“I have some trips coming up in Asia and am wondering how you get into the city or city limits to get to your accommodation after the flight. This is assuming that you don’t have a friend to pick you up. So how do you personally get in, with a tight budget in mind?”-Jason H.
Los Angeles, USA
Getting to your accommodation or just the city after a long ass flight in a foreign country could be hectic and frustrating. So the easiest is obviously a taxi.
But it’s the most expensive, by far.
Despite the cost, there are certain times I opt for a taxi. Such as if I’m arriving late night or if I’m in a hurry and I just want to get the hell out of there.
Pro tip: All major international airports and most smaller ones have official airport taxi stations, find and use these. Rates are often flat according to the city neighborhood and almost no chance of getting ripped off unlike with the “straggler” cabbies.
You would think that Uber or Grab would be the best choice, but it’s not. At least if you’re a foreigner without a local mobile phone number. Also…
For starters, I’ve come across many airports that ban those services altogether so that’s that. The other problem is drivers often ignore potential customers if they can’t call you. But this is rarely if ever a problem in normal (non-airport) situations.
All major airports will have a robust bus or train system that can take you anywhere within reason. It’s always the cheapest choice, by far.
They’re about 10 to 30 times cheaper than a taxi to the same destination. But it’s not convenient, it takes work and a little research to find your bus / train.
First find your route and line. Pick up points are rarely in just one big area, you typically have to navigate to the right one and may be in completely different parts of the terminal. You also have to figure out if you have to buy a ticket in advance or as you board.
Pro tip: Big airports will have details online but only use it as a guideline. Schedules and lines change all the time so you need up-to-the-minute info. Always ask the staff, even if only to confirm.
As mentioned, by train or bus is the cheapest way out of the airport and into the city. But in my opinion, it’s not because it’s the cheapest that it’s the best.
Although English will be widely used and available in any major airport, using the public transportation system of a foreign country as your first task is a good way to start assimilating into the new culture.
While far from “culture shock” level, you’ll get to communicate with locals to get your ride and also ride together with them. But personally, I like the view and experience of a long and typically in-depth bus ride through the city. It gives you a good feel for a place.