stops along the way.

london underground

Photo via flickr by az1172.

Public transportation tickets are also cheaper based on your destination or zones of travel, so make sure you buy a ticket for the correct zone or stop off point that you want to avoid paying more for the ticket than you actually use.

In any new city I try to familiarize myself with the public transport system and have a map on hand. Once you get the hang of public transport, most systems are similar. If you are planning ahead, bus, train and metro stops are marked on Google maps, so you can figure out a way to get from one place to another on a street map, or you can look up a map of the local public transportation online.

I can say from experience, using public transportation is not always well advertised or initially evident when making travel plans. But if you have it in your mind that you want to use public transportation, then you’ll be able to do it with little hassle once you’re on the ground. I’ve hardly ever been able to look at a travel destination, whether for business or pleasure, without being able to scrounge up the means of figuring out public transportation not only to get around the city, but also to get out of the city and visit smaller towns.

You don’t want a rental car in the city anyways.

There are some rural areas where public transportation is limited. In the end, you can decide that a rental car will give you more freedom to truly discover the countryside and hidden locations. If you rent a car, try AutoSlash or dohop. I’ve had trips where most of the time public transportation works great, and then for a few days a car rental is better. But that means I’m not renting a car for the whole time.


Don’t be afraid to hitchhike if you feel like it’s safe to do so, which it usually is. Photo via flickr by jakesmome.

You might think about hitchhiking instead of renting a car where public transportation is scarce. If you’re American, you’re probably seriously worried about this option and would never consider it. I probably wouldn’t hitchhike in the U.S. on my own, but almost anywhere else in the world is statistically safer than the U.S. In other parts of the world, outside the U.S., hitchhiking is common and is not reserved for down-on-their-luck individuals.

I have a rule never to pick up a hitchhiker by myself, unless it’s a woman, but the majority of hitchhikers I’ve given rides to are old ladies…and German tourists. I’ve had old ladies load themselves up in my car practically without permission and directed to where they wanted to go. Usually it’s a few paces down the road. I’ve given rides to old ladies, older couples, single women, couples, teenagers, preteen boys with stinky shoes and more old ladies. They’re all friendly and grateful. They’re just trying to get to where they want to go without a car or after the last bus has passed. Usually the older women don’t want to wait around (or pay for) the bus that’s coming in half an hour.

Velib rental bikes paris

Rental bikes are loved by locals and tourists alike. Photo via flickr by LWY.

Another option I like for cheap transportation is walking. Probably because being a “good walker” is in my Swiss blood.

More and more cities are also adopting the Paris Velib bike system, which allows you to rent a bike for a short period of time to get around. In the past few years, I’ve seen installations of this bike system in many more cities and even larger towns, so check to see if the city you are visiting has a public bike system, or you might spot it when you’re out and about once you get there.

Next time you plan travel, don’t jump straight to renting a car, think public transportation, walking or hitchhiking to get yourself around on the cheap.


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