Getting from A to B in Your New Home
Moving abroad? Once you’ve settled in your new home overseas, you’re going to need to get around your new town and figure out your commute to work. Chances are, if you’re from the U.S. or Canada, back home you used to drive to work and to do your shopping. But in most places overseas, teachers of English as a Foreign Language will need to look at modes of transportation other than private car.
What kinds of transportation are available to you will depend a lot on whether you’re moving to an urban or rural area, and whether you’re in a developed or developing nation. Generally speaking, rural areas in developing nations will have the most, um, interesting modes of transport. However, because everyone everywhere needs to get to work somehow, you may be surprised at the ease and efficiency of travel, even in places with spotty infrastructure like Central America or Southeast Asia.
Common misconceptions about transportation options overseas are:
• That it’s crowded
• That it’s unreliable
• That it’s unsafe
• That it’s cheap
While you will definitely find crowded transportation on your travels around the world, you’re most likely to find this to be the case if you have to use rush-hour buses or subways in a major city.
Public transportation is often the only option for the people living in your city—they might not be able to afford a car. So, local governments overseas often recognize the importance of reliable and efficient bus and subway systems, more so than most local governments in the U.S., where officials expect most people to have their own transportation.
Likewise, because local people must use it, there’s pressure for it to be safe, as well. In places where the government-funded options don’t have such a great safety rating, as in some places in China, for example, you’ll probably find private companies that offer similar services, like bus routes, at slightly higher fares.
The price of your transportation is going to depend largely on where you’re living. In Tokyo, for example, it’s quite expensive to get around. But in Lima, Peru, you’ll find yourself spending mere pennies for buses or other transport options. Salaries will also vary, of course.
A Variety of Options
If this is your first time traveling abroad, you may be amazed at the variety of transportation options that are available to you.
In big cities, subway systems, are usually the quickest and most efficient way to get from point A to B within the most densely populated areas of a town. Light rail systems, which often look just like the subway train but are above ground, might extend into the suburbs. A few cities, like Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, have skyrails, too—trains that run on tracks elevated above the streets.
In Eastern Europe, Japan and Istanbul, many neighborhoods are served by streetcars (also called trams), which run on rails and keep city buses out of heavy downtown traffic.
In China, Thailand or elsewhere in Southeast Asia, you might find yourself getting to class on the back of a motorcycle taxi. These taxis, often licensed by the local government, have negotiable fares and are perfect for zipping through traffic jams during the morning rush hour. They’re not so good if you’re carrying a heavy backpack or if you’re a woman wearing a skirt, however, and you’ll need a bit practice before either of those scenarios feel comfortable.
Bridges aren’t the only way across bodies of water: taking the ferry or a water taxi might become part of your commute if you live in Bangkok, Hong Kong, parts of China, or Lisbon.
In Asia, three-wheeled carts powered by motorcycles—called tuk tuks in Thailand, and various other names elsewhere—are another way to get around. These are usually run by private drivers, but in some places they run routes, just like a city bus. Other places rely on converted pickup trucks or other hybridized vehicles. These might take some getting used to, but they’re often a lot of fun!
TED’s Tips™ #1: Don’t be put off by local transportation. Travel like the locals and soon you’ll feel like one!
TED’s Tips™ #2: Learn transport schedules and buy a transit pass if available. This will help you feel empowered to get out and explore your new home.