Transportation in Your New Location

When you’ve just moved overseas & don’t have a car, you’ll find that buses, trams, trolleys, subways, mono-rails, taxis, 3-wheeled took-tooks, 2-wheeled moto taxis & even the school bus become viable modes of transport. Depending on where you are in the world, the level of convenience & safety you’ll enjoy using these modes of transport can vary greatly & is something you’ll want to seriously consider.

On one hand, having a car may not be advisable due to unaffordability, dense traffic, tricky local traffic regulations, drawn-out registration procedures &/or intense parking problems. In some areas, however, opportunities to share rides may be very few & far between, public transport may be difficult or non-existent. You may find that just to get to work, having a car becomes absolutely essential.

Public & for-hire transportation, however, isn’t exactly trouble free. Being subjected to the prevailing style of driving in some countries, which can range from sane to complete chaos with no regard for stop lights, can be frightening from the back seat of a taxi or rickety old city bus barreling down the road. In some areas, women cannot drive alone. There is also the possibility of being robbed (or worse) when flagging down taxis at random. More than one ISR Review talks about being accosted by a taxi driver at knife-point. Women & families may be especially vulnerable.

I’ll leave the discussion of using public & for-hire transportation at random to those more experienced with it. Your input will be a valued addition to this Blog: Transportation in Your New Location

Owning, or having the use of a school-owned vehicle opens up new horizons in mobility. At 3 schools where I taught, each teacher was supplied with a vehicle. The autonomy a vehicle afforded me, without the responsibility of ownership, was an added perk to an already outstanding benefits package. Public transport is great, but there are times when you just want to jump in, shut the door, turn on the heat/ac & cruise to your destination while enjoying some tunes. With a car you also get to visit places you’d otherwise never get to see.

If your school doesn’t supply you with a vehicle & you’re in the market to buy a one, I recommend you take a look at the ISR Article, Should You Buy a Car Overseas? Here you’ll find extensive information on buying, owning & maintaining a car overseas.

How ever you choose to get around in your new location there are in’s and out’s of using public/for-hire transportation & owning/driving a school-owned vehicle. We invite you to contribute to the Transportation in Your New Location Blog & share experiences, give advice & ask questions. What’s your current transportation situation like?

10 thoughts on “Transportation in Your New Location

  1. I lived in Hangzhou, China for 2 years without a car. I did get an e-bike (electric scooter) my second year, but because of the horrible weather didn’t use it as much as I thought I would. The public transit in China is so good and taxis are so cheap though, I really didn’t miss having a car. I also lived in Kuwait for 3 years without a car, but public transit there is quite difficult as are taxis. I did borrow cars occasionally and although I offered to pay for fuel, the lenders refused, probably because fuel is so cheap there.


  2. was in Africa, originally only got around by bike and taxi, which could be difficult because of my lacking language skills as well as being unfamiliar with the local geography…my 2nd year I got a scooter. That was great! Free to go almost anywhere, any time. A little harrowing at times, but nice to be out in the air, see things up close…


  3. I’ve been at 6 schools and either bought my own car or drove one supplied by the school. Watch out! There are schools out there that make a handsome profit from teachers on their “loaner” cars. I paid $150 a month plus 18cents a mile in Africa. Here in the States, the same wreck would be worth $500 dollars. At least it had AC.

    Buying a car can be a bit tricky and like the author I found it safest and easier to buy a car from a foreigner who was leaving. Having a car opens up so many possibilities that would otherwise not be available. Waiting for buses, dealing with crocked taxi drivers, walking distances in the heat and cold down polluted, dusty streets with stray dogs doesn’t add up to a good experience in my book. Plus, I have two elementary-school age kids and public transportation does not really work when we go out as a family on the weekends or to school and back everyday.

    I did discover teachers at my schools that were always in search of a ride and never chipped in a dime for gas. They acted like a ride was owed them by colleagues. Their daily questioning went like this” “Oh, can you pick me up on your way to school tomorrow?” – “want go to the lake tonight. can you drive?” What time are you leaving school today?” I made a couple of enemies of these folks but in the long run it was for the best. It was hard to drive by them standing on the corner waiting for the school bus. Had just one of them pulled a ten once and while and chipped in for gas I would have felt differently about them as they crammed into the back seat with my kids.


  4. I went a year in urban Japan without my own car (just walked, biked, public transportation) but then decided I wanted some extra autonomy, convenience and freedom. Plus I wanted to get out into the countryside. Buying a car there is very cheap but owning one is expensive (fuel, registration, inspection fees). Nevertheless it was well worth it and I loved my car, plus driving in Japan is easy with wonderful roads and a polite motoring culture (and my school housing had a parking spot). I was able to access many places I would otherwise have been unable to. When I embarked upon the process of getting a license and car shopping, many of my fellow car-less teachers thought I was nuts: “Why would you want a car?” “It sounds like a hassle!” “Too expensive!” “Unnecessary!” “Why don’t you like the subway?”

