Some travelers tell me they're reluctant to use public transit in a foreign city because they're afraid they'll get lost trying to navigate the city when they can't read the signs at the stations. Not to worry -- in every place I've been where Latin script isn't used, I found signage in "globish," the de facto international language version of English. In fact, the Beijing and Dubai transit systems I used recently made recorded station announcements in the local language and English -- a feat many U.S. transit systems haven't yet mastered. And you can easily find Latin script versions of system maps and riding information. As in the United States, many foreign systems offer special deals useful to -- and sometimes aimed at -- international visitors. You can buy all the passes I cite online, or after you arrive.
Montreal (http://www.stm.info/english/a-somm.htm). Metro, bus: Base fare $C3 (about $3 USD), senior $C2. Day card: $C9, no senior discount.
Toronto (http://www.ttc.ca/). Subway, light rail and bus: Base fare: $C3, senior $C2. Day pass $C10.75, no senior discount.
Vancouver (http://www.translink.ca/). SkyTrain, bus: Base fare $C2.75 1 zone, $C4 2 zone, $C5.50 3 zone, $C2.75 all zones evenings/weekends. Seniors 65 and over: $C1.75 to $C3.75 (the airport is in zone 2). Day pass $C9.75, $C7.50 for seniors.
Beyond Canada, here are details for a few of the most popular overseas destinations:
Berlin (http://www.bvg.de/index.php/en/index.html). S-Bahn, U-Bahn subway/elevated: Base fares based on distance; Central zone 2.40 euros (about $3); larger zone 3.10 euros; no senior discount. Berlin Welcome Card: Central zones: 48 hours 18.5 euros; 72 hours 24.50 euros, five days 31.50 euros; larger area, including Potsdam and airport: 20.50, 26.50, and 36.50 euros, respectively.
Hong Kong (http://www.mtr.com.hk/eng/homepage/custindex.html). Metro: Base fares vary by distance; typical central tourist areas, $HK4.50 (about 60 cents) to $HK6.00, slightly less with stored value "Octopus" card; senior $HK2 only on Octopus card; card is a good deal for anyone. Airport line fares $HK90-$100. Tourist day pass $HK55 (does not include airport -- not a good deal unless you ride a lot).
London (http://www.tfl.gov.uk/). Underground, bus: Base fare depends on distance, Zone 1 4.50 pounds (about $6.90) cash; 2 pounds with Oyster card. Bus only 1.40 pounds. London has a bunch of pass options, but the bottom line is for one day, get a Travelcard (8 to 11 pounds for most places you'll go); for a week get an Oyster stored value card that automatically figures out the best pricing for your travels, whether pass or single ride. You pay a one-time fee of 3 pounds and refill value online or by automatic credit card charge
Paris (http://www.ratp.fr/en/ratp/c(underscore)21879/tourists/). Metro, RER, buses: Base fare 12.70 euros for a carnet of 10 tickets; no senior discount. Passes: Central zone: one-day 10.55 euros, two-day 17,15euros, three-day 23.40euros, five-day 33.70 euros, including suburbs: 22.30, 33.70, 47.25, and 57.75 euros, respectively. Does not include airports.
Rome (http://www.atac.roma.it/index.asp(questionmark)lingua(equalsign)eng). Subway, bus: Base fare 1.50 euros, no senior discount. Passes: central zones, one-day 6 euros, three-day 16.50 euros, seven-day 24 euros. Regional passes including suburban rail, three-day, 8.90 to 39.20 euros, depending on distance.
Tokyo (http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/index.html). Subway: Fares based on distance, 160 yen (about $1.70) to 300 yen. No senior discount. Day pass, subway: 710 yen; including suburban rail within metro area, 1589 yen. Day pass for foreign visitors: 600 yen; buy at Narita or Haneda airports; two-day consecutive pass, 980 yen. Day pass Skyliner one way Narita to Tokyo plus one-day metro 2600yen (regular Skyliner alone is 2400 yen), with two-day metro, 2980 yen, with round-trip Skyliner 4500 yen one-day, 4880 two-day.
Is there a city not on the list? Google "city name plus transit) and get the details.
(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at eperkins(at)mind.net. Perkins' new book for small business and independent professionals, "Business Travel When It's Your Money," is now available through http://www.mybusinesstravel.com or http://www.amazon.com)