Getting around: 10 unusual types of transport

Getting around: 10 unusual types of transport 

November 2010

Getting around abroad doesn’t have to be all about cars, trains, buses and bikes. From cruising Peru’s Lake Titicaca on a boat made of reeds to flying down the streets of Madeira in a wicker toboggan or taking an odd horse-drawn carriage in Pakistan, there are so many unusual types of travel to be tried – and here we’re bringing you ten of the best!

Venice – Traghetto

Venice - Traghetto

Along the 3.5km stretch of Venice‘s Grand Canal there are just three bridges, so how do you get across? By Traghetto, of course. The unglamorous sibling of the gondola; these no-frills boats get passengers from one side of the canal to the other for a meagre fee. You can pick up a Traghetto (meaning ‘ferry’ in Italian) from any of the seven piers along the canal – just look for the yellow signs pointing you towards the landings. Each boat is rowed by two oarsmen- one at the bow and one behind the passengers, as in a gondola – if you want to ride like a Venetian, stand for the short journey.

Pakistan – Tangah

Pakistan - Tangah

Save yourself a few bucks in Pakistan and ride on a Tangah, rather than the more commonly used rickshaws and taxis. A Tangah is a carriage, sitting atop two large wooden wheels (not exactly designed for comfort, so expect a sore bottom on a long journey!), pulled by one or two horses. They have a low-glamour, but high fun factor and have become more widely used in Pakistan for enjoyment, rather than as a functional way of getting around. Just beware that they’re not the speediest way to travel!

Cambodia – Bamboo train

Cambodia - Bamboo train

Those with a strong constitution may want to ride a Cambodian bamboo train – known locally as a nori. Passengers sit on a makeshift bamboo ‘train’ (basically just a bamboo platform) powered by an electric generator engine, perched just inches above the railway tracks and travelling at up to 40km/h. The unmaintained railway tracks make for a bumpy ride and the closest you’ll get to luxury is sitting on a grass mat. But the fares are low and this is a once in a lifetime experience, as all the locals use them for getting around. Pick up a nori fromBattambang station.

Madeira – Monte toboggan

Madeira - Monte toboggan

Monte toboggans came to being in the 19th century, as a fast way of getting down the hill from Monte to Funchal. Today, they’re more a tourist attraction than an everyday mode of transport for the locals. Pick up a toboggan at the bottom of the stairs leading to the Nossa Senhora do Monte Church. Once you’ve climbed into the wicker sledge, two drivers dressed in traditional white outfits will steer you down the narrow, winding streets to Funchal at up to 48km/h. It’s an extraordinary and exhilarating experience.

Philippines – Jeepney

Philippines - Jeepney

Known as ‘the undisputed king of the road’ in the Philippines, the Jeepney is a mammoth vehicle. When the American troops pulled out of the Philippines at the end of World War II, surplus jeeps were gifted to the locals and this is how the original jeepneys came to being. The Filipinos stripped them down, added roofs for shade and used them to re-establish public transport in the country. Nowadays, brightly decorated jeepneys are a symbol of Philippine culture and the most popular way of getting around in the country.

Thailand – Longtail boat

Thailand - Longtail boat

Longtail boats are an icon of Thailand. Originally they were used in the canals that ran throughBangkok – and although the canals have now been filled and replaced with roads, the boats are still prolific in the country. As the name suggests, they are long and slim – the ideal shape for canal cruising – due to the long rod in the back of the boat which holds up the motor. Locals use these boats like public transport and riding one is an experience you can’t miss on a trip to the country.

Laos – Songthaew

Laos - Songthaew

Also known as a baht bus, this is a pickup truck adapted to transport passengers. Songthaew literally translates as ‘two rows’, taken from the two benches fitted along the sides of the truck. They run either as a shared taxi service, or in larger cities bigger trucks are adapted to run a bus-like service. With a typically Asian lax-attitude to safety, you’ll see the rear of Songthaews packed with passengers and sometimes people travel standing on a platform attached to the rear.

Alaska – dog sleds

Alaska - dog sleds

Imagine drifting across a white canvas of snow as a troop of husky dogs pulls your sledge – it’s like something from a Christmas movie. In reality, dog sledding isn’t quite so graceful, it can be a bumpy ride and will be accompanied by your dogs’ barks, but nonetheless it’s certainly a unique journey. For most Alaskan locals this isn’t a day-to-day way of getting around, but for tourists it’s a special way to travel, and something you can’t do in many other parts of the world. The best time to go sledding in Alaska is January-March, as lack of snow in the summer means you’re likely to be pulled by the dogs on a wheeled sledge.

