B I passed my driving text last year, and I had assumed that as soon as I had my full licence in my hand I would turn into one of those drivers who reviled public transport. It’s true that the constantly delayed East Coast Mainline holds no appeal for me whatsoever, and there are very few circumstances that would tempt me to get out of bed earlier to spend longer travelling to work on public transport when I can just jump in my car.
But when it comes to travelling, I love public transport.
Using local public transport is a feature of every single trip abroad that I have ever had, and I think it always will be. Here are 5 reasons I love it so much:-
1. It makes new destinations accessible
When I travel, I don’t have to be stuck staying in a city with an airport – a bus or a train or sometimes a boat on the other side will take me just about anywhere that I want to go.
When visiting Italy this year we decided to focus on a very small part of our grand Italian adventure and just do Rome and Pompeii. Initially, I had looked at flying into Rome and out of Naples, however when it came down to it, I really didn’t fancy staying in Naples. So instead, we ventured along to Sorrento and although it has no airport, it was just as convenient for visiting Pompeii and it was lovely to get out to the coast.
2. It allows you to see more of the countries you are visiting
Flying into a new city is great, for 10 minutes of the descent.
Taking the train or a bus gives you hours of being able to stare out of the window and see parts of a country that you would not otherwise see.
Jim & I took a train from Hong Kong to Beijing, and we saw hoards of Chinese workers with weather beaten faces crouched on their haunches at the side of the track waiting for the train to pass so they could get back onto the track to continue whatever it is they had been doing before.
We got a glimpse of life in rural China that we never have seen if we had flown instead.
3. It is cheap
Coming from the UK, which I think must have one of the most expensive and most poor value for money rail networks in the world, this is hard to believe. Considering that we brought the railways to the rest of the world, it is staggering how far behind we have fallen with modern rail travel in this country. But not everywhere is like the UK, and I have always found public transport to be a very cheap option travelling abroad.
4. It is less stressful than driving
Driving on the wrong side of the road in a car I don’t own when I don’t know where I’m going and don’t understand the unfathomable and seemingly crazy rules of the road does not sound like an appealing way to spend time to me.
True, the limit of buses and trains and boats is that they can’t take you everywhere, but they can take you most places, and you can just sit back, relax and enjoy the view from the window.
5. Public transport is always entertaining
Whether it is the twisting road of death along the Amalfi coast (more on that later), or sharing a carriage on the subway in New York at 5am with a bunch yelling homeless guys, or listening to Spanish teenagers singing along to a song in English swearing at the top of their lungs with clearly no idea what the words meant, or being laughed at in China trying to pronounce the names of the stations, using public transport is always provides some story or source of entertainment.
It can be daunting to try to figure out public transport abroad and you will make mistakes. We have bought wrong tickets and stood on wrong platforms, and missed stops. But it is all worth it, to have a chance to really explore more of a new country and travel the way the locals do. Every mistake and misadventure makes for a good story once you eventually have figured it out.
Even though sometimes public transport is confusing, frustrating and delayed, I don’t think that I will be swapping it for the rental car any time soon.