In many ways, these modes of transportation are more than a means of getting around. They’re a part of the culture of each country they cruise through. Whether leisurely riding a rickshaw through the hutongs of Beijing or touring London via a double-decker bus, these eight iconic modes of transportation are bucket list-worthy rides.
Photo by Morgann, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
It’s hard to picture the bustling streets of China, especially its capital, without conjuring images of the rickshaw. They’ve roamed the streets there for well over a century. Today, they remain popular for short distance travel and with tourists looking for an experience. You’ll mostly find the pedal-power cycle variety and it’s not uncommon to see their drivers napping between shifts in their back cabs. If you’re looking to explore the endless maze of Beijing’s hutongs, a rickshaw is a great way to go about it.
Photo by David Robinson, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Like art on wheels, you can’t miss the colorful and eclectically decorated jeepneys of the Philippines. The result of a surplus of leftover American Army jeeps that remained after World War II, today they are the most common form of mass transit in the country. Jeepneys are cheap and relatively easy to ride. If they have room for more passengers, you can hail them like you would a taxi. Otherwise, board one at a designated depot and make sure you have change on hand to pay your fare.
Photo by Nathan Rupert, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
While they’re mostly used by tourists today, the gondola was once the go-to means for getting around the canals of Venice. The boat, and its gondolier, remain an icon of Venetian culture. If you’re looking to get from your hotel to dinner, opt for a vaporetti (water taxi), as most gondolas don’t operate on that basis. But, for the right price (and often a hefty one) you can tour the canals of Venice like they did in the 12th century.
Photo by nasir khan, CC BY-SA 2.0
Cycle rickshaws are everywhere in India, but it’s Dhaka that has been dubbed the rickshaw capital of the world. This mode of transportation is widely considered the most popular method for getting around Bangladesh, which is evident by the hundreds of thousands of cycle rickshaws that are said to roam the streets there. Their drivers take great care to deck out their rides with artistic embellishments, making use of every inch from the wheels to the retractable awnings.
Photo by jthornett, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
India is a country that moves and the variety of options for doing so are as much a part of the culture as any. From riding a rickshaw to crossing regions by train, no trip to the country would be complete without experiencing all of India’s forms of transportation. Of all these options, one stands out among the rest, especially if you’re landing in Mumbai. As soon as you leave the airport, it’s one of the Premier Padmini/Fiat vintage taxis you’ll likely hail. The traffic int he city is a blur of black and yellow, the standard livery of these taxis. While there are other models and newer makes, the vintage Pads, as they’re known locally, are the icon of the urban roadway. In 2013 however, India’s government passed regulations banning vehicles that are older than 20 years, meaning your chance to ride in one of these classics is running out.
Photo by Didier Baertschiger, CC BY-SA 2.0
The auto rickshaw can be found in a variety of countries around the world, but many backpackers will associated them with Thailand. Known there as the tuk tuk, a name that nods to the sound its engine makes, this variety of auto rickshaw can be seen darting travelers around the often frantic streets of urban areas like Bangkok. It’s not uncommon to see these three-wheeled vehicles adorned with wild colors and designs meant to attract customers and represent the personal flare of each driver. Be prepared to negotiate your fare with the driver before boarding, then hop in and hang on.
Photo by roaming-the-planet, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Similar to the jeepneys in the Philippines, chicken buses rule the road in Guatemala (and other Latin American countries, as well). These vehicles transport people and goods in mass both within and between cities. While they’re often repurposed school buses from the U.S., you’ll hardly recognize them. These buses are brightly painted and often elaborately decorated to catch your eye.
Photo by Curtis Cronn, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
London has its Tube and its cabs, but it’s the red double-decker bus that is the defining symbol among the city’s transportation options. These two-story buses can be found around the United Kingdom, but it’s London’s red variety that are most famous. They’re ridden by locals and travelers alike, the latter of which can enjoy an open-air tour of the city via the top deck.
Top Photo: Akuppa John Wigham, CC BY 2.0
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.