How to determine the best method of transport abroad?
One of the most difficult, and often mundane, aspects of planning your journey can be devising modes of transport from A to B as you navigate a world that is more than likely completely foreign to you. From your computer -_-…. In truth most of the Americas, Southeast Asia and Europe has easily accessible public transportation. While it’s true you can get by with most transportation decisions on the fly, there is definitely a substantial amount of time (days), money (always important), and future stress (bingo!) to be spared by knowing how to utilize the internet to your advantage and book ahead.
Have no idea how to physically get yourself from Bangkok to the villages outside Yangon? Start here.
One of the biggest hallelujah moments I had when planning our first backpacking trip to Southeast Asia was when I solved the issue of pre-planning transportation. This was a month or so in and I was starting to try and piece together how to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, then on to Cambodia to Siem Reap…then back into Thailand to Koh Chang efficiently. Efficient to most backpackers first and foremost means cheap, however there is also a point where sacrificing a full day of your adventure “because the bus ticket was only $3!” isn’t worth it. Furthermore knowing where to look on the front end will often net a 1-2 hour plane ticket at a marginal cost over that bus ride and yield an extra day of exploring at your destination!
That’s where Rome2Rio.com comes in as a backpacker’s savior in planning international travel. Want to know how to get from Madrid to Budapest? What about from your hostel to the diner 3 blocks away? Do you have to fly or can you make the journey more enjoyable and for less money by train or car? Finding it difficult to navigate between 10 different windows as you scour the internet comparing bus, train, and air fares? Are you now realizing you need to make this determination for each journey you make on your trip? Did your head just explode? As a penny pincher nothing made me more thrilled than to find Rome2Rio. This site searches any city, town, landmark, attraction or address across the globe with thousands of multi-modal routes to easily get you from A to B. Pulling data from ferries, flights, buses, trains, and more it can take you down the block or around the world and show you every step on the path to do so!
I use the site to determine what logical options I have for transport. From there if flights are looking like an option I then check airline rates on their websites as this often will lead to fantastic special deals especially when planning far in advance, more on that here. Moral of the story is the first time I used the site I spared myself a nightmarish 12 hour ride from Bangkok to Siem Reap ($15 a head) and instead booked a 1.5 hour promotional flight with Airasia for $18 a person!!! It’s a great way for brainstorming new travel routes as you can see where routes stop and intersect, identifying possible new destinations that can be added for cheap, etc. Please do note that the fare prices aren’t always accurate BUT this tool does more than enough to get you started and actual prices can be found quite easily from there as links are provided to transport companies’ websites.
Don’t let convenience trump experience!
Let me end with a reminder that backpacking certainly isn’t a race and often the best and most unique experiences you can have abroad are the stories of “how you got there”. With that in mind, it’s still fun to be “there” so balance accordingly and leave room for one or two cross country bus trips in the plan and get ready to bump shoulders with the locals :).