5 tricks to mastering public transit

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Public transportation never used to be my thing, living in suburbia and all. And then I moved to the city of Philadelphia, traveling up and down/to and from the east coast with the help of public transportation. I’ve converted! I’m a changed woman!  It’s easy to be intimidated by a different city’s public transportation system. Below are 5 tricks to getting the hang of public transit:

1. Ask for help: Probably the number one reason I’ve ever gotten lost was because I foolishly and haphazardly got on a train in the wrong direction without confirming with someone that I was headed in the right direction. Sometimes all you have to do is ask. It will save you the time and frustration of traveling in the opposite direction and having to turn around. It’s the easiest and best way to get comfortable and accustomed to traveling on the Metro, the El, via bus, taxi or train. And after one or two times,  people will be asking you which way to go.

2. Leave claustrophobia at the door: Cramped on a full-flight in coach? Sandwiched between hundreds of people on the subway? Can’t get any relief from the armrest on the bus? Tough. Traveling via public transit might mean sacrificing your personal space and hauling a considerable amount of things around and amongst people also hauling around a considerable amount of things. Times are bound to be uncomfortable. Stick it out, be polite and look forward to stretching your legs later.

My ride to the Kentucky Derby; Louisville, KY

3. Carry cash: I have been screwed a number of times for not carrying cash on me. Not being able to chip in on cab fare has been a more recent, embarrassing memory. Always try to carry at least $20 bucks on you, including smaller bills, for the trolley, the El or cab fare.

The Everything-in-French metro in Montreal

4. Be polite: If you can, try to offer a hand. If you see someone struggling to get their suitcase off of the revolving baggage claim belt, try to jump in and help them out. There’s nothing worse than watching a woman with three bags struggling to open a door when someone could have just as easily held it open a second earlier. Be polite, “Will you help me please?” and always express gratitude when given a hand. You probably help more often than you know, but just try to remember to hold the door for someone once in a while.

5. Don’t be intimidated by language barriers: Someone, somewhere can help you. Just imagine, if you are lost at a public bus or el station, you won’t be stuck there forever (unless it’s some freak accident like in the movie The Terminal). Ask the information booth, or just ask around for someone to help in your native tongue. Try long enough and hopefully you’ll find someone. There’s no reason to throw money away on expensive taxis when you could have taken the metro for much less. Try to learn a few words in the country’s native language. It will make getting around on public transit much easier.

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