How using public transportation can get you firsthand information when you travel

7:04 AM

When you plan on going to a new place, you usually start planning your trip in advance. There are many ways to get inside information in advance: browsing the web, talk to friends, connect with locals, etc… However, the courageous ones among you can wait till you get there and start getting firsthand information only while you’re already “on the ground”.

Public transportation creates a scenery for these awkward situations where you find yourself sitting shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers. It’s a unique time slot where you are allowed to just sit and stare around while waiting to arrive at your destination. It's also an opportunity to use this time and try to get useful and up-to-date firsthand information from the person sitting next to you.

Starting a conversation with total stranger is not an easy task for all of us, however being a tourist gives you a great starting point, as locals find tourists more friendly than annoying*.  And as a tourist you are probably in the right mindset to introduce yourself with someone you don’t know**.

*According to PriceLine’s 2014 Tourist Card report  “84% of locals find tourists more friendly than annoying”.  

** “Tourists are up for mingling”, image taken from: Priceline’s tourist card report infographic

. Some recommended practices to start the conversation:

Airplane – As lots of us tend to get a bit tense on airplanes, starting a chit chat with your neighbor can be a great way to discharge it.

Bus – unlike airplanes, where you have no control on the person you will be rubbing elbows against… on buses you sometimes get the chance to choose who to sit next to, so try and pick someone you think can give you the information you are looking for. Don't forget that taking a bus ride is always a great way to discover different aspects of the city: you get the chance to blend with the daily routine of the locals and view different parts of a city, parts you probably won’t get to see following your travel guide book.  

Train – same as on buses: you might get to choose the person to sit next to and if your neighbor is not up to a small-talk, take a walk along the hall and you just might find someone else looking for a conversation.

Taxi – should I say anything more about cab drivers? These guys are just so anxious for a decent conversation; you can usually ask them anything.

UberX, Lyft – these services are part of the growing sharing economy services, enabling anyone to start using his car to take passengers from place to place and make some money. So these services provide a great opportunity to talk with locals and experience the sharing economy.
You can find where these services are available here: Uber, Lyft   

Underground – don’t try it, I wouldn’t…

General guidelines:
-       Present yourself as a tourist (as locals tends to be more patient with tourists)
-       Older people usually has more patience.
-       Smile
-       Say thank you.

Good luck!

You might wanna check this post “How to use popular social apps to connect with real people and locals for travel tipsfor additional ways to find firsthand tips and useful information.

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