Planning your transport for your gap year is really important. Once you've bought your main flights, you need to start thinking about how you're going to move around the countries that you're visiting, be that exploring the city of Bangkok, or getting from the east to the west coast of the USA.
It's also important to bear in mind that transport will take a chunk of your budget, so make sure you have at least a vague plan of what you'll be doing and seeing, and set aside money accordingly. Of course, there is no need to plan your travel within a destination down to granular detail (one of the most exciting things about travelling is being spontaneous) but you should have a rough idea.
Travel within a country or region will differ massively depending on what part of the world you are in: a bus journey from the south to north of Thailand, for example, is a whole different experience to taking the Bullet Train in Japan. The other thing to think about is how independent you want to be. This will depend on the country to an extent. For example, many people choose to explore Australia by campervan, whereas in somewhere like Laos this wouldn't really be possible. Whatever you decide, try to use the local transport at least once in every country you visit: it gives a great insight to how that place runs on a day to day basis, and can be quite an adventure in itself!
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Different Types of Transport
The type of transport you opt for will often depend quite heavily on the country you are in, and the kinds of things you want to do. And even specific types of transport, like trains, will differ quite a bit depending on where you are. An overnight sleeper in India, for example, will be a totally different experience to the Euro Star from London to Paris!
Buses are the stalwarts of backpacker transport: hardworking, loyal and ubiquitous around the world. You just cannot avoid them, even if you want to. In places like South East Asia, particularly countries without railways, buses remain the best bet for cheap, long distance transport.
They're rarely comfortable and they're very rarely pretty, but they will do the job of getting you from A-B, and sometimes that's all you need. In developing countries buses usually fall into two categories: local buses and tourist buses. The latter are more expensive, but usually more comfortable and fast, not to mention easier to use. You think the language barrier is stressful when ordering food in a restaurant? Try dealing with it when you're trying to catch a local bus from Kathmandu to Tibet.
Trains are just awesome. They are the best form of transport and always will be. You get to see the region you are travelling through. There is plenty of space to walk around and stretch your legs whenever you please. The toilets are usually tolerable, or at least usable, unlike on buses.
Crashes are extremely unlikely, and even if there is one your chances are pretty good. Trains are also the best way to travel overnight, as most that run through the night have sleeper compartments, where you can just chill out and fall asleep to the rhythmic rocking on the rails. Trains are also a really eco-friendly way to travel. If you're planning on travelling around Europe, by far the best way to do it is to InterRail.
Sometimes, especially if you're on a tight time schedule and need to cover distance fast, domestic flights are the best option. In places like Thailand and India they are surprisingly cheap, often not much more than the overland alternative. Tickets are easy to buy and rarely sell out in the way that long haul flights do. Sometimes you'll just feel a bit fed up and jaded of overland travel, and planes offer a welcome break from this.
When you're exploring a specific place, like a city, you'll need to use localised transport. The type of transport that this is will depend on where you are. In South East Asian cities and on the Indian subcontinent, for example, you'll most likely find yourself buzzing about in tuk-tuks at some point.
While they initially appear to be a death trap, they're actually quite good fun and very cheap. For a slightly more comfortable and safer ride, you'll find taxis in pretty much any settlement on the planet. The key thing to remember is to agree on a reasonable price before you set off. This avoids those awkward encounters at the end of the journey when the driver demands an obscene amount of money for thr service.
Campervans and Cars
Campervans and cars are perfect for Westernised places like Australia and the USA, which are enormous and full of off the beaten track locations that aren't possible to reach by train or bus. They also give you a wonderful feeling of independence: you become your own tour guide, you decide exactly where you're going and when, and how long you're going to stay. One thing to bear in mind is to budget for fuel: some countries will be cheaper than others, but the cost can really rise in out of the way areas in general, like the Australian Outback. Insurance is absolutely essential: don't scrimp out thinking that you'll be fine, you could end up with a painfully expensive bill for damage.
If you want to visit those splodges of paradise commonly known as the Thai islands, or the Whitsundays in Australia, or anywhere else inaccesible by land, you'll need to take a boat. The cost of boat transport will depend on the country, but it's usually pretty safe where ever you are, which is the important thing. It's unusal to travel long distance on a boat (unless you're on a cruise, obviously), and you can usually organise this type of transport without too much planning.
Articles and Advice on Transport
Getting around on your gap year is one of the most important things to consider, so we have a whole section of articles dedicated just to transport. We've picked out a few of our favourite below; for the full list just click that big blue button at the bottom.
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