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. Here’s ten of the best.
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.
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!
Bamboo train, Cambodia
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 from Battambang station.
Monte toboggan, Madeira
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.
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.
Longtail boat, Thailand
Longtail boats are an icon of Thailand. Originally they were used in the canals that ran through Bangkok – 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.
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.
Dog sleds, Alaska
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 Alaskais January-March, as lack of snow in the summer means you’re likely to be pulled by the dogs on a wheeled sledge.
Barco de Totora, Peru
Totora is a reed which is grown in Peru, most notably on Lake Titicaca. The Uros are a group of people who live on the lake on floating islands fashioned from the reed. They also make Barco de Totora from bundles of the dried reeds, and these boats have become an icon of Peru. If you’re visiting Lake Titicaca, the Barco de Totora is a wonderful, unique method of getting across the vast and beautiful stretch of water.
DUKW, widely pronounced ‘duck’, are amphibious trucks that were designed by the American military during World War II to transport equipment and troops over both land and water. Nowadays, you can take a trip in a DUKW in central London, on the aptly named Duck Tours. On a tour you’ll drive past famous London landmarks before dramatically launching into the River Thames to get a view from the water. They’re the only way to experience the sights of central London by land and river – without leaving the comfort of your seat!