Ground Transport for travellers
You’ve been doing your research and you have a list of places that you would like to see. Your next challenge is to work out what order to visit them and your ground transport to get to them all.
Plot on a map
The best place to start is with a map – Google Maps. Start by searching for your hotel. Then “search for directions” and locate one of your attractions. Google will tell you how far away it is. Add another attraction. And another. Drag the order around so that it is logical. Keep going until you have got a feel for where everything is. You may find that one of your preferred attractions is a long way out of your way and will take more time than it is worth. You will find others that cluster, so you can take a taxi or train to the right area and work through several attractions on foot.
Planned walking is nearly always the fastest ground transport for travellers in a busy city. To walk a thousand metres will take 15 minutes with stops for traffic lights. You cannot do it that fast by train or bus. And if you catch a cab you may be alarmed to discover that with one-way streets it still takes 15 minutes and costs much more than you expected. So our advice is: plan to walk where you can.
If you are in a large city like London, Sydney, Paris, Tokyo, Seoul etc. it is worth the effort to figure out the train system. In fact, a hotel that is above or very close to a subway station can be a great choice. The trains will usually run very frequently. You don’t have to sprint for the train because the next one will be along in 5 minutes.
Cities with subways always have websites that provide subway maps and fare information. The key is to research this before you leave home. A bit of homework ahead of time can prevent you wasting time at the station puzzling over signs a foreign language. More importantly it turns the train travel from “a bit scary” into a pleasant journey.
If a city has a good subway it is usually because the traffic is horrendous which makes taxis pretty variable in both time and cost. However in small to medium a taxi is often a smarter and faster choice than trains for the amount you will use them. Warning, some cities have dodgy pseudo taxis. Stick to taxis with meters. The taxi the hotel concierge gets for you will be the sort of taxi you want.
To plan properly you need to know how long the taxi trip will take and if you have an idea how much it should cost you are better equipped to avoid rip offs. A great reference is a website called Rome2Rio.com. Enter two places and the site will display your transit options and approximate fares. Try it! It’s very cool.
Avoid Peak Hour
If you can avoid it, you really don’t want to be tackling the subway jammed in like sardines with peak hour commuters. Likewise, you don’t want to be stuck in a traffic jam watching the taxi meter tick over. Plan your ground transport. Start on foot if you plan to step out before 9am. We also plan to get back to the hotel by around 4pm when we can to avoid the afternoon peak hour.
Is your hotel well located?
After you have become familiar with where things are and how you will get to them, is your hotel in the right place? A hotel that is in the heart of the action will cost more, but it can save you a couple of hours in ground transport each day. If you took our advice and booked your hotel on the fully flexible rates, changing to a better located hotel is always an option.
Photo: Family of four, near New Delhi, India