Distinct characteristics of culture, climate and landscape have led to some unique, and sometimes unusual, methods of moving from A to B. From gliding in a gondola along the canals of Venice to zip-lining above the rainforest canopy in Costa Rica, there are more interesting ways to travel than the conventional cars, trains and buses. Here are some of our favourite forms of transport from around the world.
Hop on a Jeepney in the Philippines
Originally made from surplus US military jeeps left after World War II, Jeepneys are the most popular means of public transport in the Philippines. The name is thought to be either a portmanteau of “jeep” and “jitney” (the latter being a popular term for a taxicab), or a combination of the words “jeep” and “knee”, due to the crowded seating arrangements! Although we’re still not absolutely certain where the word came from, we do know where these colourful mini buses are going; jeepneys follow regular routes but offer flexibility for pick-up and drop-off points.
Explore the Okavango Delta in a Mokoro
The most enchanting way to see Botswana's Okavango Delta is from the mokoro, a traditional canoe-like vessel propelled with a pole (think punting) through reed-lined channels by expert locals. Originally they were crafted from hollowed-out tree trunks, but for environmental reasons they’re now made from moulded fibre-glass – although this does nothing to reduce their charm. As you glide peacefully along the waterways, you’ll feel intimately connected to the wildlife and landscape.
Ride the Shinkansen, Japan’s bullet train network
The bullet train has long been a symbol for Japanese efficiency. With a maximum speed of 320km/h, they’re some of the fastest trains on Earth, and are renowned for their comfort, safety, and above all, punctuality. Most trains depart on time to the second.
The Shinkansen network centres on Tokyo, and serves most of the country’s major cities.
Go mushing with huskies in Scandinavia, Canada, and Alaska
There’s a reason we call them man’s best friend. Dogs have been close companions to people throughout history in cultures all around the world. In few places have they played such a vital role as they have in those places with harsh winters - places like northern Scandinavia, northern Canada, and Alaska. Survival in these regions may have been impossible without the help of the sled dog in transporting food, firewood, clothing, and post between settlements. Today, the snowmobile fulfils this function, but dog sledding is still popular, now in racing communities or as a tourist attraction. As you get to know your team of four to six huskies, you’ll be struck by how much they love the work they do, and you’ll find there are no greater friends with which to see the snowy, blanket-white landscapes at the extremes of the Earth.
Zip line above rainforest canopies in Costa Rica
Nowhere does recreational zip-lining better than Costa Rica. Modern canopy tours were invented in the 1970s by the US biologist Donald Perry in order to study the rainforest canopies. They’ve since become a major tourist attraction, commonly with the emphasis on thrills more than research! At any rate, strapping on a harness and whizzing from tree to tree on a zip line will give you a unique perspective on the country’s most beautiful natural spaces.
Hail a Songthaew in Thailand
The songthaew is the most common form of public transport in many of the towns and cities of Thailand. Literally meaning “two rows”, these converted pick-up trucks are so-called for the two rows of passenger seating in the back. A songthaew can carry 8-10 passengers (or a couple more if anyone’s happy to hang off the bumper out the back), and come in different colours which indicate the route they follow. To hail a songthaew, simply raise your hand when you see one, just as you would for a taxi at home.
Take a Gondola up the Grand Canal in Venice
The narrow, canoe-like Gondola plying the canals of Venice is one of the most iconic images in the world, and indeed a gondola ride is a quintessential part of any visit to The Floating City. Propelled by an experienced gondolier, the gondola’s flat bottom lets it travel in centimetres-deep waters, while the use of an oar, rather than a pole, means it can also be taken into deeper waters. Gliding among ancient palazzos and imposing bridges, you’ll soak up the city’s history and architecture, and discover places otherwise inaccessible.