Consortium for International Education & Multicultural Studies
Getting Around: General Information
The first thing to realize is that virtually everything abroad will be different from your hometown. Appreciate that, take some lime to learn the "system" and you'll have fun and avoid frustration.
The school staff (and your family) can provide a wealth of information on the city and what's happening, but you need to ask them for it. Remember that they live where you're visiting - they're not taxis, translators, or tourist offices. Because of cultural differences they probably won't volunteer much, but if you ask them for the information, they will direct you where to go. Also, ask fellow students for advice and tips.
Your next stop will be the tourist offices, often operating out of City Hall, or kiosks near typical tourist sites. Find the closest one to you and make a point of visiting it. You should be able to pick up information on city bus and walking tours, local transportation, current event calendars, schedules of upcoming celebrations, brochures on the sights, tips on good restaurants, plus much more.
Consider taking a city tour that will point out places of interest, give you an idea of layout, neighborhoods and provide some background and history.
Public Transport... If you will be spending time on your own, get a map of the bus or subway lines and find out if you can purchase weekly or monthly passes. If you aren't familiar with the language yet, ask an English speaker to explain the local public transportation system to you. Certain seats on public transport may be reserved for pregnant women, war veterans, and disabled people. Usually there is a sign to indicate this. If people are standing, and there's an empty seat, don't assume they were saving it for you. Check for a sign indicating restricted use.
Cabs... Before you enter a cab, talk to the driver and size him up. Tell him where you are going and ask him to estimate the cost. If the driver will not tell you, or complains about taking you there, or looks unsavory, get another cab. Before getting into a cab, it helps to have some ideas of the best route to your destination and what the fare should be. Ask your host or hostess, hotel desk clerk, concierge, or at a tourist information booth, or look at a map. The more knowledgeable you appear to be, the less likely that you will be driven out of your way. You have the right to specify the route.