If you travel around, you will probably use taxis,cars, buses, motorbike (or any combination) during your trips. While they enable you to travel around, these vehicules and their drivers can also cause you quite some problems if you are not careful. Here are a few tips to make sure you have a enjoyable trip.
- Confirm that the driver will use the taxi meter (if not you can always pick another cab). Don’t hesitate to step out of the car if you cannot agree with the driver. If you are in a city, there are no reason why you should agree on a set price rather than the meter. In most cases, the meter will be more cost effective for you.
- Put your seat-belt on (if there is one). It’s not for the seat belt effect but to decrease the chances of being injured during an accident.
- Keep your valuables away from the windows (in case someone try to get your bag by the window).
- Check if the price is by person or by car to avoid surprises and discussions when you need to pay.
- Confirm the maximum number of people that will sit in the car and how the price is derived for each. This can help you avoid being stuck at 7 passengers in a private car that you hired but that will pick up a few extra passengers on the way (and ride for free…).
- Check the car condition (do you think it will be able to make it?)
- Check the driver as well. Does he seem to be able to see correctly? Is he under the influence of any substance that could put you in danger?
- When traveling in buses, your seat can make a real difference. Usually it’s wise to avoid the last rows as it can be quite packed and you get the engine noise and heat. Forget about your school days where sitting in the back was “cool”. Have your transport essentials easily reachable.
- Check the aircon fan above your head (there is nothing worse than travelling in a freezing bus without being able to close the air fan on top of your head)
- Pick your neighbour: the guy who travels with his chicken seems cool and can speak English? Go seat next to him!
- Ask locals or the driver for help and confirm the destination. Most of the time, there is no indication of where they are going.
- Check what price are paying the locals and pay the same. You can ask your neighbour to show you how much to pay (in case you cannot understand the numbers).
Check the motorbike condition. Pay special attention to the following very useful things:
- Brakes: obvious but never careful enough. Test both brakes (hand and foot)
- Direction: check that you can turn all the way right and left
- Lights: you would usually rent your bike in the morning, but nights come quite early in a lot of countries…
- Tires: check the tires conditions. If it’s very used, you have more chances to get a flat tire and you will get less adherence to the road.
- Seat: you are going to spend a lot of time on this, so make sure it’s comfortable
- Honk: in some countries it’s the best (only?) way to alert people on the road that you are coming. Also comes handy to push animals out of the road.
- Case: ideally you want to put a lot of things in your case so that you don’t have anything hanging on you while you drive. If the case if dirty of full of fuel or oil, ask to have it cleaned.
- The best is to ask to test drive the motorbike for a few minutes to test all these before you sign anything (you can leave a document with the renter as a guarantee). In remote places, there a little chance that you will find a motorbike that meets all the
- Take a look at the contract you sign (and the clauses about accident or deposit). Always take the phone number of the person who rents you the motorbike and ask what is the emergency number in the country.
- Don’t expect to be able to count the kilometers as you go. Usually the bikes have their speedometer, tachometer and fuel gauges disabled… So don’t plan your trip by saying ” after 5 km, turn right”, because you will never know when you reach 5km. Try to get some reference points that local people would know (after the temple X or after crossing the river Z).
Regardless of the vehicle, your job is to find the right balance between safety and connection with the world around you. We’re all different so pick the means that suits you best and enjoy your trip. In a lot of countries in the region, the journey is as (or more!) interesting as the destination.