    Then when I got the car, everybody needed a lift somewhere.


  5. Tokyo Japan- Pedal bike worked best for short distances, public transit rest of the time

    Seoul, Korea- Walked and used public transit

    Dar, Tanzania- my car

    Chennai, India- Local bus, shared tuk tuk (autorickshaw), walking, bike on neighborhood back roads. Regular autorickshaws were cheats!

    Bangkok, Thailand- Public transit, shared back of pick-up trucks (jeepnys) occasional taxi

    Mexico- my car

    Zurich, Switzerland- monthly public transit pass, walking

    Istanbul, Turkey- public transit, walking

    Frankfurt, Germany- my car

    Amsterdam, Netherlands- public transit, pedal bike

    Dubai, UAE- my car


  6. I lived 13 years in Guatemala without a car. The school provides transportation to and from (about 20 minutes in normal traffic). Everything else, grocery, malls, church, was within walking distance, mostly not on busy streets. Some teachers chose to live near the school and they need a car. Definitely not safe to walk on the major highway in front of the school.

    Public transportation improved a lot during my time there but still very crowded during rush hour especially. But REALLY cheap (USD $0.15) Taxis are pretty cheap. You can go most anywhere in town for USD $5 and up to the school for $10. In tourist areas tuk-tuks are very common and cost about $2-3. Parking runs $3-4 so taxis with no worries about traffic, getting lost, and just the general craziness of the other drivers worked for me. Allowed me to save a lot more.

    By far the most dangerous thing in the country is the traffic.


  7. Have had cars in 3 very different countries, 2 came with the job, both without any form of local licence, at one location very vulnerable to police checks so didn’t drive anywhere other than school and shopping, at the other location a big meaty 4 wheel drive much needed for the locale drove everywhere as long as we had our passports. Both locations they were must have where we lived and where school was. One location had many taxis not safe for women to be alone in them. Other location no taxis small place to walk around. 3rd location needed a local licence which you bought off some guy across the road from the police station for real!!!

    In present location have a bought a car easy for expats to do, fortunately we had the funds available, many teachers take out huge loans, long term leasing available but the cost of buying outweighed leasing for us. Great metro system if school and living is alone it. Taxis everywhere and affordable. most schools are no where near where you live hence the reason for buying or leasing it is a have to. Could you get around using taxis alone for sure.

    Other locations great public transport once you knew a bit of the get around language.

    3 locations school transport.

    If you were in your home country you would either have a car, use some form of public transport even car pool, so really no different, once you know how to get from home to school and around you’re set.


  8. I’ve been to many countries and I see little upside to owning a car. Not only is driving dangerous in some countries (Italy) the police are more likely to pull you over based on you being a foreigner (Thailand). In Japan the parking is overpriced (provided you can find a nearby parking lot) and the tax on the used cars makes a buying a car not worth it. Also, if you do get into an accident the courts/judges will be more apt to favor the locals in some countries (Russia)

    I am 100% fine with biking, walking or mass transit (trains & buses). No need for a car and I am saving more money plus reducing my carbon footprint in the process.


  9. Lastly, there’s walking and biking. These options are very difficult due to the heat, rain, poor conditions of sidewalks, roads, and general dangerousness. Yes, the motos, and occasionally cars, will ride on the sidewalk. For many roads off the main road, there are not sidewalks to walk or space to ride a bike. Yes, many Vietnamese people will ride bikes and walk, but they move in and out of the chaos better than expats, but even they get hit, hurt or killed.
    Unfortunately the road conditions, driving conditions, and general transportation in Hanoi is the worst I’ve seen in any of the SE Asian countries and in any part of Vietnam.
    I sincerely hope the conditions improve for everyone’s health and safety.


  10. Although this issue is not my top priority when deciding about a teaching job and living arrangements, it IS a daily obstacle/challenge for me in Hanoi, Viet Nam. There are road rules, but few actually follow the most BASIC road rules (think driving on the right side, stopping at red lights, driving on the ROAD not sidewalk, stopping or parking in the MIDDLE of the main road). There are police, but they mostly take bribes for real or made up infractions. Few police escort VIPs. Even fewer police direct traffic or enforce rules. Public buses are available IF you understand Vietnamese language. School buses may be available, but you may have to bribe someone. Private motorbikes taxis are available, but can be 1) very dangerous, 2) a scam to rip you off, 3) or a decent way to get around town IF you have a trustworthy, reliable and knowledgeable one. Taxis are okay, but can get expensive if used on a daily basis. Rarely, taxis scam you or cheat you. Private cars are too expensive and difficult to park at home or work or around town. Gas is about 3.50 per gallon or $1 per litre.


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