Arranging transportation from the airport to your final destination can be a challenge, especially in developing countries. As with any other aspect of overseas travel, selecting the appropriate mode of transportation at your destination airport involves research, careful planning and preparation. Here are a few tips to help navigate airport transportation no matter where you are traveling:
- Do your homework
Identify all options. Start by learning about the area you’re going to and the types of transportation offered. Weigh risks associated with those options and then pick the best option for your needs. Don’t rely on just one source of information.
Visit the U.S. State Department web sites. General travel information can be found at http://www.state.gov/travel/, and country specific information at http://www.state.gov/misc/list/index.htm. Pay close attention to troubled areas and criminal activity targeting Americans. Even more detailed information can be found from the local embassy website ( http://www.usembassy.gov/).
Use your favorite internet search engine for research. Try to find official websites for the airport, city, province, etc. for your destination. Travel blogs, forums, and websites can be a wealth of current, first-hand knowledge as well. Don’t be afraid to post your question. You might be surprised at the responses you receive. And don’t forget travel books (make sure they’ve been updated recently!).
Talk to friends or co-workers who have recently traveled to your destination, for first-hand knowledge and ask about their experience. Talking to the hotel or host at your destination can also be helpful.
Gather as much information as possible. For example, if you’re considering using a taxi:
- Is there an officially recognized taxi stand? If so, where is it located?
- How do you distinguish between legitimate and un-licensed taxis?
- Are there specific companies that are recommended? Or companies to avoid? How do you tell the difference?
- What areas will they service? i.e. will they take me to my destination?
- What are their hours of operation?
Every location is different, so it’s extremely important to gather as many details as possible for your specific destination.
Now that you’ve done your homework, you should have identified several options such as: taxis, buses, airport shuttles, limo services, a “friend-of-a-friend”, simply walking, etc. Next, you should weigh the pros and cons (risks) associated with each option and decide which mode(s) of transportation you are willing to use.
- Plan and prepare well ahead of time
Remember it’s important to ALWAYS have a backup plan!
Public Transportation: If you decide to use public transportation, know the hours of service, pick-up times and locations, and schedules, as well as anything else you learned during your research (like potential scams!) You should also make note of the estimated cost and type of payment accepted.
Pre-arranged Transportation: If you’re using a pre-arranged service such as a friend or limo, talk to them ahead of time and identify a specific time and place to meet. Be sure they have your flight information and that you account for possible delays as part of your link-up plan – i.e. “If the flight is delayed, we’ll meet at baggage carousel five, 30 minutes after landing. Also, have a phone number or a way to contact them if your link-up doesn’t go as planned.
Emergency Contact enroute: Familiarize yourself with the route from the airport to your destination. Know who to call in an emergency and have their numbers easily accessible. If you can’t travel with an international cellphone (recommended), make sure you have plenty of prepaid phone cards that will work from your destination.
- Execute your plan
Follow through with your plan, but remain flexible and be prepared for contingencies. Keep a low profile, remain alert, and note people who are paying a lot of attention to you. Being aware of your surroundings will help discourage would-be criminals from targeting you.
Be on the lookout for scams and other suspicious behavior. Be wary of anyone who tries to lure you away from your intended mode of transportation, offers a “good deal,” is overly friendly/helpful, or can’t provide credentials. There are too many scams to list here, but in general if you stick to your plan and remain alert you’ll avoid most of them. Don’t be afraid to ask an airport official if you have any doubts!
No matter what, don’t hesitate to ask for ID, even if you’re using a pre-arranged service such as a hotel limo. Reputable companies/drivers should be able to provide this information and if not, consider moving on to your back-up plan.
During the drive, follow along using a map, GPS, or smartphone. This will not only help you get familiar with the area, but also ensure you’re not getting “taken for a ride”.
Last but not least, be sure to check in with a family member, friend, or coworker once you have safely reached your destination!