So you're moving halfway across the world to teach English abroad. The thought of waiting in the cold for a stalled train or not having right correct local currency to take the bus is enough to make you never venture out, especially when living in a foreign country. Indeed, wondering how you will get around is something that many first-time travelers and teachers worry about as they contemplate their options.
Not to worry, future teachers, your mind is about to be blown by some of the most efficient, clean and flat out cool transportation systems from abroad. Here are our top choices!
1. Seoul, South Korea
Almost a no brainer, it’s safe to assume that the home to Hyundai and LG Electronics would probably boast a pretty impressive system of transportation. With about 2.6 billion riders per year at a cost of $0.98 per ride, one might assume it’s overused and under maintained. Advisor Cassie Wells who taught in Korea for a couple years had this to say:
“The KoRail, or subway system, in South Korea is one of the things I miss most about living there. It’s so clean you could probably eat a meal off the floor and feel okay about it. The trains also run on schedules, so you’re typically not waiting around long for the next train. Traffic in Seoul can be pretty crazy, so taking the subway is always the way to go.”
2. Santiago, Chile
While I can say from personal experience I don’t think people will be eating of the floor of the metro anytime soon, Santiago has one of the most advanced and convenient transportation systems in Latin America. For starters, Student Affairs Director Karen Crone found that the luxury of having air conditioning on the subway was enough to make her stay awhile. With over 100 stations in operation currently, the Santiago line of commuter rails is the best way to beat the heat and the traffic.
3. Tokyo, Japan
Spanning a mind blowing 193 miles, the public rail system in Tokyo is arguably top 5 in the world. As many know, Japanese cities can be densely populated. Don’t think that the trains are any different! Here is a great mental image from long time JET Program Teacher and Advisor Chelsea Hendrickx:
“It’s totally overwhelming at first but once you get the hang of it you’ll love it. The trains are clean, quiet and on time. Just beware of the rush hour insanity - those videos you’ve seen of train attendants literally helping push people onto the train like sardines is totally real.”
4. Madrid, Spain
It’s not uncommon to hear that Madrid has the best public transportation not only in Europe, but in the world! Expansive doesn’t even begin to cover this system, which includes a metro, light metro rails, commuter rails and buses. In addition to being safe and clean, public transportation is quite affordable in Madrid. One International TEFL Academy Admissions Advisor and former teacher in Madrid had this to say:
“On an English teacher's salary, affording an all access monthly pass to the Metro and bus lines is no problem. You can literally get clear across Madrid (a city of 3 million people) in about 20 minutes, all on public lines. Try doing that in Los Angeles, for example.”
5. Shanghai, China
If you’re anything like me, the sheer thought of taking public transportation in a large Chinese city seems daunting to say the least. I’m just going to go ahead and let one former teacher in China take this one away to ease all of our nerves:
”I never thought I would be a big city person until I moved to Shanghai, China, to teach English. In Shanghai I discovered how incredible it was to live in a happening city in which every corner is connected by metro trains and buses...EVERYTHING was accessible. I could ride my bike to a train, then catch a bus, a ferry, a moving walkway, to another train....catching city sights the whole way. I LOVED IT! It was very affordable too. About 100 RMB/month, which is $14! I could rarely justify getting into a taxi to go anywhere. When I returned home, I almost resented how quick I could get somewhere because I missed the enjoyment of the journey getting there.”
6. Paris, France
Oh yes, the city of lights and romance. While most people picture their time in Paris spent strolling by foot while holding a coffee or a significant other’s hand, it’s also known for it’s fantastic public transportation. With over 300 stations, it seems a bit overwhelming to imagine mastering this system, but former teacher there and Student Affairs Advisor Erin set the record straight. She told me it is one of the best designed metro lines ever. It is so easy to navigate and you can literally get anywhere and everywhere. On a more Parisian romantic note, she also mentioned that
“One of the best views you will ever see is riding line 6 (ligne 6) - you are just passing the beautiful buildings, as it is an elevated line, and BAM there is the Eiffel Tower and the seine. Couldn’t be better.”
7. Taipei, Taiwan
An island off mainland China, don’t be fooled to think that Taiwan is in anyway behind China in the technical advances of transportation. Used by more than 35% of locals, the complex system is labeled according to color and number in order to make it user friendly to locals and travelers alike. One veteran teacher in Taipei had this to say:
"You’ll feel like you’ve entered the future when you experience Taiwan’s public transportation system. The 'MRT' is the local subway system in Taipei that connects the entire city. It’s clean, modern, extremely efficient, and easy to understand and navigate with English signs posted everywhere."
8. Berlin, Germany
Out of all the staff feedback I’ve gotten from my coworkers who lived abroad in some of these great locations, the quotes I received about Berlin will go down as my favorite. While being extremely efficient, easily accessible and reliable, ex-German resident and Advisor Matt Birgy I think really taps into something here. This is what he had to say about transportation in Berlin:
“Don't be surprised if the U-Bahn feels more like a pub than a train on a Friday night, with passengers clutching their half liters of beer,, socializing and watching Futball highlights on a small flat-screen. Beer is cool, but booze is Verboten! It's the honor system here, so purchase your ticket before hopping on the train; "Schwarzfahren" (riding without a ticket) will land you a 60 Euro fine and the trains are patrolled regularly. If you're traveling more than three stops, you have to pay the regular fare, but if traveling a short distance, (3 stops maximum) a "Kurzstrecke" ticket will suffice and costs half the amount.”
9. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
One of the things that make Dubai so unique for public transportation is the simple fact that it has so many options for connected people with places. For example, it’s common to grab a water taxi to navigate you around the Arabian Gulf. Traveling by water not your thing? Not to worry, you can take the monorail, the tram or simply the many buses connecting the city. ITA staff member and 15-year resident of the Middle East, John Bentley, chalks it up like this:
“Cairo has a fairly substantial subway system and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is scheduled to open an 85-station metro in the coming years, as is Doha, Qatar. Perhaps the nicest system in the region belongs to the Dubai Metro, which opened in 2009 and is scheduled to complete a major expansion by 2020.”
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