Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Public Transportation is... Well.... Just Better

Let's face it.

When people travel (especially when people who have money travel), they typically they don't take public transportation.

This fact is a sad, sad, SAD thing. What is so great about going through the process of renting a car or van, learning how to use it, learning the traffic flows and quirks of a new place, and getting lost when the streets are one way in the opposite direction of the way you want to go? It's frustrating, sometimes dangerous, and always a hassle.

Instead, there is this wonderful thing called public transit, and amazingly enough, it works wonderfully, especially here in Rome.

I would swear by public transportation after living in Rome. And although it comes with its own frustrations, for the most part it is reliable, easy to use, and a great way to see the city. The busses of Rome literally go everywhere that you could think of. They have huge double busses for the most popular routes, medium sized busses that travel out to residential areas, and even little electric busses that zip in and along the small back roads of the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo. The trams are quick and come every couple of minutes, giving you an even more reliable source of public transit. The subways, although limited here in Rome (there are only two lines, with a third still in construction because they keep finding ancient ruins and having to reroute it), are even more reliable than the trams because they come on a constant time line, and are perhaps the quickest way to get to the most popular tourist destinations.

While the public transit here in Rome is not so reliable after midnight during the week or 2am on weekends (they all stop running for the most part besides the occasional night bus with limited routes), it is still a great way to get around and see the city during the day. Not only that, but it has also been a great way to see the people who actually live in the city that I'm visiting for the semester. I've also been lucky enough to meet some of these people when they've mistaken me for an Italian speaker and asked me a question, only to discover I'm an English speaker and visiter instead of local. Most people have then been happy to talk to me, even though it often consists of a lot of charades and broken Italian on my part or broken English on their part.

For example: I met Giulio, an 86 year old man who has lived in Rome for his entire life. He told me I have wonderful eyes, and that he is happy to see a young person traveling the world and studying in a country besides her own. He was pleasant, sweet, and cordial. After giving me a kiss on each cheek, he got off the bus at his stop and proceeded on with his day. Had I not taken the bus that day on my way to school, I would not have met Giulio.

So when you find yourself in a new place, even if it's only for a few days, take some form of public transportation, even if it is an ox-drawn cart in Costa Rica or a rickshaw in India or a dala dala in Tanzania (just hold tight to your bag if you do). You'll find that you will probably enjoy it more than the process of renting a private vehicle or dealing with taxi drivers.

Have you ever had a rewarding experience while taking public transportation, whether at home or abroad? Did you meet someone, see something, or end up somewhere you never expected? If you haven't taken public transportation, would you be willing to sacrifice a private vehicle in the future to take a ride on a bus, even if just for a day?


  1. And the Costa Rican OxCart is a lifetime experience that would be missed if you're driving around, as well as seeing and meeting the people that espouse the Pura Vida way of life - there truly is no better way to really see a country than seeing it through the eyes and experiences of its people.

    - Tee

    Tee is the founder and senior editor of Costa Rica CLOSEUP a Travel Guide to Costa Rica with Events, Articles and Information for everyone traveling, retiring and/or purchasing real estate in Costa Rica. Please visit www.costaricacloseup.com for more information.

  2. Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.

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