By Jaclyn Snow
I’ve been writing about the best ways I know to get free and cheap transport to encourage travel near and far. A couple of weeks ago I provided resources for free and cheap alternative travel by boat, bus and train which are available on multiple continents. My research showed that transportation varies greatly by region, so I encouraged you to research local transportation to find the best deals. This week I will break down what I know about finding affordable alternative transportation on every continent (except Antarctica, where budget travelers are as plentiful as palm trees).
Alternative Transport Around the World
🚍 Greyhound is the most widely available bus service in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Monthly passes are available which may be used internationally. You can save up to 40% by traveling on a Tuesday or Wednesday, and tickets for buses which depart before 10:00am are often steeply discounted.
🚍 Mexperience offers a detailed rundown of bus services available in Mexico.
🌎 Before booking your ticket for buses or trains through any major company, check for coupons on RetailMeNot!
🌎 Wanderu compares and books bus and train travel across North America. It is also available as an app which was awarded by TIME Magazine.
🌎 Buses are the most common form of transport in South America.
🚍 Buses may range from air conditioned with free wifi to overcrowded and squawking with chickens. You might choose to opt for a slightly more expensive bus that switches drivers more regularly and limits speed.
🚍 Horizon Travel Press published an absolutely free PDF with extensive details about bus travel in South America.
🌎 Seat61 provides ample information regarding train travel in South America.
🌎 If you speak some Spanish and don’t mind being crowded, you might enjoy a ride in a colectivo. Colectivos are shared minibuses or vans usually operated by private drivers that offer short distance journeys, or trips between major cities. Colectivos are so affordable because the expenses of the journey are divided between all of the passengers, and it is possible to bargain for a better price.
🌍 Rail Europe provides a variety of train and ferry passes that operate all over Europe.
🚂 If you plan to take the train on long-distance trips and you can plan your travel in advance, buying a pass may save you hundreds of dollars on train travel. I got a youth discount on a Eurail pass by activating it the day before my 26th birthday. However, the pass requires tickets to be reserved far enough in advance for a paper ticket to be mailed at an additional $10 each. Once on the road, it was extremely difficult to order tickets without an address, so I only ended up taking seven out of ten journeys.
🚂 If you are considering buying a rail pass, be sure to consult Rick Steves for guidance about which pass is best for you.
🌍 Buses are almost always much cheaper than trains in Europe.
🌍 Wanderu is useful in Europe for comparing and booking bus and train travel. Its app has won awards from the iTunes App store, Google Play, TIME Magazine, and more.
🌍 Africa’s urban railways, including metro, light rail, tram, monorail & electric suburban railways, are all described in detail on Urban Rail.
🌍 Much like the colectivos of South America, many African countries offer private vans or minibuses for public transit. They are often owned by entrepreneurs who lease the vans to drivers to take on regular routes. They vary in size and name from country to country. In Kenya and Uganda they are called matatus, in Lagos they are called danfos, in Cote d’Ivoire they are gbakas, in Ghana they are called TroTro, in Mali they are sotrama or durum duruni, and so on.
🌍 Indigenous boats like pinasses and pirogues provide water transport especially in West Africa.
🌏 Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) operates throughout much of Asia. Regions have different versions such as SMRT in Singapore and BMRT in Bangkok. Try searching “MRT” and the name of the region you’re traveling to find the system near you.
🌏 One common way to travel cheap in Asia is by renting a motorcycle taxi or scooter. The price you pay depends on how good you are at making a deal. As a general rule, assume that you are being asked to pay twice the fair rate, and negotiate for a better price. When asked how much you’re willing to pay, always offer less than you expect it to cost. When bartering, make sure you always have correct change!
🌏 Many companies offer tickets at the station only, and you must be careful of scams. Try the website 12GO to book train, ferry and bus tickets online, and avoid being ripped off at the station!
🌏 EasyBook is the largest land and sea travel booking website in Southeast Asia. It is trusted for offering the same prices as offered at the ticket counter.
🌏 Greyhound is the only national bus service in Australia. Although fairly inexpensive, bus travel in Australia is notorious for being extremely slow.
🌏 Click for Australia provides a thorough list of trains, ferries and buses.
🌏 Each state and territory has its own public transport system, as linked below:
Victoria public transit is known for compensating or reimbursing for prolonged delays, or if travel plans change and you are unable to use a ticket you purchased.
Use these resources to explore budget travel on every continent, or do your own research specific to the areas you’ll travel to find the ride that’s best for you!