If there was a subway connoisseur, I would be. Now that I have taken the subway or the subway or the subway in cities like London, New York, Chicago, Paris and Washington DC, I can officially say that the subway is my preferred mode of public transportation.
The metro is an affordable and easy way to get around large cities. It may take a few trips to fully understand what you’re doing, but once you start using the metro you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.
To help anyone new to the metro, here’s a handy guide to making your first metro trip – and all subsequent trips – as easy as possible.
When you first enter the metro station, look around. You’ll see ticket machines, turnstiles, and your new best friend, the metro map. Before you do anything else on the metro, make sure you know which stop you need to get to and how to get there. Note which colored line the station you are in and also which colored line is the stop you want to go to. If they are the same color, so much the better! You just have to take the metro and go to this stop.
If they are not on the same line, you will need to change lines. It might sound intimidating, but I promise that once you’ve done it a few times you’ll wonder why you’ve ever cared. Simply locate the station where the line you are on and the line you want to be on intersect, then go to that station and board the new train. Most metro systems have pocket system cards available. I highly recommend choosing one if you’re worried about getting lost.
Getting a ticket can be an adventure in itself, but as long as you think about how many trips you’ll be taking with a single card, you should be fine. If you’re only in town for vacation, a pass that covers from a day to a week with unlimited rides is probably the way to go. If you only want to make one or two trips, it will probably make more tax sense to pay for each trip separately.
Once you have a ticket, head to the turnstile. Turnstile rule number one is to always have your ticket ready to go. If your ticket is in your purse or wallet, stay away from the turnstile, instead stop near the turnstile but out of the way and pull out the ticket.
Now you are inside the current metro system, and from there it gets a lot easier. You see, my favorite part of the subways is that there are signs everywhere that tell you where to go. Do you remember when you looked at the metro map? Follow the signs to get to the route you want. In some stations, it’s incredibly easy. There are only two platforms, and one train goes one way and the other goes the other way. In some stations, several lines intersect, but the signs will take you to the desired colored line. If you need to get your map out, do so, but make sure you’re not in the walking path when you do.
Once you arrive at the platform of your choice, wait for your train. Some metro systems have signs that tell you when the next train is due, and some systems run their trains on a regular schedule. During rush hour, when people are going to or coming back from work, trains can arrive more often than outside working hours.
If all of this was possible, however, I would avoid the metro during rush hour. It is very crowded, which can make it a nightmare to navigate, and you will likely have to get up on the train. If you find yourself standing, make sure you have a grip or hold onto something. The everyday subway riders around you will likely stay there while the car is moving, but it takes a long time to practice doing this.
When there are a lot of people, I also like to keep a close eye on any bags I may have. I try not to carry large bags, but if you must, hold them or place them on the floor between your feet or on the seat next to you, if possible.
From there, unless you change lines, just wait for your stop and get off. If you find yourself in the wrong direction, which has happened to me several times, don’t panic. Just get off at the next stop and take the train in any direction you want.
After just a few trips, you’ll be a metro enthusiast and become an expert in no time. Hope these tips work for you, but don’t be afraid to change them once you feel comfortable taking the metro. The goal of metro systems is to make your trip as easy as possible, so mix it up and let the metro do the work for you. You will not regret it.
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