10 unique modes of transportation around the world

chicken busCars, trains, buses, and planes aren’t the only way to get around a country. From the Bamboo Train in Cambodia to the Rail Cart in the the Philippines to the Couch Bike in Canada, here are ten unique modes of transportation from around the world.

Chicken Bus
Guatemala, Central America

While variations of the chicken bus can be found in many different countries (this reminds me a lot of taking the tro-tro in Ghana, Africa), this vehicle is used not only to transport people but also livestock, hence the name. These U.S. school buses are very eye-catching as they are colorfully painted and decorated. When taking one expect cramped conditions, as chicken buses tend to be packed to capacity, and hectic driving at Nascar speeds.Sled Dogs
Alaska, USA

Sled dogs are highly trained dogs that are used to pull a dog sled, which is a vehicle without wheels that glides over snow and ice. If you need a mental image, think Santa being pulled by reindeer, only you’re not flying and there are dogs instead of deer. Endurance and speed are the two main qualities that sled dogs must possess, and this transportation type has become a popular winter sport in other countries around the world such as Japan and Germany.

human powered rickshawHuman Powered Rickshaws
Kyoto, Japan

While urbanization across Asia has mostly done away with this traditional form of transportation, you can still find them used in certain areas where cars are not accessible in Kyoto, Japan, as well as in some parts of India. According to Kelvin Lim of BootsnAll, many rickshaw “drivers” wear a special foot-glove that helps them travel through various types of terrain without slipping.

Elephant
India and Asia

In India and many places in South East Asia, an elephant is not only an animal but also a mode of transport. When I was Vietnam I actually went on an elephant ride with a local school owner named Roy who explained to me that “in many Asian countries we use animals to help with labor”. While once used to carry the wealthy around, today exploring a country on the back of an elephant is a big tourist attraction.

habal habal Habal Habal
Philippines, Asia

The Habal Habal is a unique motorcycle that can seat many people. The simpler versions seat 4-5 people, with a seat that extends over the back wheel, while the more complex type of Habal Habal can seat up to thirteen people and their luggage with the addition of wooden planks acting as benches.

Rail Cart
Philippines, Southeast Asia

The rail cart is most commonly found in the Philippines and is literally a cart that is pulled along rail tracks by a person, people, or a horse. The special wheels on the cart allow for quick transport but, unfortunately, are not always fast enough to get out of the way of the real trains that also use the tracks.

reed boatsReed Boat
Lake Titicana, Peru

Lake Titicana stretches across the countries of Peru and Bolivia and is home to many floating villages around Southern Peru. These villages are inhabited by the Uro people, who use natural resources, like reed, to construct homes and boats. The boats are light but resiliant and, built in the shape of a dragon, are said to have been used by the anicent Incas to ward off evil spirits.

Camel Back
Jordan, Middle East

While there are many places where camel rides are popular, one way to try out this transport option for yourself is by trekking through the beautiful rose colored deserts of Wadi Rum in Jordan. Cairo, Dubai, Mongolia, Morocco, and many deserts in India are also known for being camel riding hotspots.

couch bikeCouch Bike
Canada

When I found this highly unusual mode of transportation, I was kind of expecting it to be from America. The Couch Bike, which is literally a couch that you pedal like a bike, pokes fun at sedentary culture while providing an eco-friendly alternative to driving. Just make sure you know the traffic laws of the city you’ll be riding in, as the vehicle may not be legal to drive in all areas.

Monte Toboggan Ride
Madeira, Portugal

This unique transport mode is only for the adventureous. Once a popular mode of transport in the 1800’s-early 1900’s, it is a big tourist attraction today in Madeira. Passengers sit in a wicker or wooden tobaggan and ride down the mountain from Monte to Funchal. While an exhilerating experience, you don’t have to worry too much about crashing as there are two locals “steering” the vehicle from the outside. It’s kind of like being a kid again and having your parents pull you around in a sled, only your parents probably weren’t yanking you down a steep mountain with winding turns.

