Welcome to the third post in the Top Things by Travelers Around the World series! The topic this week is Top 3Â Modes of Transportation. Being travelers, we all find ourselves taking many different means of transportation depending on where we are and where we’re going. They might be fun, practical, unique, adventurous or… scary! When I posed this question two weeks ago, I never expected I’d get so many amazing answers. Feel like a local by trying their unique vehicles like the tuk tuk in South East Asia, the chicken bus in Central America, or a dog sled ride in the far north.Â There are also transportation modes that gives you great sightseeing experiences like hot air balloons and chairlifts, or more adventurous ones like animal rides, river sledging, cave tubing, and zorbing! Sometimes the best way to get around doesn’t use a vehicle at all, like with your own two feet, or by swimming! Seventeen travelers and their partners have contributed their thoughts to this post and I think the result is a very interesting and entertaining list – so let’s check them out!
Earl from Wandering Earl:
- Speed Boat (Laos): I’ll never forget racing down the Mekong at speeds of up to 60 mph in a tiny canoe-sized vessel with four of us passengers forced to sit with our knees digging into each other’s backs for five hours. The ride was so dangerous that before we departed from our starting point, we were all given motorcycle racing helmets to wear. Unfortunately, they didn’t give us earplugs and as a result, I couldn’t hear for about six hours after we arrived due to the impossibly loud and constant roar of the boat’s engine.
- Open-air Jeep (Pakistan): While the 2-day journey I took standing up in the back of a jeep, packed in with 12 other people and facing daytime temperatures of 40 F (5 C) was somewhat on the painful and challenging side of things, I would do it all over again any time. Traveling across the Hindu Kush mountain range in this manner allowed me to reach a region of the world that few people visit and to experience first-hand the most spectacular scenery I have ever witnessed on this planet.
- My feet: There is nothing more interesting to me than exploring by foot. It’s the only way to discover what lies beyond the outer surface of a destination. It is our feet that can lead us into the narrow lanes, through the sprawling markets and to places that other modes of transport simply can not go!
Nora from The Professional Hobo:
- Zorbing - Imagine diving into a plastic ball with water in it and being rolled down a hill, and you have Zorbing. It’s bizarre and fun – and a perfect example of Kiwi ingenuity…or insanity, I’m not sure which!
- Sledging - As if white-water rafting isn’t exciting enough, sledging is navigating a white-water river on a glorified boogie-board. I did it in New Zealand…and it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. You can read about it here.
- Train - I’ve been a train travel enthusiast most of my life, choosing it consistently as my preferred mode of long-distance travel. I’ve taken the train all over North America, through Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and I plan to do a few world-class train rides in Europe, as well as Australia in the coming year. Yippee!
Dave from Dave’s Photo & Travelblogue:
- Plane from Lima to Cusco. Because of the narrow valley in Cusco, flights are delayed massively if there is morning fog! I waited in the Lima airport for 4h, with 6 planeloads of other people in front of me.
- Bouncy, sketchy minibus from Cusco to Piscacucho. Because flooding washed out the tracks to Machu Picchu (and they’ve only repaired the second half), you have to take this bus to a temporary train station. Two hours of switchbacks, scary overtaking, and very poor rural towns.
- The most expensive and most scary train ride you’ll ever take: from Piscacucho to Aguas Calientes (“Hot Water”) at the base of Machu Picchu. The picture says it all – I guess that’s the old track, down there in the river. I heard that the day before I arrived, a train had derailed. We passed construction workers every few minutes, still working on the in-use track. Nice!
Adam from Travels of Adam:
- The buses in Spain. Usually cheaper than the trains and even more scenic. Highly recommended!
- The London underground. I don’t care what Londoners say- the tube is one of the best public transportation systems in the world. Expensive, yes, but worth it.
- Rent a car in New Zealand. It’s easier to get around and it’s fun (and generally safe) to pick up hitchhikers!
Mary from Mary and Sean’s Adventures Abroad:
- Hitchhiking in Namibia- of course there are risks, but it’s possible to have some really fun encounters too including meeting super fascinating people.
- Dog sledding in Alaska- I just can’t get enough of these super smart dogs
- A tethered sunrise balloon at Angkhor Wat- we actually thought this was a scam at first, but it ended up being so worth it with lovely views of the temples and area
Aracely and Jason from Two Backpackers:
- Chicken Bus (Old American School Buses) – While traveling in Central America, these tricked out buses got us everywhere we wanted to go. It may have taken 3 different buses and all day to get to a place, but we did get there. And we got there in style, with chrome grills, neon interior lights and awesome paint art. Our video best represents the different buses we rode on.
- Tuk-Tuk – Another backpacker favorite, Tuk-Tuks are best know in SE Asia, but Latin America has them too. While driving around Antigua, Guatemala in Tuk-Tuks, you are sure to almost lose your lunch. The cobblestone roads aren’t the best for a Tuk-Tuk and neither is the rainy season. Regardless, they are fun, easy to catch and cheap.
- Motor Taxi – Motor Taxis are similar to a Tuk-Tuk, but bigger in size. It’s basically a motorcycle or motor bike with a carriage welded on to the back. We found them near the beaches of Ecuador and they offer a cool ride with the wind in your hair.
Erica and Shaun from Over Yonderlust:
- Mini Moke: This is almost like a Pow-Pow-Power WHEELS! – for adults. We got to drive this lovely little car (with no doors and very little power) during the rainiest dry season Barbados had ever seen. Not only do you get to drive on the left side of the road, but there are no road maps or street signs in Barbados, leaving it a free for all. It is you vs. public transportation on skinny, wet roads.
- Shinkansen: This awesomely fast train took us from Tokyo to Hiroshima in a little over 4 hours. During the course of the year, this punctual bullet train loses only 2 minutes out of all trains in the entire country. Not only do you get there quickly, but you get to enjoy the small snack carts filled of random Japanese delights while speeding down the track.
- Double Decker Bus in London: Everybody can ride the tube, but you miss so many of the sights and sounds of London by confining yourself underground. Sure you get extremely drunken people on the bus (everyone has a vomiting on the bus while drunk story), however, it definitely makes for an experience.
Brian from BikeandBoots:
- #1 I definitely have to go with motorcycle/scooter. Â It’s an awesome way to see the sights as you go and have freedom to go wherever you want.
- #2 Is by water, any way over water. Â Traveling through Utah and Wyoming I’m dreaming about getting back on a white water raft. Â If only the water was direct from snow melt…
- #3 Is to combine the #1 and #2.
Mike from Art of Backpacking:
- Hitch Hiking in Asia: Though uncommon in Asia, it’s possible! If you think the language barrier is already a task, try catching a ride and you’ll be in more of an adventure. I’ve had to hitch on the back of some sort of animal transportation truck. With the smell of poop and an extremely bumpy ride that nearly took me off the truck, I eventually got to where I needed to go.
- Motorcycling cross country or across many countries: My favorite. I love to venture off the road into smallÂ neighborhoods. It’s quick yet slow way of traveling.
- Dune Buggy rides across the desert: In Huacachina, Peru, you can take a tour around the desert and go for some Sandboarding. I had a mad man as a driver that nearly flipped us over. The ride felt like amusement roller-coaster but only it lasts much longer. At incredible speeds zooming up huge hills and not knowing how steep the other side will be, it’s an experience. I was crazy enough to ask the driver if I could drive, he told me I’d probably kill us all if I drove as if he wasn’t trying to do that already.
- Barefoot. Well, almost barefoot. I recently discovered the beauty of walking with Vibram FiveFingers and I really must say, nothing compares! Experiencing the way those cobblestone streets actually feel under your feet just isn’t possible without going barefoot. Or getting a pair of FiveFingers! They keep your feet safe from harmful objects while simultaneously allowing you to feel the ground underneath your feet.
- Jeep. A 7-person jeep carrying 22 people in India, to be exact. Even the driver hangs out the side of the jeep while reaching across four people to reach the shifter. He drives carefully though, just as you’d expect anyone hanging out of a jeep to drive!
- Train. It’s practical, cheap, and usually comfortable. The train system in India is one of the largest and busiest in the world, transporting more than 20 million people every day! It’s cheap too! You can go 1,500 miles on less than $50, or buy an unlimited 90-day pass for $225 (foreigners only).
Shannon from That Travel Spark:
- Trains in the U.S. – people in the U.S. don’t often think of train travel as a good option like many other countries do but it’s very convenient and there’s something very charming about viewing the countryside from the train (the same countryside that looks boring by car somehow becomes charming from the train). It can also be super economical when you buy a rail pass.
- Tuk tuks – fun to say and do.
- Songtaew - unless you’re 6’4″, in which case, you have to contort your body to fit.
