Something you always need when traveling is transportation. Think of a taxi, plane, boat, tuk-tuk, scooter, motorcycle, car, or bus. Doing everything by foot just doesn’t work. One time you have to go with a (small) company and the other time you are dependent on 1 person.
We are not going to discuss all means of transport, but only the most important ones. Use these tips & tricks when you’re traveling the world to save your feet and save money at the same time. And if you have any suggestions that other travelers need to know about, leave a comment below this blog.
Often the most discussed topic when it comes to transportation. According to many blogs and websites, you are by definition ripped off when you take a taxi. But if you just pay a little attention then nobody will be ripped off. One of the best tips we can give you: When you get into a taxi, make sure the meter is running. If the meter doesn’t run, you say you won’t pay. There are two scenarios: 1) The taxi stops and you just have to see how you get on. Or 2) The meter turns on spontaneously. Of course, there are taxi systems that don’t run the meter fairly, but you can’t do anything about it.
A second tip is to stop a taxi that is just dropping someone off. If the previous passenger disembarks normally, then apparently that went well. Taxis at airports are also more reliable than taxis outside the airport. Please note that taxis at or in an airport are slightly more expensive because they have to pay to be able to stand there.
At an airport, you often have taxi counters. Here you buy a ticket for your ride and with that, you can look for a taxi. They also have the same system at bus stations. It’s fair, cheap, and effective. In this way, rogue taxi drivers can no longer get to work. They are slightly more expensive because of the parking costs for a taxi.
Grab or Uber
Another outcome is Grab or Uber. Especially in Asia Grab is great for transportation. It’s just an app on your phone that lets you enter your destination in English. A Grab taxi will pick you up and drop you off. A big advantage is that the price is already calculated before the taxi arrives.
Plus you can keep track of the route and see if unnecessary kilometers are being made. These things cannot be done with a normal taxi. Grab drivers often speak little or no English, but when they do they are often friendly, informative people who enjoy having tourists in their cars. We also found the Grab cars to be tidier and cleaner than the taxis.
In our 1 1/2 years of traveling, we have had many taxis and been ripped off 1 time. And that was in Colombia where we arrived very tired and we were not paying attention. Still, the taxi and Grab are very nice for shorter distances.
Read our in-depth report on taxis, Uber and Grab.
Not my favorite mode of transportation because I often come out green (car sick). I can’t stand it very well, but we have been on buses a lot. They are often very cheap but usually take longer to get from A to B. An airplane is faster but much more expensive.
One of the best tips we can give about buses is; find out which bus you need and where it stops. Every country has different rules and customs regarding buses. Sometimes it is not entirely clear, but we never had big problems with it. Except in Sri Lanka, where buses run all the time without a clear schedule and it is sometimes not clear whether or not number 37 goes to Mihintale, for example.
Some buses run on a ticket system. First, you get a ticket at a counter where you also pay. After that, you can go to your bus. In some countries, there are several carriers where one is better than the other. The prices also differ. Therefore, do a good search on the internet for reviews about the various companies in the country where you are or are going.
In other countries, you just sit down and wait for someone to hold out their hand for money. This can sometimes take a long time, but they will come.
And yet it must be said; Had the worst experiences with buses in Sri Lanka and the best experiences in Malaysia.
Funny enough, we’ve done the most with airplanes. Domestic flights were very popular with us because they were a lot cheaper than we anticipated. An airplane goes faster, but are you also faster at your location than with a bus or car, for example? Not always.
Yes, a plane is faster, but you always have to be there a few hours in advance and check in your luggage. After landing you have to look for your luggage again, find your taxi/bus through the cloud of perfume, and then head to your hotel. Make no mistake about it; you are on the road for quite a long time. Plus, you can never stop and get out while on the plane.
Now we can give all kinds of tips about the many ways of booking tickets, but we use Skyscanner to find the cheapest fare. Skyscanner shows you tickets for different airlines and you can make a choice. We book directly with the airline because we don’t want any problems in case something goes wrong.
Another advantage of booking online is that you do not have to explain at a counter where you want to go to someone who does not speak English. Booking a plane at an airport does not always work. Planes are often fully booked and you have to be lucky that you can still come along.
Your own (temporary) transportation and driving
What could be better than driving through the beautiful landscape yourself by car or motorcycle? Everywhere in Asia, you can rent a scooter, but also real motorcycles. The driving itself is not very difficult if you have some experience. Just go with the flow. Renting your own transportation requires some extra tips.
Tip 1: NEVER hand over your passport!
Some rental companies in Asia will not give you anything until you give them your passport. There are stories of identity fraud or tourists getting stuck for not paying for damages they didn’t cause and not getting their passports back.
If a rental company does not agree with a (high) deposit and insists on a passport, leave. The rental company next door often wants to rent you something without having your passport in hand. In addition, it is just stupid to give your passport to an unofficial person (not customs, etc.). Period.
Tip 2: Negotiate.
The price is often negotiable. Not always, but respect that too. Or if you have real experience, like me with 20+ years of riding on a motorcycle, and you show it, you sometimes get something better for the same price.
Tip 3: Research the rental companies and choose three.
Head over and see what they are like. You also want them to be good in terms of service if you something happens along the way (breakdown for example). If they do their best for you, it often turns out that the vehicles are better as well.
Tip 4: International driving license.
It costs money, but it can save you fines. In Thailand, there are traps with police officers to fine tourists on scooters (they look like scooters, but are 110cc motorcycles). If you have a driver’s license, but not an international driver’s license, you will be fined 400 Baht* and proof that you can drive in the city for 2 days… Yes, read that again. 400 Baht* is not much, but if you have to pay 400 Baht every two days, then yes… It can get expensive.
By the way, keep in mind that in some countries, especially in Vietnam, it is mandatory to have a local driver’s license. This is just a piece of paper that you pay for, but if you don’t have it, they can take your vehicle and you’ll be stranded on the side of the road with no transportation.
Tip 5: Respect the local rules.
Just because driving in Asia seems chaotic and we drive very differently, doesn’t mean they take us into account. Also, don’t get cocky with “right has priority, so I’m right” because that doesn’t work.
* = Price from 2017
A number of vehicles that we have rented ourselves:
Other than that you should enjoy a little extra freedom with your own transport.
In America, it is a good idea to rent a car. The distances are often huge, which Americans are used to. We rented a few cars with Alamo. A large company with many cars. The service is also very good and based on no-nonsense. It is assembly line work for the desk staff, so don’t expect a lot of friendliness from them.
A scooter in Asia is 110cc and above. This means that they are actually motorcycles. If you are going to rent such a scooter without a motorcycle license and you have an accident, you will not only have to pay the damage of the other party but also all your own (hospital) costs. You are not insured, with no insurer. You cannot insure yourself with a local rental company, so you have to rely on your own insurer with the rules of your own country.
There are many ways to move from A to B. Choose transportation that is most convenient at that time. Sometimes it’s a bus (cheap, but slow. Good for shorter distances) and sometimes it’s an airplane (expensive, fast. Good for long distances). And sometimes it’s even better to rent a vehicle. We’ve done them all, so here are our tips in a list:
- Research carefully which transport is best at what time.
- Don’t just book any plane; comparison is key.
- Never just get into a taxi. See if there is a taxi desk or book a taxi via Grab or Uber.
- In a taxi: Make sure the meter is running and show that you know where you are going.
- Try to find out which bus you need and where it stops. If you go looking, there are often men who are willing to help you… For an amount.
- Renting is a good option. Make sure you have the right papers!
- NEVER hand over your passport! Just… Don’t!
- Enjoy the freedom.
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