Great tips! I find a bit of pre-trip research helps, as that way you feel a bit more confident when you’re in an unfamiliar place. Lots of metro systems also have free apps which work offline (if you have WiFi/data you’ll get live train times, but if you don’t you can still plan routes and view the metro map). I found MTR Mobile really handy when I was in Hong Kong, and I use Tube Map a fair bit in London.
Chances are you’re not fluent in the language of every country you’d plan on visiting. And that can be downright scary, especially when it comes to navigating public transportation. The metro or other public transportation systems can seem daunting when you’re not well-versed in the language of the land, but fear not. With these few tips, you’ll be able to ride the metro abroad like a pro.
Do research beforehand
Doing a little bit of homework before can alleviate any stress you might be feeling. For example, if you know you’re going to Prague, look up what the public transportation is like there. I can tell you I don’t speak a lick of Czech but still was able to find my way around.
On a desktop in the comfort of your home before departure, you can easily click the Google Translate button or sometimes you can add an “/en” to the end of the existing URL to get an English version.
When you’re researching the metro or subway before, here are some things you’ll want to know. Where can I buy tickets? Take note of these locations or kiosks. How do they sell metro passes: by the hour, by number of rides, unlimited rides per day? Assess your options and see what makes the most sense for your itinerary.
Not sure what will be best for your trip or how often you’d need to ride the metro to reach your destinations? Enter Google Maps. On my trip to Paris this year, Google Maps was a lifesaver. I simply entered where I wanted to go (duh), but in addition to driving and walking directions, it included metro and public transportation directions. In case WiFi is shaky, screenshot these directions before you leave for the day. Pay close attention to what color or what number line you need to take.
I was incredibly impressed at how detailed (literally to the minute!) Google Maps was. There might be areas where this isn’t an option, but this is definitely one of the apps you need to download before your next trip.
Get a physical map
Yes, Google is a lifesaver, but be sure to pick up a free map. Places with bustling metros know they have tourists and usually understand not everyone speaks the language. Getting lost can be scary, but take a deep breath: the keys, legends and illustrations are your beacon of hope here.
Know what color or number line you need to be on, look for illustrations of monuments on the map. When you’re actually riding the metro, be attentive to your surroundings. Most subways and metros have a map on the car’s ceiling listing every stop. Listen closely and watch for your next stop.
Ask for help
You might’ve used all of these tools, and you’re still lost. That’s okay! Take a deep breath. If there’s an attendant at the station or a nice-looking person nearby, bring your map and ask for help. They might not speak English, but use your physical map to point or a translating app to figure out where you need to go.
Taking public transportation isn’t only cheaper, but it’s also an incredible way to see the city and experience it like a local. I find figuring out a foreign metro to be exhilarating. And with these tips, you’ll be able to know how to ride the metro abroad and navigate like a pro.