Navigating Public Transportation

Let’s face it, navigating public transportation when you’ve driven a car your whole suburban life is difficult. Add a new language into the mix, and you might as well declare yourself lost now.

If you’re studying abroad or traveling for the first time, you’ll

Learn how to read a real map

Whether you like it or not, having an iPhone out to help you navigate the city makes you a target for pickpocketing. So learn how to read a real map (including how to read “left”, “north”, “street”, etc. in the country’s home language), and get cracking.


Google Maps is your friend

One of my best friends abroad, Google Maps never let me down. Unlike many other maps apps, Google allows your little blue dot and an arrow to point in the direction that you are facing to continue to track your movement even on airplane mode. A newfangled compass of sorts.

So, if you are ever lost and can’t find your way, simply find your blue dot, locate where you need to be, and spin slowly until your arrow points in the direction of your destination. Then follow the streets, and be sure to make sure your blue dot is moving along the best path. Just be aware that as you spin in circles as an obvious, you may be a target for pickpocketers!

Do Your Research

No matter where you go, you’ll need to do a bit of investigating about public transportation before you get there. A few good questions to ask include:

  • How much is the standard transit fare?
  • Can you purchase tickets on the bus/train or do you need to purchase them at a store? Do they sell out (yes, this did in fact happen to me in Budapest and we had to walk to another station for tickets)?
  • How late/early does public transit run?
  • Where’s the closest bus/train stop to where I am staying? Is it generally safe to walk home from this stop at night?
  • Are there weekly or daily travel cards that can help me save money?
  • If you’re studying there, are there student or youth cards for residents?(In Barcelona, I paid 100 euro for the T-Jove card which gave me unlimited access to the metro and Renfe trains in and nearby the city)?

Train, Plane, Bus, Ferry, Cable Car…

Keep all transportation options open. Aometimes the quickest way isn’t the best- in fact sometimes it’s more beautiful (and cheaper) to have a more ride through the German countryside in a BlaBla car than taking the train. Be open to new possibilities and take the road less travelled by!

Talk to Locals

My go-to advice for travel. See how the locals travel. You’d be surprised to see how many actually travel by foot 🙂 

How do you navigate public transportation in a new place?


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