Destination spotlight: Kokrobite, Ghana, Africa

kokrobite ghana africaFor those traveling in Ghana who want to get out of the big, noisy capital city of Accra, Kokrobite is a beach paradise located less than an hour away. The village is easily accessible by tro-tro from Tema Station, Kaneshie Market, or anywhere else you see people hailing a car. Kokrobite can provide both a perfect day trip or an enjoyable weekend stay.

Where to Stay

Whether you plan on actually spending the night or just the day, Big Milly’s Backyard is the ultimate backpackers haven on the beach. While that might sound like a marketing ploy, I mean it to the fullest extent. Big Milly’s is just as well known as the village of Kokrobite itself and is the place where backpackers and locals both come to hangout, party, eat, and relax. Room styles range from single rooms to suites to dorm-style huts to outdoor tents. The property of the accommodation fills with marketers during the day selling clothing, paintings, toys, accessories, and more. A bar, multiple outdoor restaurants, hammocks, picnic tables, and an ocean breeze add to the relaxing and idyllic atmosphere of Big Milly’s.Where to Eat

While Big Milly’s is a bit pricier than the other restaurants and road-side stalls in town, you will still most likely pay less than you normally would at home. For example, a spinach tagliatelle made with vegetables, cheese, and white wine sauce costs 12 cedis (about $7), mixed roast vegetables with couscous will cost 11 cedis (about $7), and huge plate of vegetable fried rice will cost you 8 cedis (about $5). They also have a snack stand that sells biscuits, crackers and toffee (candy).

If you would like to try something traditional, in town there is a small structure called the Broken Chair Bar. If you go inside, it appears to be the home of the woman who runs it. You can have an authentic Ghanian meal here for extremely cheap. Try the fufu in ground nut soup (a cassava-based dough ball in a peanut based soup) with fried chicken or the jollof rice (rice that is cooked in red, spicy sauce), both about 3 cedis (less than $2).

Culture

Many of the people, though not everyone, who inhabit Kokrobite follow a Rastafarian lifestyle. Walking around the village, there are many small shops and bars that cater to this lifestyle. One fun and unique place to try is Cafe des Artes, an outdoor venue that plays Bob Marley-type music all day long, is decorated with funky beads, and serves fresh palm wine (you can purchase a whole soda bottle full for about 6 cedis, which is about $5). Don’t be alarmed that the wine doesn’t come in a wine bottle, it usually comes in a soda bottle or plastic gas-tank style containers no matter where you buy it.

Drumming is a large part of Ghanian culture, and is something enjoyable to experience for yourself, especially on the beach in Kokrobite. Visit Berlin Drum School and ask them for a lesson on the beach. The cost is supposed to be about 25 cedis (about $15), although with the help of a local friend I was able to get the lesson for 5 cedis (about $3). The boys will create beats for you to mimic, teach you how to properly hold and hit the drum, and will even dance for you.

On Friday and Saturday nights, Big Milly’s hosts cultural shows that bring the laid-back atmosphere of the village to life. Friday nights feature BBQ and bonfires while live cultural acts, such as drummers and dancers, perform live. On Saturday nights, reggae shows and highlife bands take the stage as the dance floor (beach) becomes packed. Beers cost about 2 cedis (about $3), while cocktails are about 4 cedis (about $2.50).

For a video tour of Big Milly’s Backyard, check out this video:


How to ride the tro-tro in Ghana, Africa

how to ride the tro-tro in ghanaWhen traveling through Ghana, Africa, one thing that is inevitable, at least if you don’t want to go broke wasting all of your money on taxi fare, is that you will have to ride the tro-tro. The tro-tro is kind of like a bus system, although a bit more confusing and with a lot less personal space once on board. For first time users, it can be quite daunting trying to hail one (not going to lie, it took me a few days to work up the courage to figure these things out). However, once you learn how to use the tro-tro system, it’s fairly simple (and extremely budget-friendly).

