7 Easy Tips To Navigate An Underground Way Anywhere In The World
Right at the onset, I must profess not to be an expert at navigating metro systems in every country. There are plenty that I have not had the opportunity to see or travel on. But, since I make it a point to at least try out the public transport systems in most places that I visit, I have been fortunate to travel to a wide variety of Metro or Subways systems around the world. I have used the tube in London, the Paris metro in France, DC Metro in Washington DC, the subway in New York, the MRT in Singapore, the MRT in Hong Kong, the L trains in Chicago, and the bullet trains in Japan, to name a few. They all have their own individual quirks and can be quite daunting to a first time user. But, thankfully there is no rocket science involved and they are all fairly easy to figure out if you keep a few simple basic rules in mind.
1. Learn what the transport system is called in the country that you are visiting:
This is the first thing that you need to remember!This is sometimes the hardest thing to do, since you are already in an unfamiliar territory, but you need to work on remembering the name of the system. This will help you ask someone how to get to the nearest transit system if you are ever lost.
Most subways or metros have a unique icon that is used as a logo above every station entrance. This helps you identify where the closest stations are, and more importantly shows you where the exact entrance of the station is, as there are often multiple entrances to the same station.
2. Getting in and out of the stations:
Before entering the station look around at the street name or a store or some landmark outside the station that will help you recognize the spot on your return journey. I often take a photograph just to be sure because most stations have 2 or more exits and on your return journey if you don’t remember which way you entered, you could get hopelessly lost and wander about for a while before you reorient yourself.
3. Changing Lines or Changing Stations:
Because of the complexity of the subway systems, and the number of lines that usually run in different directions, each line is normally denoted by a different color on a subway map. So, for example, a pink line will run from east to west, and maybe a green line from north to south. There are main stations where these lines intersect and you can change trains without exiting the station but by maybe changing a platform. This could involve a lot of walking inside the station but there are always signs pointing you in the right direction. Take a couple of moments to orient yourself and the direction in which you are going.
4. Buying a ticket:
There are a few options to actually purchase a ticket inside the station. You can either use a kiosk or vending machine…most accept cards and cash and have options for multiple languages, just like ATMs. You could also go to a manned ticket booth and buy your ticket. Make sure you look at all the cost options before you buy a ticket as a day’s pass or a week’s pass is always more economical than a single journey ticket.
5. Getting on and off platforms:
In most subways that I have used, you normally swipe your ticket as you are entering or exiting the station, but some subways have an exit outside each platform. When platforms are crowded, if you are unsure of the direction that you need to travel in, wait for the exodus of the crowd and then orient yourself. When there are a couple of options, you can reassure yourself that there will always be signage to clear your doubts.
6. Safety and managing your belongings:
Just like elsewhere in a big city, take care of your stuff. If the trains are crowded, hold on to your stuff. If you have luggage with you, there is normally a luggage rack, especially for trains from the airport, so just stash your suitcase in the luggage rack and try to orient yourself so that you can keep an eye on it.
7. Navigating Escalators
This one is truly an insider’s tip, so pay attention to it. Most transit systems are designed for the urban population living and working in that city. They are often on tight schedules, running to and from work and home and errands and they get impatient when gawking tourists block their way. They normally walk or run up and down escalators, whilst we tourists stand and let the travellator carry us along. A simple rule to follow is to remember which side of the road they drive on in the country that you are visiting. For example, in Singapore, they drive on the right, so if you are standing on an escalator, stand towards the right so that people can run past you on the left. If you are in Hong Kong, they drive on the left side of the road, so stand towards the left and let people overtake you on the right while navigating the escalator. Remember, it’s just like how overtaking rules work whilst in the car. Don’t stand in the middle and block folks, it’s rude and uncaring of people’s schedules.