How to safely use public transport overseas

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Public transport is arguably the safest and most common way for travellers to get around when they're in a foreign country. After all, it almost always ends up where it's supposed to, and in many places, infrastructure and schedules are incredibly high quality.

Having said that, however, like all methods of travel, it does come with its own unique set of risks.

The good news is that there are ways to keep yourself safe while using public transport overseas, and they're quite easy to put in place.

Know where you're going

While you're not necessarily going to have the best idea of where you are when you're overseas, knowing where you're going can greatly improve your safety. Not only does it help ensure that you get off at the right stop, but it can also make it easier for you to figure out where you're at during your journey.

This means that if you do have to get off unexpectedly, you'll have a better chance of safely finding your way to alternative transport.

Stay in well lit areas

Just like here in Australia, it's a wise choice to stay in well lit areas while waiting for and travelling on public transport overseas.

A high level of visibility makes issues far less likely to occur, while also increasing your chances of receiving assistance in the event that something does happen.

Don't discuss personal information

You never know who can hear your conversation when you're on public transport, so it's a good idea not to discuss any personal information. This includes the hotel you're staying at as well any plans you have for the day.

This may seem excessive, and we know you'll want to chat with your companions about what you're going to be getting up to, but it's better to be safe than sorry and you don't want to increase the risk of being followed when you get off at your stop.

Avoid travelling alone

We know that this isn't always possible, but when it is, you should avoid travelling alone. This is because there really is safety in numbers and you're far less likely to be targeted if you're travelling in a group.

You're also far more likely to be able to get yourself out of a bad situation if you do happen to end up in one, as you'll have back up.

Keep your wits about you

It can be tempting to pop your earphones in and catch up on your favourite podcast or listen to some tunes, but unfortunately this isn't the safest option.

It's important to be able to both see and hear what's going on around you so you can pick up on any danger as quickly as possible, so we suggest staying aware and alert.

Ask a trusted local for safety tips

It's a given that those who live in an area know it best. That's why you should seek advice from a trusted local. They'll know where to avoid and how to act in order to stay as safe as possible, so their advice is worth following.

Hotel staff are one example of a safe contact to ask, and your travel agent can also be a helpful resource, especially if they have a local office.

Carry the recommended safety and security items

There are plenty of items that you can take with you to help make your travels safer. We’ve put together a guide of 16 travel safety and security products that every traveller should have in their suitcase.

Don't let children out of arm's reach

It's an unfortunate reality that children aren't always safe on public transport and other crowded places. To mitigate the risk of travelling with little ones, it is advisable to keep them within arms reach at all times.

Sit as close to the driver as possible

Would-be attackers are far less likely to strike if there's an audience, especially if that audience has some kind of authority. Thanks to this, sitting as close as possible to the driver can offer extra protection when riding on a bus or tram. If you cannot sit near the driver, avoid spaces that are not well lit or are hidden in any way.

Know who to speak to if anything happens

Finally, it is important to know where to go and who to speak to in the event that something does happen. After all, although it's perfectly fine to hope for the best, you should always prepare for the worst.

Knowing who the emergency contacts are in any location you intend on visiting before you go there is a wise move, and we also suggest being aware of where they are located in relation to your accommodation

A note on taxis and other private transport

When travelling overseas it is recommended that you only ever use official transportation. While taxis and ubers generally fall into this category, many other third party driver services do not.

As you are unfamiliar with the area, getting into a car with someone you don't know can be quite dangerous so it is important to avoid this type of situation if at all possible. Apps that allow you to share and track your ride are your best option if you're using private transportation, and you should always double check the licence plate before getting in.

When travelling in a taxi or rideshare in a foreign country, it is a good idea to take additional steps to help ensure your safety. Having your hotel or the airport book a cab for you, for example, is highly recommended as they're local and will know which companies are trustworthy.

It's also important to either ensure that the cab driver uses their meter, or agree on a price up front so you don't end up getting ripped off at your destination.

Final word

Public transport is often the cheapest, safest and easiest way to get around when you're travelling, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's safe. When travelling on public transport or in a taxi or uber in a foreign country, it's imperative to keep your wits about you and follow these tips in order to ensure that your trip is as safe as possible.

Jessica Jones
Written by
Jessica Jones
Jess has been writing educational content for almost ten years with a focus on lifestyle content. She loves coffee, dogs and all things fitness, and can often be found with her nose buried in a book and her music blaring through her earphones.

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