Navigating Abroad: Making the Most of an International Vacation with Cheap Airfare and Smart Ground Transport
Traveling to a foreign country can be nerve-wracking if you don’t know how you’ll be getting from the endpoint of your cheap first class flight to your hotel. In fact, worrying about how you’ll be getting around your destination city may be one of the biggest sources of travel anxiety. You can ease your mind, though, by learning about your destination city and using a few of our helpful tips.
Each country and city has its own rules about licensing taxis, so it’s always best to research the destination city’s taxi system before leaving home. While in the destination city, you can protect yourself by using only licensed taxis, usually identified with a prominent company name. London cabs are always black, making it extra-easy to spot a taxi there. To find a safe taxi, use a downloaded taxi-scheduling app on your smart phone or go to a well-marked taxi stand. For your safety, do not flag down or use a taxi that is not prominently identified with signs and a phone number.
In some Asian cities, it’s popular for tourists to hop on the back of an unofficial taxi motorcycle for cheap transport around town. While this is definitely an inexpensive way to get around, it can be dangerous given the lack of helmets and unauthorized status of the driver.
To Uber or Not to Uber?
Some European cities have protested the presence of Uber, and that can be frightening for passengers who are caught in the middle of an aggressive protest. Other cities only allow certain types of Uber services to be used. In Paris, for instance, it’s legal to use UberX, but UberPop is not allowed. Always check Uber’s status in your destination city before you leave home if you plan to use the service.
For travelers who want their own wheels, renting a car in most major European and Asian cities is relatively easy, if you know the requirements ahead of time. Most international airports offer car rental counters that are easily accessed after you disembark from your discounted first class flights.
If you’ve researched the requirements and still want to rent a car, be prepared for encountering toll roads. Some European countries like Belarus use electronic pay systems while others like Croatia ask drivers to pay at the end of the toll road. A little pre-travel research provides helpful information about your destination country’s toll road system.
It’s also helpful to download driving maps on a smart device before leaving home so you can avoid purchasing the GPS rental along with the rental car.
In some Asian countries like Bali, travelers prefer to rent motorcycles instead of cars. In addition to less official paperwork, motorcycles are an often-easier way to travel through the region. If you plan on renting a motorcycle, make sure you understand the rules of the road, if there are any, and double-check that you’ll have access to a helmet.
Europe and some Asian countries like Japan are known for their stellar train systems. Rail passes often provide a more cost-effective way to use train service. If you’re traveling to Europe or Japan, be sure to buy your rail pass before you leave home, and you may even want to book your seat in advance.
In Asia, train quality varies widely. Japan has clean, well-kept commuter and high-speed bullet trains, while Malaysian and Vietnamese trains offer trains of different classes. Overnight trains along some Malaysian Peninsula and Vietnamese routes are popular and comfortable, but lack food service and American-style toilets.
Taking the time to research ground transport options before you leave for your trip can save you money and ensure that you have a safe, enjoyable journey. After all, it would be a shame to start your vacation with a luxurious business class flight only to have your holiday ruined with unsafe ground transport.