Taking a taxi is not always the best option to experience low-budget adventure. Apart from the occasional scams (if you can even call that an adventure), there is also not so much fun in letting someone else do all the work for you. These 5 steps will teach you how to be independent from taxis, by finding your own way with public transport or hitchhiking.
1. Travel light
Travelling light is key to being more flexible. Many travellers agree and some go to great lengths to reduce the weight of their luggage. It enables you to afford yourself to walk just that bit further if that will take you to the nearest bus or train station. For this reason I would also never travel with rolling luggage. From the experiences I had with others carrying these, I know that having a backpack makes you more flexible and faster. Also I feel like hitching a ride gets easier when you travel without all the heavy bags.
2. Always know where you are
Travelling from A to B without even knowing your current location is a recipe for disaster. Make sure that at any time you know exactly where you are, whether you are in Zimbabwe, Colombia or in Japan. Only then you can reap the benefits of independent travel and experience those things you want to see, hopefully by avoiding unnecessary and expensive taxi rides. .
Personally I am a big fan of CityMaps2Go and always tell everyone else to use it too. I study these offline maps before I go to a place, as well as checking them on the spot. I occasionally also use Google Maps, mostly by taking screenshots as its offline capabilities are not reliable.
Learn more about CityMaps2Go and other travel apps here → “5 Must-Have Offline Travel Apps”
3. Do not rush
Moving from A to B is not as a waste of time, it’s an experience. By choosing to travel along with the local people, you will get more familiar with the local pace of life, learn some basic language and learn more about the culture. In general it will take longer though than just taking a taxi because often you would have to wait for the bus to arrive. So, whenever you aim at travelling around by public transport, the best advice is to take your time. Think twice about travel whenever you are in a rush, the experience will be much less.
From experience I can also tell that slow transport is cheaper, and in general I seem to make less mistakes while taking my time. It’s always when you are in a hurry that you take the wrong decisions and things go wrong.
4. Learn from the locals
When people are abroad, I often see how they make the mistake to think there are only taxis driving to those places they want to visit. But by now, I have gained so much confidence that I can safely say that there is always another way. When you arrive in an airport for example, check out in which direction the locals will walk or just ask them for the nearest bus stop (it’s wise to know the local word for ‘bus stop’ when you arrive in a new country). In many places, there is one just a few hundred meters outside the airport. The same goes for India, you never see a local travel alone in a private auto rickshaw. Instead, they know exactly those intersections at which they can jump in the more regular shared ones. Only for a fraction of the price!
Once you know some of these tricks, you can save serious money. And if you would think there really is no way other than to take a taxi, read tip number 5.
Sometimes when you arrive somewhere late, there really is no public transport. You might even end up in one big corrupt tourist trap (like African border towns or small airports like the one in Tuzla, Bosnia).
It is very easy though to get away from these locations, all you need to do is improvise. First of all, scroll back up and read tip 3 again. Then ask yourself if some of the next options could apply:
- Talk to some people who came from the same bus or plane, ask if they have a car and if you can ride along. Usually works best by first asking the person next to you on the plane
- Go hitchhiking. Hitchhiking is always a good option, even if there is public transport but it leaves only every 4 hours or so (Cuba, Bosnia, Africa)
- Start walking just to get away from the tourist trap and see if things are better ahead, works like a charm
- As a last resort you could team up with others and share some private transport in the end, but don’t forget to bargain! Also then, remember not to rush it!
What if you do have to take a taxi? → “6 Taxi Safety Tips That Everyone Should Know”.