Peru – Barco de Totora

Peru - Barco de Totora
Totora is a reed which is grown in Peru, most notably on Lake Titicaca. The Uros are a group of people who live on th


1. Floating Bus – Hippo, Canada
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A Hippo is a unique 40 passenger vessel that offers land and water tours of Toronto. Come splash into Lake Ontario on our “Bus that Floats!” 

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Experience an urban safari in one of Canada’s most beautiful cities with all its historical sites and its magnificent waterways. This unusual city tour of Toronto offers a fantastic adventure for the family or for tourists. It is 90-minute long

2. Hanging Train – Schwebebahn, Germany
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The Wuppertal Schwebebahn is the continent’s only suspension urban rail line, which for most of its length runs 12 m (39 ft) above the river Wupper (10 km or 6 mi). Only the westernmost section between Sonnborner Straße and Vohwinkel runs 8 meters (26 ft) above streets (3.3 km or 2 mi). This line can be called a full metro line because it’s totally independent, absolutely urban and runs on a 4-6 minute headway. 
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For almost 100 years this was one of the safest means of transport in the world, but unfortunately in April 1999 a bad accident happened after repair work had been carried out during the weekend and 3 people lost their lives and more than 40 were injured as a train fell down into the river Wupper. The single rail which carries the train is supported by 472 iron arches that span over the river bed. Currently all these arches are being replaced and also stations are being restored, most of them in their original Jugendstil design.

3. Phalastine)Underground Funicular – Carmelit, Israel)
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The Carmelit is an underground funicular railway in Haifa,occupied Phalastine Israel. It opened in 1956, and closed in 1986 after showing signs of aging. It reopened in September 1992 after extensive renovations. Because much of Haifa is built on top of Mount Carmel, the Carmelit (named after this mountain) is an underground funicular that goes up and down the mountain. Thealtitude difference between the first and last stations is 274 meters (900 feet)
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Carmelit cars have a slanted design, with steps within each car and on the station platform. Since the gradient varies along the route, the floor of each car is never quite level, and slopes slightly “uphill” or “downhill” depending on the location. The Carmelit is one of the smallest subway systems in the world, having only four cars, six stations and a single tunnel 1,8km (1,1mi) long

4. Polar Rover, Canada
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They look like jacked-up buses on monster truck wheels. But did you know that the specially outfitted and heated polar rovers that used to see polar bears in the wild in northern Canada started out as airport fire control crash trucks?  They’re custom redesigned to deal with the rugged conditions that an icy, choppy and rocky tundra present – and to make a comfortable ride for travelers on the lookout for the icon of the Arctic.

5. Ice Angel, USA
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Madeline Island is the only one of Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands that is inhabited and it is connected to Bayfield on the mainland by ferry in the summer and by a two-mile ice highway in the winter when the waters of Lake Superior freeze over. However, during that transitional stage, when the ice is not strong enough to support a vehicle, the connection is serviced by ice boats with air propellers. How else would the kids get to school?

6. Canal Taxi, Thailand
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Bangkok is sometimes called the “Venice of the East” due to its network of canals. River and canal taxis are still an important part of the city transit system and in many cases aremuch faster than the gridlocked traffic on the roads. This particular canal route goes right through the heart of downtown. Due to the fluctuating tides and some low bridges, it is necessary for the boat to “duck” at some points. The boats will slow at low bridges and the canvas canopy will drop a bit, forcing all passengers to crouch for a moment.

7. Bamboo Train, Cambodia
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Those with a strong constitution may want to ride a Cambodian bamboo train – known locally as a nori. Passengers sit on a makeshift bamboo ‘train’ (basically just a bamboo platform) powered by an electric generator engine, perched just inches above the railway tracks and travelling at up to 40km/h (25 mph). The unmaintained railway tracks make for a bumpy ride and the closest you’ll get to luxury is sitting on a grass mat. But the fares are low and this is a once in a lifetime experience, as all the locals use them for getting around. Pick up a nori from Battambang station.

8. Aerial Tramway, USA
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The Roosevelt Island Tramway is an aerial tramway in New York City that spans the East River and connects Roosevelt Island to Manhattan. Each cabin has a capacity of up to 110 people and makes approximately 115 trips per day. The tram moves at about 17.9 mph (28.8 km/h) and travels 3,100 feet (940 m) in 3 minutes
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At its peak it climbs to 250 feet (76 m) above the East River as it follows its route on the north side of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, providing views of the East Side of midtown Manhattan.

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