Hailing a tro-tro

There are various tro-tro stops located around each city, and even if you’re not near one, you can often just wave one down on the side of a main road. Often if you look lost or like you want to go somewhere (or even if you don’t), the tro-tro drivers will ask you where you are going. People in Ghana are extremely friendly and helpful, so don’t be afraid to ask someone where to get a tro-tro to a certain destination. When traveling through Ghana, I never actually saw a posted bus route, so I found it helpful to carry a notepad and pen and write down the destination name when I wanted to ask how to get somewhere. From there, people would tell me where to pick up the correct tro-tro and where to switch lines, if need be. If you are traveling to another city, for example, from Accra to the Volta Region or Swedru to Cape Coast, you will need to go to a major station or bus depot to catch the tro-tro.tro-tro in ghanaPaying for the tro-tro

If you are traveling within the city, you pay once on board. You can usually assume the fare is less than 1 cedi, and you can always try to peek at what other people sitting in front of you are paying. I wouldn’t recommend letting on that you don’t know how much it is, because while the tro-tros are a lot less likely to rip you off than the taxis are, it still happens. If in doubt, hand the person collecting the money either a 50 pesawa coin or 1 cedi and hold up 1 finger to indicate that you are paying for just yourself (if you’re paying for you and a friend, hold up 2 fingers).

If you are traveling out of the city, you usually pay for your ticket before you board. There will either be signs posted for ticket booths or you will hear someone shouting the name of the destination. If you have bags, the tro-tro drivers may try to charge you a fee if you want to keep them in the back. While I have seen locals refuse this fee, I usually just paid it, as it was a always only 1 or 2 cedis, which I didn’t think was worth the hassle. However, that is up to you.

Departure times

With local travel you can usually expect to leave momentarily after boarding. However, if you are traveling to another city, the tro-tro will not leave until it is full. You have to remember that you are on what many people refer to as “Africa Time” in Ghana, so there is no set schedule. For example, when taking the tro-tro from Swedru to Cape Coast, it took about 10 minutes for the van to fill up. However, when I took the tro-tro from Accra to the Volta Region, it took 3 hours for the van to fill up, adding a large amount of time to an already long ride (5 hours). To put it bluntly, bring a book, because you may be waiting awhile.

Using the toilet

There are no toilets on board, which can be scary for long journeys. However, there is one option. You can tell the driver that you “have to urinate”. From there, he will pull over and you can go on the side of the road. This may sound funny now, but during a 5 hour tro-tro ride in which you you had to wait 3 hours for the vehicle to leave, it won’t be so funny.

Food and drinks

While you shouldn’t expect an on-board dining service, you don’t need to worry about going hungry or dying of thirst. Whether you are parked or moving, there will be hawkers on the side of the road banging on your window and calling for you to buy their goods. Some treats you can purchase from the window of your tro-tro? Plantains, nuts, fried yam and fried chicken, chicken fried rice, Fan Ice (kind of like an ice cream pop), bananas, water bags, apples, snail kebabs, meat pies, biscuits, and more.

What to expect

For one, don’t expect to have very much space. Usually, the tro-tros will try to pack as many people into one van as possible. Once, on a short ride (thank goodness!) from Kaneshie Market to Tema Station, I was so squished in to the tro-tro that I literally couldn’t bend my arm to get my money out of my purse. Also, don’t expect your seat to be firmly locked into place unless you are on a newer tro-tro. There will be a lot of bouncing going on. Make sure you’re aware of your personal belongings at all times. While I didn’t have too many problems, I once had a hawker try to reach in and grab my camera. And lastly, be prepared for anything. I’ve taken simple tro-tro rides where I’ve sat next to friendly locals who would ask me about myself and tell me about life in Ghana. I’ve also taken some more chaotic tro-tro rides with sermons going on, people singing gospel music, salespeople shouting product pitches, and loud music blasting from the speakers (in Ghana, the stereos are often on at ear-bleeding volumes).

Overall, tro-tros are a safe, cheap, and convenient (though sometime unreliable) way to travel around Ghana, and can often provide you will cultural insight and interesting travel stories to remember even after your trip has ended.