Shannon from A Little Adrift:
- Chicken Buses: The conversations on these alone are reason to take chicken buses! This is how the locals travel and Guatemalans are a friendly lot so it’s chatting and practicing your Spanish is a great way to pass a long bus ride.
- Two Fins and a Mask: Diving and snorkeling are my favorite activities so while not the most traditional way to get across the water I have definitely done long-haul swims between islands just to explore and see the fishies along the way!
- Bicycle: Exploring the countryside on a bike is a total sensory experience -you can better see and smell the country and it boosts your chances of pulling off on the side of the road and chatting with a local farmer or that group of ragamuffin children digging in the dirt!
- Three-Wheeled Motorized Cart in Sicily – On my travels thus far, my favorite mode of transport has been a three-wheeled, rickety Italian truck. You will see these cars, if you can all them that, throughout Italy, usually carting around produce in the back. They have two wheels in the rear and one in the front. Most often, a little gray haired man is behind the wheel, smiling while on his way to the local market. I had the chance to ride in the bed of this cart while studying in Sicily. Lost and without direction with a group of friends, an old Sicilian man motioned us to hop in the back of his car and he would take us to our location. Not knowing if 5 of us would hold up in the back of this mode of transport on three wheels, the ride has been one of most memorable times on transportation in Italy.
- Peddle Boats in Washington D.C. – Traveling your way around historical monuments usually involves a bike, walking, or riding in a car. In Washington D.C., you can peddle boat around the Jefferson Memorial and view the Washington Monument in the distance. This mode of touring is relaxing, minus the bulky orange life vest you have to adorn.
- Chairlift to a Luxembourg Castle – While you can reach the Vianden Castle in Luxembourg easily by foot, I thought the only way was by chairlift. You glide two by two above localsâ€™ backyards, weaving through lush greenery, all while admiring the remarkable view of the Vianden Castle. This has been a favorite mode of transportation for the views alone and the silence that comes while going by two-seated chairlift.
Jennifer from Live Richly:
- Funicular - Santiago, Chile has a few high hills in the middle of the city, but the most famous is Cerro San CristÃ³bel. It’s 880 meters high and has a statue of the Virgin Mary on top. As I didn’t want to climb it, I took the easy way out and took a cable car to the top. On the way down, I took the historic funicular, which is a narrow gauge train. It looks like an amusement ride because it’s small, but the trip down was very steep. Unlike an amusement ride in the US, there were no seat belts.
- Sailboat - This isn’t very unique but it’s the most relaxing way to move. Well, as long as someone else is doing the sailing! Combine a sailboat with a beautiful sunny day in the US Virgin Islands, a dog for a first mate, and a few stops to snorkel, and I can’t think of a much better way to spend an afternoon.
- Blimp - You’ve probably seen a blimp, but I bet you haven’t been inside one. It’s a long story, but I got to ride in one due to my involvement in a political campaign. Once we got about 1,000 feet above Tampa, Florida, they even let me steer! (Shhh, don’t tell anyone). It’s not easy to pilot a blimp because there is a lot of wind resistance and no power steering.
Mike from One Lap, No Jetlag:
- Cargo Freighters.Â Since my trip was a RTW trip with no airplanes, I had to figure a way across the oceans I have to traverse. Freighters were the best way, though they are expensive and quite boring. Bring books and video – it takes 17-20 days to cross the Pacific.
- On TOP of a three ton lorry in Ethiopia.Â If you are going overland from Nairobi to Addis Ababa, there is no means of public transport, so you have to hitch a ride on a cargo truck, with the locals.Â And everyone rides up top.Â On metal bars.
- By mule in Peru.Â This one is kinda lame on my part. The deepest canyon in the world is Colca Canyon in Peru (twice as deep as the Grand Canyon).Â I hiked down on a guided trip, spent the night at the bottom, and chickened out on climbing back up and took the “taxi,” otherwise know as Raul, the friendly mule.
Nancie (LadyExpat) from Budget Travelers Sandbox:
- When I was Egypt in 2004 I rode both a camel and a donkey. Neither was very comfortable, and I hope that I never have to ride either again. The camel handlers, being funny, would get the camel racing as the rider (which was me) hung on for dear life. You never want to fall off!
- In Asia one of the favorite modes of transportation of course is the motorcycle. Here in Korea they rule the sidewalk. In Taiwan and Thailand the entire family rides together.
