Trains, Coaches and Public Transit in Europe

You name it, I have taken it. I even had the opportunity to acquaint myself with the waterbus while I was in Venice. Public transportation has to be one of the coolest experiences I had while overseas.

Before leaving, I was anxious and nervous that I would have trouble navigating and getting around without a car. My fears were quickly calmed when I arrived and learned how sophisticated and efficient and widely-used public transportation is across the pond. EVERYONE uses it and it is so well regulated that it is hard not to be happy with the experience there.

As a student abroad, it was almost mandatory that I learn the ropes of using the public transportation – especially in Oxford where I was living and going to classes. I often used the buses (called “coaches” over there) and sometimes taxis to get around the city. The buses ran about every 5 minutes to take you all over Oxford and were the easiest way to get to class, the grocery store or the train station. I liked not having to worry about driving a car and parking, especially knowing the reliability of the bus times. I wish this reliability and use of public transit were a reality in America. We could be much more eco-friendly and rely less on cars to get around in a much more efficient way.

Trains, in my opinion, are the best way to really see England and probably most of Europe. If I could travel Europe and only take trains, I would. It is so fun to hop on a train and head to London for the day or head to the south of England for a weekend trip. While in London, I got a taste of using the Underground (subway); it was easy to navigate as long as we knew what stop we needed to get off at. I enjoyed spending time on the train to see the beautiful English countryside and enjoy an hour or two of conversation with my friends.

The only part about trains that make it difficult are changes where you get off the train at a certain station and have to board a new train. There has to be enough time in between train arrival and departure to get to the other platform to board your next train. I found switching trains exciting, though, because I had to try to get the best seat (with a table, of course) and make sure there was enough room for my friends.

I especially enjoyed taking the waterbus around the islands of Venice. I was in Venice for three days and my friend Emily and I bought a weekend waterbus pass to get from island to island. At first it was very confusing to learn how to navigate around Venice. Everything is in Italian and there are no buses or cars on the islands whatsoever. There, all transportation and movement of materials takes place by boat and steel carts. You have to take a bus from the airport to the only bus stop on the edge of the city, and then get to your hotel by waterbus. Every evening, Emily and I would board the waterbus by sunset and take a cruise around all the islands, watching the sun set over the pale orange and red Venetian buildings, often skipping our bus stop on purpose just to float around the city for a little bit longer. I got lost in moments like those and remember them vividly to this day.

I’ll never forget my time in Europe and using these forms of transportation made my experience that much easier and took me places I only imagined I could go. Whether I was taking a trolley system around Dublin or the tube in London, I am so appreciative to have embraced a true local experience using the transportation that the real locals use everyday. Now, being back in San Diego, I feel like this is something we are missing. We do have buses and the trolley and trains, but there are major improvements that need to be made. If you are heading to Europe any time soon, I strongly urge that you make the most of public transportation and use it to get to see all the things you want to see!

Paige Severson is a marketing IMC senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies. This summer, she is traveling to England and studying at Oxford University

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