I get around: ten non-traditional means of transportation

Getting from one place to another always proves to be an interesting and important part of the travel experience. So why not mix it up a little? Below are some ideas for memorable modes of transportation: planes, trains and automobiles have been excused from the list.

#1) Submarine – Barbados

You’ve likely seen photos and videos of how beautiful Barbados is above water. At 150 feet below sea level, it’s absolutely stunning. The futuristic looking Atlantis Submarine has large porthole windows so you can sit comfortably and watch the sea life pass you by. They never overbook, so you never feel crowded.

Included in the tour is an amazing Bajan, buffet lunch. It’ll set you back though. At $100 per adult, and $50 per child, it’s a difficult family trip to take for most. Luck was on my side that day: a cousin gave me two tickets for free, and the charming captain let my mother and I sit in the “cockpit” with him!

#2) Steamboats, Transport Ferries and Houseboats – Borneo

Unarguably NOT a safe way to travel. In Indonesia, ferries and steamboats sink regularly. But for those willing to risk their lives to save a few dollars, it’s probably the cheapest (and sometimes only) way to get around Borneo. Get ready to share the ride with cockroaches and other critters, and learn how to sleep sitting up.

The safer and more expensive option to this are the houseboats. These are generally used by tourists only, and can be privately used. The houseboat, known locally as a klotok, comes manned with a 5 man crew to serve as tour guide, navigator, chef and cleaning crew. Most popularly used to navigate the black waters of the Tanjung Puting Orangutan Reserve. Read about my experience living on a klotok and encountering orangutans here.

In a private klotok you can navigate the riverines of Borneo in safety and (simple) style

#3) Donkey Taxi – Egypt

For all of those 5”8 or taller, get ready for an awkward ride. These animals were not tall enough to accommodate my long legs, and left my feet nearly dragging across the floor. They are also VERY disobedient. If you’re looking for a unique way to explore the Valley of the Queens in Egypt, you can opt to ride a donkey taxi up the mountain to the Temple of Hatshepsut. I personally won’t choose this ever again as the donkey was as slow as he was uncooperative. More about hanging out with the Kings and Queens of ancient Egypt here.

#4) Camel caravan – Morocco

If you were to close your eyes an imagine what making your way through the desert on camel back would be like, you’re likely to picture a beating sun and mouths parched white. That’s not what it’s like in December. It’s freezing! Check my Morocco pages for more details on unforgettable camping trips in the Sahara.

#5) Motorbike – Vietnam

The Asian hybrid motorbike evokes feelings of both fear and excitement in most. Despite all the reports of horrible accidents, either in the news or shared in a hostel common room, backpackers in Asia just can’t seem to avoid a motorbike ride.

Although bicycles were the primary means of transportation after the Vietnamese War, motorbikes flooded their streets after the sanctions were lifted. Traffic in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh (previously Saigon) is the scariest in Asia in my opinion.

A quiet spot to give a motorbike lesson a try would be picturesque (and quiet) Cat Ba Island after a tour of Halong Bay.

The most popular way to get around in Asia

#6) Hot Air Balloon – Egypt

Although the donkey taxi to the Valley of the Queens wasn’t quite what I had hoped for, the hot air balloon ride over  the Valley of the Kings was my favorite experience in Egypt. It even beat out the first glimpse of the pyramids in Giza. Balloons offer a surprisingly smooth ride for a means of transport that offers so little in terms of personal security.

#7) Elephant – Cambodia and Thailand

I’m torn about recommending this one, but to each his own. At times, the elephants look tired and worn down. The ropes that tie down the seats strapped to their giant backs blisters the skin beneath it. On the other hand, profits from elephant rides are sometimes used to subsidize rehabilitation programs for elephants in captivity.

Remember: some of the elephants were previously used in the cities (like Bangkok) and are being rehabilitated. Please make sure and check how the elephants are being treated, and in what circumstances they ended up in captivity, before you choose a tour.

#8) Cable Car – Portugal

The Alfama neighborhood in Lisbon is made up of cobblestone streets lining steep hills. Thankfully there are two cable cars, numbers 12 and 28, that will save your hamstrings from such an unnatural trek.

Similar to the ones in San Francisco, cable cars really add old school charm to modern cities. They are also very green (!) and are a cheap tourist attract in and of themselves. Practical, eco-friendly AND affordable? Yes please.

Cable Car #12 is an awesome Lonely Planet recommendation to make your way through Alfama, Lisbon

#9) Parachute – Austria

Ever wanted to jump off a mountain? Try “paraponting” in the Austrian Tyrol.

#10) Aerial Tram – Panama

The Gamboa Rainforest Resort in Panama offers its guests some fun (and touristy) ventures out into the jungle. Of the many options available (read more about fun animal adventures in Panama). The aerial tram is best described as the love child of a cable car and a zipline: you travel at the speed of the former, but at the heights of the latter. A guide accompanies the ride to point out all the interesting fauna and flora you would likely never be able to notice on your own. Binoculars are highly advisable… especially to catch the lazy sloths hanging out in the trees.

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