Ironically, the Philippines has only three major modes of public transportation:
- only THREE, (yep, THREE!) train lines. Most of which seem to have been left behind from the turn of the century;
- a whole crapload of busses commandeered by arrogant drivers who can barely differentiate a parking lot from a highway;
- and the ever-present PUVs (jeepney, FXes, vans, cabs…), which, IMHO, is the least of these three evils.
It's no wonder why I usually hate commuting. I loathe it. I’d rather stay home and re-watch another season of whichever sitcom I’ve stumbled upon on Tumblr, than go out into the world and become a productive member of society by taking public transportation. Seems, petty of me, I know.
So, what’s my point with all of these rants? The most important thing you have to realize when travelling is that there is more than one way of getting to your destination. The challenge is to determine how you want to spend your journey getting there.
Take the scenic route
As a tourist, everything boils down to one thing: quality vs. quantity. For some, exploring a new and exciting place is not about the number of tourist spots you see but how you see it. Taking the scenic route means travelling at what is usually a VERY leisurely pace to give the traveller enough time to take the sights in. You get to take a lot of pictures, read up on some of the history about the sights, smells, and sounds of the place from informative placards or the locals. The downside to this approach is that this often takes up a lot of your travel time and sometimes even makes a huge dent on your budget. When I went to Singapore for the first time with my family, I knew the sights along the Singapore River were not to be missed. We took the scenic route by going on the Singapore River Cruise. It cost us a pretty penny when taking the train or the bus included in tourist passes would’ve let us go on unlimited rides.
Be a smart traveller
Being a smart traveller means knowing how to get to your destination through, at the very least, TWO ways. If it isn’t obvious enough, I am a TYPE A kind of person so what you’re about to ready next may not be surprising at all. Whenever I travel to a new city, I make it a point to familiarize myself with the local transportation. Trust me, taking a cab every time does not only hurt your wallet but I think it also limits the whole experience. Okay, so yeah, back to what I was saying… I make it a point to know the ins and outs of commuting around the place. I study the train systems, the bus routes, or heck, even the time tables. It’s a bit toxic, I know, but once you’re finally out there you’ll be thankful that you know what you’re doing rather then become the textbook tourist asking questions from everyone about how to get to everywhere. Plus, it’ll save you a whole lot of stress and frustration when you know how to get to where you wanna go. For the cherry on top of the Type A sundae, you might also want to plot in advance the routes you’ll be taking for each destination. You should also take advantage of promos and special discount passes. It’s all just a google search away!
Other helpful tips:
- Getting lost is not always a bad thing. Sometimes, deviating from your itinerary can pay off in the best possible way. It's a great way to discover new places you never thought of visiting in the first place. Plus, there's always something to be said about the thrill you get in knowing you've lost your way. Or maybe that's just me.
- Learn the language. When visiting a foreign country, DO NOT expect the locals to speak your language. Comes in very handy when you find yourself lost... just not in translation!
- Maps! GPS can only go so far. Some places may not even have cell service! Maps may not always be the most efficient way to know how to get around, but they sure come in handy in dire situations.
- Familiarize yourself with the area you're exploring, even just a little bit.
- Travel light. You do not want to get stuck in rush hour with three bags and a suitcase.
Commuting can be such a hassle at times but it’s truly a wonderful way to really experience a new place, to take in all the local sights, sounds, and smells. Know how to use the transportation efficiently and your trip will surely be a breeze!
What about you? What are YOUR transportation do's and don't's? Sound off in the comments!