Stress-Free Transportation In a Foreign Country

Transportation, like many other aspects of experiencing a different culture, can vary from country to country. Finding information on local public transportation can often be more difficult than finding maps, schedules and tickets for continental or transcontinental transportation.

Take, for instance, Lisbon, Portugal. Google Maps is pretty accurate when it comes to finding your way around the capital city. You also find loads of information centers where multi-lingual advisers can point you in the direction of the ferry for trips into Trafaria or Almada's Cacilhas, or a bus and metro stop. Move across the river to Costa da Caparica, south of Lisbon, and Google Maps shows no local means of transportation, not even into Lisbon. No buses or trams, or horse carts. Nothing. Only taxis and Uber. You walk around the town and see all of these buses carrying people to and from work, to and from entertainment venues, to and from Lisbon, but they don't show up on Google Maps. I asked around and got a local map. A friend told me about how Rome2Rio and Moovit offer much more detailed and complete routes. The local Town Hall/Camara Municipal often has a website nowadays, but even with that lacking, it always has a physical location where you can obtain more information.


It turns out Portugal has a pretty amazing system. It's well organized, it covers all areas, and the quality of the services, at least in big cities like Lisbon and Porto, are above average. It's hard not to compare them to Chicago's own, and honestly, Chicago doesn't hold a candle to Portugal's system of transportation in terms of comfort and amenities.

If you're in the mood for unconventional means of transport, check out the donkey tours, usually organized in the Algarve. Those may be there mostly for entertainment but it's good to remember that donkeys and horses used to be the main means of transportation across all 6 inhabited continents for thousands of years.

Going back to traveling across Europe, one of my recent discoveries is this 25-page Eurail list of train connections in (almost) every country in Europe. I got so excited about it that I decided to share it here.

Eurail map_list

If you get frustrated by transportation in the countries you travel to, take a deep breath and try to learn about it. Experience it as if you were a local. Ask yourself: how do the locals get from place to place? Who would know the information? Sometimes it's a tobacco shop, a post office, a newspaper stand, and almost always, a police station or government office. Just because you don't know about it, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Keep this in mind and enjoy your next trip.