Public Transportation Systems

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Public Transportation Systems

One of the things that surprises many newcomers to life in the tropics is how developed the public transportation systems are.  While air service does exist in many locations the most used systems are normally some type of ground transportation.

These include:

  • Taxi Cab Service
  • Uber Service
  • Local and National Bus Service
  • Train Service

We will  discuss each in more detail below.

Taxi Cab Service

Taxi Cab
Taxi Cab

One of the most flexible ways to get around a city or town is the traditional taxi cab service.   Most towns have one or more taxi companies and with a little practice with the local language you can call for a taxi to come pick you up and take you to your desired destination.

In high foot traffic areas such as  a grocery store, or the town center taxis can be found simply raising your hand and waving as they approach.  It is not uncommon to share the cab with strangers when you solicit a ride in this manner.

If you can, inquire beforehand as to the fare. Foreigners often pay a premium so knowing how fares are billed and what the correct fare is, in advance, can save many an argument before it has an opportunity to begin.

Uber Service

The privately owned Uber service is modernizing the taxi industry wherever it is in operation.  With Uber you sign up online  for an uber account, download their smartphone application and schedule a ride using your smartphone.  Before confirming the ride you are shown what your fare is and if you accept the quoted fare, the driver comes and picks you up.

Uber Private Taxi
A better taxi Uber

Uber drivers drive their personal vehicles and Uber requires the driver to maintain his or her vehicle in a clean condition. After you complete your ride the Uber applications asks you to rate the driver and their car. Overall we have found Uber fares to be competitive, the condition of the vehicles far superior and the Uber customer service much better than public taxi cabs.

Local and National Bus Service

Red Devils, Local Bus Service

Many of the inner city bus drivers drive privately owned converted school busses.  There seems to be a prize awarded for best street art because many of these busses are extravagantly painted.  Locals often refer to these busses as diablos rojos or red devils.

Red Devils are not very expensive, and fares seem to be the same for locals and expatriates.  The only real complaints are the seats are not very comfortable and the drivers are crazy.

National bus service is typically a step up although I have read horror stories about bus service in Laos.  In our personal experience national bus service ranges from fair to luxurious with entertainment, meals and drinks served similar to business class on an airline.

luxury bus
Going in style on a Luxury bus

Overnight luxury bus service even comes with seats that can fold down to horizontal for sleeping.

An interesting  thing about bus transport is  it is inexpensive and available everywhere there are people.

Train Public Transportation

Similar to bus transportation train public transportation can be divided into inner city metro line service and long distance cross country service. In order to reduce traffic congestion a number of cities have constructed

commuters rail
Moving people within a city

light rail and or subway systems to move people around the city. These systems are typically competitively priced with city bus services.

For country wide rail service the typical rail service is again competitive with bus service and typically is more comfortable with amenities such as a food coach and viewing coaches to allow the passengers to relax and enjoy the scenery. Finañy rail service tends to be both smoother and quieter than bus service making it a pleasant alternative.


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