Left ro right: Nancie and a camel in Egypt; A family riding on a motorcycle in Thailand; Hot air balloon landing. Â© Budget Travelers Sandbox
- My favorite ride ever was in a hot air balloon over the ancient city of Bagan. Watching the sunrise over the temples is about as good as it gets!
Ashley from No Onion Extra Pickles:
- Subways – It may be because I grew up/live in a subway-free area, but I am still amazed by their efficiency! Â I never tire of riding them around a new city, or studying the system map. Â My favorite, thus far, is the Paris metro system. Â Traveling there was my first big international trip – I will never forget the feeling of exiting the OdÃ©on metro station for the first time, and getting that “oh my, I’m in Paris!” feeling. Â Plus, the art in metro stations is always awesome!
- Vaporetto – I never stepped on a gondola in Venice, but the vaporetto was my best friend. Â I was completely taken in by the concept of a “bus” boat. Â Taking route 1 up and down the Grand Canal is a fun (and cheap!) tour of the city, and I recommend it to everyone. Â I rode them so much I felt like I was still on water when I was walking around on land!
- Walking – This is, by far, my favorite mode of transportation. Â I usually walk so much when traveling that my feet hurt 24 hours a day, but this is the best way to experience a city, so well worth it. Â Even if I am only in a new place for a couple of days, walking lets me discover way more than driving around would – and there is always something interesting to stumble upon when wandering from one spot to another.
Ryan and Dina from this blog:
- Donkey ride climbing up the cliff staircase of Santorini – Santorini is a Greek volcanic island, whose capital “Fira” is located on top of a high cliff overtop of a port. Connecting the city with the port is a long, zig-zagging, covered-by-donkey-droppings, rock staircase. It’s quite a hike, and instead of walking up, you can hire a donkey. The donkeys here are mad! (or they are just being donkeys?) They walk and slip (on their own droppings) all the way to the top, and they won’t walk in the middle: they choose to walk at the very edge. Either you will feel as if they want to throw you off the cliff, or scrape your knees on the rough wall. They proved better walkers than myself though, as I actually fell on the dropping-covered staircase in the way back. (I’ll definitely choose to ride both ways next time, instead of trying to walk down!) – Dina
- Cave Tubing - Tubing down the underground river in Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand was one of the best adventure we’ve ever had! It involves floating in the underground calm water, rushing down the rapids, going over the underground water falls, crawling through narrow passages, and walking through shallow and uneven river. It’s a perfect way to enjoy the beauty of glowworms and the cave formations.
- Becak – This form of public transportation can be found in many places in Indonesia, especially in the smaller towns. Waiting near traditional markets and shopping areas you’ll find crowds of becak: tricycles with a bench on the front, powered by a wiry man pedaling in the back. Take your freshly bought produce and climb aboard: for about the equivalent of 50 US cents, he’ll dart wildly through traffic, cutting in front of honking trucks and screeching motorbikes to get you where you’re going. Diving headfirst into the chaos like this is pretty harrowing, but it’s a great way to experience all the sights, sounds, and smells of Indonesia, and the price is right. – Ryan
Left: Donkey ride in Santorini. Centre: Cave tubing in Waitomo Glowworm Cave, NZ (Â© www.waitomo.com). Right: Becak-man sleeping in his becak, waiting for a passenger.
So… What you think about these modes of transportation? Have you ridden them yourself? Any other unique ones you want to share? Did we miss your favourite? Post a comment now!
Next in Top Things Chosen by Travelers Around the World series:
- Topic: Top 3 Temples and Other Religious/Spiritual Structure!
- What are your favourite 3 temples or other religious/spiritual structures and why? This could be any structures dedicated to any spiritual/religious beliefs such as Buddhist temples, ancient Greek temple ruins, Mayan/Incas temples, Mosques, Hindu temples, shrines, churches, Cathedrals, Basilicas, even just a statue on the beach!
- As usual, a little explanation of each is encouraged even though it could be without. Photos are more than welcome! (We might collage/pick one if you send more than 1 picture).
- Please participate, everybody is welcome!
- Submission deadline: Sunday, June 20th, 2010, 9 a.m. EST. That’s about 2 weeks from this post date.
- Planned publishing time: Monday June 21st, 2010
- Send your answers to dina(at)vagabondquest(dot)com. Include your (nick)name and your blog URL (so I link back to you). Need more info? Give me a shout!