Public transportation does not have to be some plebeian chore used only to get where you’re going on the cheap– it can actually be informative, fun, and quite relaxing. Each city’s transit system works differently, but a few simple tips will have you jet-setting, economically, around town no matter where your treks take you. I’ll tell you how.
The best tenet of transit is to relax. Talk to people and let them talk to you, sometimes it’s the best way to find out what the area has to offer. If someone says hello, make eye contact and say hello back. There’s no reason to be disrespectful, curl up in the fetal position, and not interact with people. And do not entertain your inner germaphobe, either. The bus/train/metro/etc. isn’t any more filthy than museums, the movie theater, your hotel lobby, etc. Don’t go licking the floors, but don’t feel like you’re sitting in cesspool either. Unwind and take in the cityscape without the perils of driving yourself or white-knuckling it through a crazy cab ride. (Hello, NYC cab drivers, I’m talking to you, you maniacs.)
But pay attention. Relaxing and engaging the locals in some good conversation does not mean you should get too distracted to stay safe. Wearing a purse cross-body is a good start, and looping a duffel or tote handle around either your wrist, or ankle when seated, can help prevent a snatch and grab. You don’t have to be hyper vigilant, just be aware of your surroundings. Find someone in charge, or another woman, to strike up a conversation with if you feel uncomfortable. Use common sense when listening to music and don’t tune out so deeply that you leave yourself vulnerable. When I was a daily bus rider, I’d leave one ear bud out or keep the volume low enough that I could hear another person approaching on the sidewalk.
One of the most critical tools of learning is to ask questions, and using public transportation is a learning experience above all else. If you’re unsure about your journey, when you get on double check with the driver or conductor about where the train is headed and ask what you need to know to confirm your stop and/or secure your return trip. If you get a curmudgeonly captain of a vessel that isn’t cooperative, other passengers will no doubt be sympathetic and willing to give their advice. Find a friendly face on board and ask if they mind helping you with a few questions (always ask before you fire off a barrage of questions on some unsuspecting commuter). Safe travels, and enjoy the ride! — Casandra Armour