Using public transportation on holiday: How to enjoy the ride

I’m not a fan of public transportation.  I live in Lagos, Nigeria and most of the people I know have cars.  This does not mean that most people who live in Lagos have cars but a lot of people here certainly do.  This is why when I go on holiday, I’m never thrilled about using public transportation.  A lot of the time, since I tend to spend less than a week in a particular place, it’s okay (financially) for me to take taxis everywhere. 

The exception to this rule is Paris where I found the Metro quick and comfortable.  I also found the map of the Metro (the underground train system) and the signs at the stations easy to understand.  Public transportation in Lagos, Nigeria is a mess to be honest but Nigeria is a developing country so that’s not surprising.   I was pretty shocked though to find that public transportation in London wasn’t pleasant.  In direct contrast to Paris, I found the map of the London underground train system bewildering and could not understand why a sign in the station would tell you a train is going to one place then take a different route to the place.  I found this out the hard way once.  I got on the Tube expecting to get somewhere only to hear it announced it wouldn’t go through my stop (not because of an accident but just because).  I panicked before studying the map and getting off at the next suitable station.

But that’s not the only reason I’m not crazy about public transportation in London.  The first time I went on holiday alone to London, my friend, Yetunde, and I were sitting and chatting on a train when she suddenly looked down at her feet.  My eyes followed hers and saw a slippered foot dragging Yetunde’s handbag away.  When we politely asked the owner of the foot (a young woman who had a female accomplice with her) why she was trying to steal my friend’s bag, she got up and started yelling obviously looking for a fight.  I clearly saw headlines in my head ‘Nigerian girl is stabbed on train in London’.  Fortunately, we managed to defuse the situation and the girls got off at the next station.  I found it shocking that none of the other passengers chided the girls or attempted to prevent things from escalating into something really nasty.

On a lighter note, there was the time I got on a train to Leicester and fell asleep.  Fortunately, I woke up just as the train was about to leave the station and take me to Scotland or something. Clearly, that episode was my fault though.

Generally, I see taking public transportation in London as an adventure of sorts and go prepared.  I usually have a soft drink on me (though I’m not allowed to drink it on the train apparently) for energy if I discover I’m on the wrong train (again) and hold on to my bag firmly.

Have you ever gotten lost using public transportation on holiday?  What happened?  What have been your best and worst experiences on public transportation while on holiday?

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Photograph by davidhc