If there were such a thing as a subway connoisseur, I would be one. Now that I’ve taken the subway or Tube or Metro in such cities as London, New York City, Chicago, Paris and Washington D.C., I can officially say that the subway is my favorite mode of public transportation.
The subway is an affordable and easy way to get around big cities. It may take a few trips to get a firm grasp on what you’re doing, but once you start using the subway, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without.
To help all you subway newbies out there, here is a handy guide to make your first time taking the subway trip – and any subsequent trips – as hassle free as possible.
When you first walk into the subway station, take a look around. You’ll see ticket dispensers, turnstiles and your new best friend, the subway map. Before doing anything else on the subway, make sure you know what stop you need to go to and how to get there. Note what color line the station you are at is on and also what color line the stop you want to go to is on. If they are the same color, great! You just have to get on the subway and go to that stop.
If they aren’t on the same line, you’ll have to switch lines. This may seem intimidating, but I promise, once you do it a few times you’ll wonder why you were ever worried. Simply locate the station where the line you’re on and the line you want to be on intersect, then travel to that station and get on the new train. Most subway systems have pocket size maps of the system available. I highly recommend picking one of this up if you’re at all worried about getting lost.
Getting a ticket can be an adventure in and of itself, but as long as you think about how many trips you’ll be making on one card, you should be fine. If you’re only in town for vacation, a pass that covers anywhere from a day to a week with unlimited rides is probably the way to go. If you just want to make one or two trips, it will probably be more fiscally sound to pay for each trip separately.
Once you have a ticket, make your way to the turnstile. The number one rule of the turnstile is to always have your ticket ready to go. If your ticket is in your purse or wallet, do not step up to the turnstile but instead stop near the turnstile but out of the way and get the ticket out.
Now you’re inside the actual subway system, and from here, it gets much easier. See, my favorite part of subways is that there are signs everywhere that point you where to go. Remember when you looked at the subway map? Follow the signs to get you to the route you want. In some stations, this is incredibly easy. There are only two platforms, and one train goes one way and the other goes the other way. In some stations, there are multiple lines that intersect, but the signs will get you to the color line you want. If you need to pull out your map, do it, but make sure you aren’t in the walking path when you do so.
Once you make it to the platform you want, wait for your train. Some subway systems have signs that let you know when the next train will be coming, and some systems run their trains on a regular schedule. During rush hours when people are going or coming from work, trains may come more often than on off-hours.
If it all possible, however, I would avoid the subway at rush hour. It’s crowded, which can make it a nightmare to navigate, and you will probably have to stand up while on the train. If you find yourself standing up, make sure you have a handhold or brace yourself against something. Everyday subway riders around you will probably just stand there as the car moves, but it takes a long time to train yourself to do that.
When there are a lot of people around, I also like to keep a close eye on any bags I may have. I try not to carry large bags around, but if you have to do that, hold on to them or place them on the ground between your feet or on the seat next to you, if possible.
From here – unless you’re switching lines – all you have to do is wait until your stop and get off. If you find yourself going the wrong way, which has happened to me several times, don’t panic. Just get off at the next stop and switch to the train going the way you want to be going.
After only a few trips, you’ll be subway-adept, and you’ll be an expert in no time. I hope these tips work for you, but don’t be afraid to change it up once you get comfortable taking the subway. The goal of subway systems is to make your journey as hassle-free as possible, so mix it up and let the subway work for you. You won’t regret it.