An A-Z of Transportation Around the World

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No matter how you slice it, travel is an enriching experience for kids. Exposing your kids to new sights and sounds does wonders to influencing how they see the world around them. One of the many new things kids can experience during travel is transportation. From tuk-tuks to rickshaws, motorcycles to horses, people around the world have found unique ways of transporting themselves from one place to another.

Whether you’re planning a family trip, or just interested in seeing how the rest of the world moves around, here’s a fun A-Z of transportation around the world that you can experience with your kids.

One of the most popular modes of transportation is the automobile, more commonly known as cars. For my family, we love traveling around the United States by car as it affords us the freedom to go wherever we want, at whatever pace we want.

This is the cheapest form of transportation in many parts of the world. As a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, I logged many miles on my bike, and while visiting Angkor Wat in Cambodia, my traveling companions and I rented bikes to go from temple to temple. It’s often a great way to see a country.

You can find cabs, also known as taxis, in every city in the world. Some countries only have metered cabs, while in other countries, you almost always have to haggle a price. Be sure you know what you’re getting into when taking a cab.

One of my dear friends, Lydia, used to race dogsleds when she was younger. In fact, she actually made the cover of a dogsledding magazine, though if you ask her about it, she’ll probably downplay her accomplishments. Although dogsledding is not that common of a mode of transportation, in the northern parts of the world, people still use dogsleds to travel from place to place.

Elevated Train
Many cities have elevated trains as part of their public transportation system. This is often the case when an underground train system may not be feasible. You can find elevated trains in cities like Chicago, Seattle, and London.

Here in Seattle, riding a ferry boat is the preferred method of transportation to travel to and from the islands of the Puget Sound. These boats transport hundreds of cars and people around the Puget Sound on a weekly basis.

A ferry boat as a mode of transportation in water
The Vashon Island ferry boat (2014)

In 2008, my husband and stepson took their first overseas trip to Italy. On the island of Venice, the most well-known mode of transportation are gondolas, long canoe-like boats steered by a gondolier. In actuality, as I learned from my husband, only tourists ever take gondolas around the island, as most locals prefer taking the cheaper water taxis.

In the Mindanao region of the Philippines, the theme for transportation is to get as many people on a vehicle as possible. A habal-habal is a motorcycle with an extender seat to accommodate more people. Sadly, we didn’t get to see these in action while we were in the Philippines as we didn’t get to visit Mindanao, but maybe next time.

In parts of the world where snow is predominant, iceboats serve to make travel more accessible. Iceboats are sailboats with runners or skis along the bottom to facilitate gliding along the ice.

In the Philippines, the most famous mode of transportation are jeepneys, which are old World War II jeeps that have been extended and enhanced with colorful decorations. Jeepneys are a pretty cheap form of transportation in the Philippines, and operate much like buses do, driving along a certain route.

Also in the Philippines are horse-drawn carriages known as kalesas that take tourists through the historic parts of Manila. We got to ride one of these while visiting Manila as a family in 2012.

Transportation using a horse drawn carriage
Riding a kalesa in Manila (July 2012)

Land Rover
Dirt roads are common in West Africa, and the cars that seem to handle the terrain the best are Land Rovers. When I was in the Peace Corps in Togo, these vehicles were synonymous with aid workers, who sped along the roads in climate-controlled bliss.

In New York City, the only mode of transportation we took (besides the taxi to and from the airport) was the city’s subway system, known as the Metro. With Metro lines to virtually every part of the city, it was actually more convenient and cheaper than renting a car.

Navy submarine
Though most navy submarines are not available for use unless you’re in the Navy, there are plenty of out of commission ones open to the public for tours. One such navy submarine is the USS Torsk, which we visited in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

In Indonesia, motorcycles, known as ojeks, can take you almost anywhere for a small fee. This concept of motorcycle for hire is common in other parts of the world as well.

It wasn’t that long ago when plane travel was reserved only for the well-to-do. These days, plane travel is quite common, and can be relatively inexpensive.

Sunset from the plane on the way to Togo (September 2004)

A quadruped is the term for any four legged animal. In some parts of the world, travel by animal is still an everyday mode of transportation. For tourists, you can experience horse-drawn carriage rides in cities like New York or Jakarta.

Many countries have their own version of rickshaws, passenger carts powered by a man, bicycle, or motorized vehicle. Indonesia’s version of the rickshaw is the becak, with the passenger cart attached to the front of a bicycle. In the United States, we call these pedicabs.

In major cities like London, Singapore, Paris, and New York, the subway is the way to go. These underground trains take you around the city in minutes for only a few dollars. It beats sitting in a traffic jam!

A tuktuk is Thailand’s version of a motorized rickshaw, a three-wheeled vehicle that carries two to three passengers. In India, these vehicles are called autos. And in Indonesia, they are called bajais.

Three-wheeled auto rickshaws, a cheap mode of transportation in Indonesia
A bajai driving through the streets of Jakarta (July 2012)

Underwater Train
Throughout history, people have tried to figure out how to traverse large bodies of water. In the age of high speed trains, this solution comes in the form of underwater trains, traveling through tunnels connecting one land mass to another. One of the most famous underwater train tunnel is the Chunnel, which connects the United Kingdom with France.

Scooters such as Vespas, are cheap and easy to come by, and make traveling through a city quick and convenient. In Ubud, for instance, you can rent scooters for a relatively cheap price and explore the city and its surroundings with ease.

Water taxi
Cities built around water often have water taxis or boats that shuttle passengers across the water. Vancouver, Canada’s water taxis, for example, transport passengers from Granville Island to other parts of the city.

Okay, so this one is a bit of a stretch. In cities with a public transportation system, such as a train, subway, or bus, there are often two distinct lines: the Local, which makes visits at every stop along the route, and the Express, which skips a few stops along the designated route. Often, when we’re in cities with public transportation, we enjoy taking the Express lines as it takes us where we want to go faster.

The most basic mode of transportation are your own two feet. In many parts of the world, walking is still the main form of transportation. When I was living in Togo, people from my village would walk 7 kilometers to a nearby town for market day, carrying the goods they were planning on selling in large basins on their heads.

Men walking along the road in Togo (February 2005)

Zip line
Again, this one is also somewhat of a stretch, as a zip line is less a mode of transportation and more of an activity. However when it comes to experiencing a forest, nothing beats zooming across the trees. Costa Rica, who has a fantastic ecotourism industry, has many wonderful zip line tours for tourists. Even within my area of Washington state, there are several companies offering zip line tours throughout the various national and state parks.

There is so much diversity in the way people around the world move from one destination to another. What amazes me most, though, is how much more accessible transportation around the world is than even twenty years ago. Within only a few days of travel time, my kids and I can essentially go from a bustling metropolis like New York city to a remote farm in Ghana. The more I travel, the more I realize how small this world actually is.

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Hi, I'm Astrid

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I'm a travel-loving mom of three from Seattle. Join our adventures as we explore the Pacific Northwest and the world!

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