Is an urban adventure on your list of dream vacations? Consider choosing one of these cities with impressively extensive public transportation so you can zip around to all the museums, shopping, restaurants, bars, and parks on your itinerary—rather than getting stuck in traffic, getting lost, or driving on the wrong side of the street. Your car-less mode of transport will not only be easier on the environment; it’ll let you pack in a lot more people-watching too.
The Japanese capital has not only one of the biggest and most-used public transportation systems in the world; but the system is remarkably clean and on time. The subway includes bonuses like heated seats and computerized messages in Japanese and English. You can zip around the city seeing everything from temples to parks to museums. The extra adventurous can brave the subway at rush hour and get pushed into an overcrowded car by a platform attendant.
While the stations aren’t exactly sparkling clean, the subway system is extensive enough to create an incredible walking culture in New York, where most residents aren’t even expected to have cars. Besides obvious spots like Times Square, Wall Street and museums galore, the subways and buses can take you to beaches, zoos, botanical gardens, and ethnic enclaves—all for the same flat price. Or hop on the Metro-North or Long Island Railroad to explore the peaceful views of the Hudson Valley or the string of beaches on Long Island.
The famous London Underground was the first underground railway in the world, and nowadays the system is impressively large. The long lines allow you to check out central sights like Westminster Abbey, as well as further out locales like Wimbledon. Besides riding the Tube, you can connect to a light rail that offers spectacular views of the Thames.
Here, Métro stops are closer together than in any other city, so you don’t have to tire your feet out wandering from café to museum to cathedral. Plus, if you miss your stop, you won’t have much distance to backtrack. The subway, buses, commuter trains, and trams, not to mention the admirable bike-sharing program, can get you everywhere you need to go in the City of Love.
An impressive 90 percent of all traveling in Hong Kong is done by mass transit. And it’s no wonder, with conveniences like 3G network coverage underground, and an “octopus card” that can quickly pay for subway fares, parking, and purchases at convenience stores and fast-food restaurants. The subway moves visitors easily from the airport to Lantau Island to Kowloon to Hong Kong Island, and beyond.
The South Korea metropolis makes public transit easy for residents and visitors alike, with integrated subways and buses, announcements in Korean and English, Wi-Fi access underground and in stations, and even service robots to answer your questions. You’ll get a window into the future using this ultra-contemporary transit system.
The Moscow Metro sticks to a very precise schedule, so you’ll always be on time—impressive, considering the eight million passengers riding it on an average weekday. The subway stations are destinations in themselves, with their ornate and memorable architecture. So when you’re not taking in the Kremlin and other famous sights, you can gawk at the elaborate underground city.
Joanna Eng is a New York-based writer and editor who covers travel, green living, food, careers, entrepreneurship, and more. Her travel experiences have ranged from hostel hopping in Mexico to staying with distant relatives in China to renting a beach apartment in New Jersey.