Elizabeth Tower Big Ben

Updated 6/21/2021

So many options for transportation in a new city. Train, bus, taxi, Uber, Segway, horse and carriage, bike, hop on and off bus, group tour bus, and my most favorite, travel by walking! In this article, I am going to share what I think about hop on and off buses vs. trains and walking.

You saved your money, chose the city you have always wanted to visit, googled and searched on travel blogs to learn all there is about your destination, and you are ready to make this trip happen!

You finally make it to your destination. Arriving at your hotel, you drop off your bags and set off on foot to discover your surroundings. Tourists will often observe at the hotel, displays of brochures with suggestions on where to go for fun. I’ll be one to admit, that picking out brochures covered with great marketing images was my habit. In recent years I’ve been making an effort to stay away from needlessly taking them. Why? So I can do my small part in being an eco-friendly traveler. Why take a brochure, when you are going to trash it. Instead, why not just take a picture of the information on your phone or note down in your phone the need to know and continue off to enjoy your day. With the aid of technology, the modern traveler can accomplish almost every task without leaving a paper trail. I’ll cover the topic of being a more eco-friendly traveler in a future blog post.

For now, let’s get back to the all enticing and not always so affordable hop on and off bus. Once arriving in a new city for the first time, It’s often one of the fastest and easiest ways to get an audio guided tour on wheels. It’s a great way to get to know a large city fairly quickly on your terms. Hop on, and off buses (aka HOHO Buses) take you to all the major sites on its itinerary throughout the city. Major cities will often have multiple companies to choose from. You can check out which ones appeal to you the most, including cost, distance covered, along with any reviews you read about them online. Whichever company you end up choosing, make sure to first search for promotion codes or even the option to buy the ticket in a package deal. City cards that cover museum entries will often also include HOHO bus tickets or at least a discount.

If you are only able to stay in a city for a day or two and can’t stay long, I suggest considering the hop on and off bus, because it gives a historical reference tour speedily!

However, there are always other options that are more affordable and adventurous. Taking the local train system can bring you closer to the locals. Grab a city transportation card that covers both trains and buses and utilize it to your advantage. Trust me; you’ll see things that you would never have seen with a HOHO bus. Figuring out a maze of train tracks and which way to go is the stuff that real travel is made of. Asking strangers for help at a train station full of commuters in a hurry to get to work in the morning, may not be the best time. Make an effort and approach a friendly train attendant for assistance you may require.

With train travel, I’ve always been a little more cautious. Taking care to observe my surroundings and having a good grasp of my possessions in sight is always a priority. Also, always be cautious to make sure you don’t accidentally take a train to the wrong side of town. Unless you have mapped out a specific site you wanted to visit, don’t assume every train stop is in a safe place. Alone or not, being safe and using common sense should always be a priority.

With trains, you will have opportunities to see a more raw side of local living, versus only taking transportation that is suited only for tourists. I’ve enjoyed some interesting conversations with strangers on local trains.

Now, let’s get to my most favorite way of transportation in a new city or even a city I have visited before. For as long as I can remember, walking has been my most favorite way of discovering. Not only has it given me the chance to see things I would never have seen in any other way, but it has also kept me from gaining weight while enjoying the delicious local food.

Man wandering alone on a cobblestone street

Take your time to observe and soak in your surroundings while walking in a new city. The more you walk in a new city and learn about where you are, the more you appreciate the past of what has taken place in that city. Places often carry a history that used to be filled with turmoil and struggle. For some places you may visit, that struggle is still very much real. Buildings renewed again after bombings of civil or world wars, communities of people rising from the ashes to begin anew. How neighborhoods earned their names and why we should care about them, is a question I ask myself every time.

Stories of past learned are the exact reason why humans enjoy travel. Yes, we often have forgotten to give credit where its due. How a famous landmark came to be and why thousands would give anything to protect its meaning to the world. Whenever I pick a new city to visit, I search to see if a free local guided tour is available. During these local tours, you get a first-hand account of how a local person views their hometown and how their history has affected them and their family. Hearing these stories gives you an insiders secret guide to a city. I will share more about my thoughts on free local tours in a future blog post.

So before you set off on your next trip. Ask yourself, why you are going there? What you hope to get out of visiting? Which type of transportation will best fit the time you will be there? Most importantly don’t forget to have lots of fun and learn about your surroundings as much as you can 🙂