This past June, I joined teachers and students from the Midwest on an EF Educational Tours trip through England and France. In Europe it’s common to use the metro (subways in Europe) while venturing through some of the larger cities. Just like the subway in cities like New York or Chicago, the metro is a simple means of transportation that many Europeans depend on daily.
Riding the subway for the first time is exciting, but it can also be a little intimidating. You can’t help but second guess yourself – Did I buy the right ticket? Am I reading the transit map correctly? Should I stand or sit? What happens if I get off at the wrong stop? It can be a lot to take in, but I assure you that it is not that scary – and it’s actually an amazing way to really experience a city as locals do.
Riding the subway for the first time while touring London and Paris is an adventure all on its own, and when we first arrived our group was unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the metro system. Luckily, EF Tour Directors are very well trained and experienced in using local transportation. It didn’t take long before the teachers and students were hopping on and off the metro with ease, but I also started to think about how I could help teachers and students feel more prepared. Here is my short but valuable list of tips for riding the metro when traveling abroad.
Know the local lingo
European subways are often called metros, but it’s also common for residents to give the metro a local name, often times creating an abbreviated version that travelers may not understand. For example, the London Underground is known as the Tube and in Berlin is it called the U-Bahn (underground train). Do a little research before your trip and determine whether or not any of the local slang may cause confusion for you and your travelers.
Hold on to that ticket!
Be sure not to throw your ticket away after entering the station. Many metros in Europe require riders to keep their ticket and use it when connecting to other lines. It is also common for some stations, particularly in Paris, to request that you re-enter your ticket when exiting.
Be one stop ahead
Metro trains follow a steady schedule, so make sure you quickly enter and exit the metro. Before getting on make sure you locate where you are on the map, and where on the map you will be getting off. Transferring to another line is common, so map out what stops and trains you’ll need to connect to before getting on. The best way to avoid missing your stop is figuring out what stop comes before yours. That way, when you’re one stop ahead you can move toward the doors and prepare yourself to exit the train, rather than being surprised and having to rush off.
Follow these tips, and everyone will assume you’ve been riding the subway your whole life. And always remember; (especially when in London) Mind the Gap!
Sam is a Sales Associate at EF Educational Tours working with schools in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Her love for hiking and travel has led her to venture to famous treks around the world including backpacking through Patagonia, Chile and walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain.