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The Best and Worst of European Public Transport

December 11, 2017

Before coming abroad, I was told that I would absolutely love using public transport, so this was the expectation I had. However, after two months of using public transport every day, I have come to the conclusion that I really do not like public transport for daily use, but that it’s really great when I travel. Different cities handle public transport in different ways and I decided to rank the public transport of 5 major cities I’ve traveled to.

1. Paris

I’m really biased toward German efficiency, but I have to admit that Parisians have the Germans beat when it comes to public transport. I fully expected the public transport in Paris to be super complicated and expensive, but it was neither. For five days and $45 I could travel around nearly all of Paris via any bus, subway, or train I wanted to. Subways came every few minutes, so it wasn’t a big deal if my friends and I missed the one we needed. Transfers were a breeze and the stations had plenty of signs without being overwhelming. Keep in mind this is coming from someone who speaks absolutely no French. The transportation also ran late at night, so we didn’t have to worry too much about times to get back to our stay. My only complaint about the exceptional system was that the ticket was fairly small and could have been easily lost. But overall, I would give Paris public transport 5/5 stars.

2. Munich

Though I wasn’t in Munich for very long (three days), I found the public transport system very effective. I don’t remember exactly how much it cost for a three-day travel pass, but I think it was around $25. I really appreciated how modern the Ubahn trams were and they seemed very clean, especially for it having been Oktoberfest when tons and tons of people were using them. I felt like it was very easy to find a public transport stop; when I stopped and turned in a circle I could almost always spot two or three stops for the Ubahn and Sbahn. I didn’t use any of the aboveground trams, but it was nice to know that was also an option. Munich gets a 4/5 stars.

3. Berlin

I was honestly disappointed by Berlin’s public transport. I had high expectations for such a booming city, but I was a little bit let down. As with Paris and Munich, I was able to purchase a multi-day pass. I also don’t remember exactly how much it cost, but I do remember thinking it was a little bit pricey for just a few days. Similar to Paris, the Ubahn ran very frequently; however, unlike Paris, I found it difficult to read the maps and signs in the stations…and I actually do speak enough of the language. Bus stops were a little bit difficult to find, and I had a bad interaction with a bus driver. I fully expected the Ubahn to run 24/7 in a city known for its extreme night life, but that wasn’t the case and because of that, I ended up spending the night in the airport in order to make my flight on time in the morning. The public transport was the definition of mediocre. 3/5 stars for Berlin.

4. Amsterdam

I was only in Amsterdam for half of a day and my public transport use was only by train. The ticket machines were easy to find and had an option for English (thank goodness, there’s no way I would be able to interpret Dutch). I have two main complaints about Amsterdam’s system. 1. It was very expensive. A one day pass cost approximately $60, so needless to say I definitely didn’t purchase it. Nonetheless to get from the airport to our stay (x2) and in to the inner city, I still ended up spending around $20, which I found to be extremely expensive when compared to how much I paid to travel Paris for five days. Second complaint: the trains did not run frequently at all. I felt like too much of my time in Amsterdam was waiting for a train to come. Maybe my friend and I just didn’t know the best ways to travel in Amsterdam, but my initial impression of the public transport is poor. Overall, Amsterdam gets 2.5/5 stars from me.

5. Dublin

The Irish may be a very friendly people group, but their public transport definitely needs some help. The city offered buses, trams, and trains, but my friend and I found bus transport to be the most popular. I honestly didn’t feel super safe on the buses due to the driver’s driving; quite honestly, I tried to keep my eyes closed most of the time. Only about half of the buses we took actually told us what stop we were approaching, which made it very difficult for us to figure out if we were at the right stop or not, especially because the bus does not stop at every stop like German trams do. There was even a time when my friend and I were at a stop and flagged the bus down, only for the bus to continue past our stop, leaving us to have to take an expensive taxi ride back because no more buses were coming for the night. Many of the stops had very similar names, which made the whole ordeal even more confusing. My friend and I used the tram once, which was fine, but the sign displaying the next stop was broken and if we weren’t carefully listening, we definitely would have missed our stop. As far as the trains go, we had to very carefully plan our day because they didn’t come frequently at all. All said and done, Dublin gets 1/5 stars for it’s public transport.

Though I’m not the biggest fan of public transport, it’s been fun and challenging to learn how it operates in different cities! Here’s to learning more transport systems!

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