What Do You Need to Know Before Taking Public Transport in Your Area?

Aliff Azhar
Mar 24, 2020 · 6 min read

NOTE: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic, I discourage you from actively going around especially by public transportation. Only take this article as handy information to get to know further about public transport. Always keep up to the latest news, practice social distancing and more importantly, maintain your hygiene.

Do you just moved into a new area? Do you need to go around but don’t have the means to own a car?

One of the cheapest ways to go around your area is by taking public transport. But since you are pretty new in your place, how can you possibly get to know more information about getting around without having the need to drive?

With the Internet, you can simply get such info on your fingertips. Yup! Oh wait, still have no idea? No worries, I am here to show you how :D

First thing first: Google Maps

No, that’s not my phone, LOL. Photo by henry perks on Unsplash

I’m sure you know about Google Maps already. It’s pretty much a must-have app nowadays (at least I do). But just in case if you still don’t have it on your device, you can simply download the app either on the App Store or Google Play. Alternatively, you can also access the web version right here.

Okay now, you fire up the Google Maps and search the name of your area. From there, you can zoom or scroll around the map and see if you can see any stop or station symbols within it.

In my example below, I searched “Hotel 19”, which is one of the hotels available in George Town, Penang. Around and nearby the hotel, I noticed that there are a couple of bus stops, as well as a ferry terminal.

This screenshot was taken by me.

Since the nearest bus stop is at the ferry terminal, I would check out if there’s any active bus services.

This screenshot was taken by me.

Oh great, there are buses running, and some more, it’s the main bus station. Let’s see if I can get more information on the timetables and bus routes.

There it is. Simply click on the “see departure board” button, and it will display the timings of the bus routes. Perfect! Now you can just hop on the bus based on the schedules on Google Maps, right?

Well, here comes a question.

Is Google Maps really that reliable?

As much as I want to say “yes”, well, it actually depends. In some areas, the transport authority constantly updates the latest information on Google Maps, and some even have real-time data on the app, which indicates in green color.

But it’s not always the case. In Penang for instance, the public transport timings, especially the bus data, tend to be outdated. It can be a frustrating experience when you want to hop on a certain timing but ended up having to wait longer than expected or even missed the bus or train.

Psst! If you are traveling around Penang, I would recommend downloading the Moovit app as the data is more up-to-date and has real-time arrivals too! Download on the App Store or Google Play. You can access the web version here too.

What if you are still clueless?

If you still have no idea where to hop on a certain bus or train or need more information, you can:

Go to a nearby information center

Photo by Laurentiu Morariu on Unsplash

Normally any transportation stations will have at least an information center for anyone to ask for more info or clarity on taking the bus or train.

Simply ask the representatives there or pick any available brochures or paper maps (if any) to get a better idea of how the bus or train runs.

Ask a local

Photo by Janis Oppliger on Unsplash

If there’s no nearby information center, it’s a good idea to ask anyone you encountered, and don’t be shy.

Normally, locals know better on using public transit in their areas, so it is always good to clarify with them on which bus or train to hop on and where to hop off.

If you are staying in a hotel, you can even ask the receptionist.

Do a Google search

Photo by Edho Pratama on Unsplash

If you don’t like asking people, then Google search should be your friend. Simply search like “getting around [your area] by [transportation mode]” would do the trick. E.g.: “getting around Penang by bus”.

There will be a lot of results popping out on the first page, so just click on any links that deemed relevant and read through. Some information may be inaccurate, so keep that in mind and not take the information there seriously if that’s the case.

What if there’s no public transport available in my area?

Some areas don’t have a proper public transportation system and it seems that you may have no choice but need to rent a car or a motorbike (or even buy one!).

But don’t give up just yet!

If you are open to booking an e-hailing ride, then you may want to check out if any e-hailing or ride-sharing apps are available in your area. Again, just search on Google with phrases like “[ride-sharing company name][area name]” like for example: “uber penang”.

By taking the example of “uber penang”, it shows a couple of questions related to it, which includes using the Grab app instead.

It suggests using Grab as Uber is not available anymore. This screenshot was taken by me.

Of course, you can opt to hop on the taxi if you want to, but many people nowadays (including myself) prefer to book through an e-hailing app.

Also in some places, there are other informal transportation options, which you may not be able to find info online. This may include minivans, tricycles, jeepneys, tuk-tuks, and so on. So again, it is best to ask a local or anyone that you encountered as they may have a better knowledge of using them.

Jeepneys in the Philippines. Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

If you want to take public transportation as a means to get around your area, it is best to get to know it beforehand. Nowadays, it is easier to search for further information online regarding public transportation, but at the same time, it can be overwhelming. Hopefully what I mentioned above would help you in planning your journey using public transport.

I would recommend using Moovit if you intend to navigate around and plan your journey using buses, trains, or any other transportation means. Don’t know how to use it or not heard of the app before? Click here to download my guide!

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