25 Cities With Great Public Transportation

Prague street


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Montreal metro
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Take the A Train

Renting a car during a city-focused vacation can be a drag. Not only is renting a car outrageously expensive, but having to be responsible for parking and navigating traffic and unfamiliar city streets adds unnecessary stress to what should be a relaxing escape. That’s why visiting cities with great public transportation is highly recommended.

Public transportation is a vital part of the infrastructure of any city — but some do it much better than others. The cities listed here have invested heavily in public transportation, and it has paid off. Here are some of the best cities in the world for public transportation, including one that has made taking the train 100% free, at least for short and medium-length trips.

Related: What It’s Like to Drive in Other Countries

Madrid at night


While it can be a bit more intimidating than some other systems for new visitors, Madrid truly has one of the best public transit networks in Europe. According to Nick Mueller, director of operations at HawaiianIslands.com, you're never more than a few blocks from a metro station, and most of the major landmarks are served by several different stations and lines. Throw in a strong taxi network and access to Europe's high-speed rail network, and there are few places you can't get to from the main Atocha station. Even better, starting Sept. 1, multi-journey train tickets will be free until the end of the year. But don't expect single-journey tickets (those used for long-distance trips) to be free. The deal doesn't include them. 

Related: 36 of the World's Most Romantic & Beautiful Train Trips

Barcelona. Metro station.

Barcelona, Spain

Public transportation in Barcelona is fast and efficient. The comprehensive collection of public transit includes buses, trams, a subway network, several cable cars, and funicular railways, making it an extremely pedestrian-friendly city. The metro system is the most popular option for locals and runs nonstop from 5 a.m. to midnight on weekdays as well as all-day continuous operation on Saturday and Sunday for locals and tourists taking advantage of the late-night restaurant and bar scene. Starting in September, travelers can expect the same break on train fares here, too.

Subway track paltform in New yrok city

New York City

The New York City public transit system might be on the older side — but it is mighty when it comes to its coverage and availability. “No matter what time of the day/night you want to get from point A to point B, there is going to be a bus/train running for you to get to your destination,” says AnnMarie John, travel blogger at AnnMarieJohn.com. “You don't have to worry about driving in traffic, or finding a parking spot. You can sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. The best part is that you don't have to spend a lot of money on transportation in NYC. A monthly subway pass is only $127, and a 7-day unlimited ride MetroCard is only $33.”

Related: Best Cheap and Free Things to Do in New York

tokyo metro
Jui-Chi Chan/istockphoto


“The public transportation in Tokyo is also amazing,” John says. “The subway trains are always on time, and the bus drivers are also polite and helpful. The best part about the public transportation in Tokyo is that it's always clean and well-maintained.” John also noted that the trains and buses are very affordable, so you can take the subway or bus if you need to get around on a budget.

Aspen colorado overlook
Jonathan Ross/istockphoto

Aspen, Colorado

​​Aspen is said to have the best rural public transportation in the country, led by Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and complemented by the We-Cycle bike-share system and the Downtowner shuttle. The RFTA is complimentary for much of the system and moves 3.2 million passengers system-wide. The We-Cycle system is free for the first 30 minutes and includes a network of over 250 e-bikes. The Downtowner is also worth noting; the free on-call downtown shuttle makes it easier than ever to navigate Aspen’s downtown core.

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Busy Taipei urban road with traffic

Taipei, Taiwan

“Taipei has one of the best public transportation systems I've ever ridden on from my travels around the world,” says Kevin Nguyen, travel blogger and founder of Kevin Nguyen Experiences. “With its easy-to-understand color system and accurate arrival/connection times in every station, you'll be well informed of where you're going even if you're not a local.”

According to Nguyen, the stations are extremely clean and the subway is often a more efficient way to travel across the city, beating out taxis in terms of overall time and cost depending on where you want to go. Each subway line has different arrival music, which makes for a pleasant boarding experience, and the signage is easy to understand even for English speakers. 

Related: 20 Mistakes Americans Make When Traveling Abroad

Public commuter train at Boon Lay MRT Station, Singapore


“Having lived in Chicago and the New York City area, as well as having used public transit in other major U.S. cities and internationally, Singapore is by and far my favorite for public transit,” says Samantha Hamilton, travel writer at New England Wanderlust. “I traveled to Singapore solo, and the transit system was one of the reasons my trip was so easy. Not only are unlimited transit day passes for tourists some of the more affordable I've experienced in my travels, all children under 7 ride for free, making public transit more accessible for families.”

According to Hamilton, the transit system was also incredibly easy to navigate and quite extensive, and the online trip planner made it easy to figure out how to get to every destination on her itinerary. On top of that, the subways and buses were some of the cleanest and most pleasant she had ever experienced, and fellow riders were courteous.

Berlin skyline with Spree river at sunset, Germany


“Of the cities I’ve visited, Berlin has been my favorite for public transportation,” says Ravi Parikh, CEO of RoverPass. “There’s something to be said for German efficiency, and their public transportation system reflects this!”


According to Parikh, the system is a super-accessible and affordable way to get around the city, providing stops near most major tourist destinations. “Additionally, for people like myself with limited German, it’s pretty straightforward and easy to navigate as a tourist.”

San Francisco lightrail drive to  the sea under Sunset

San Francisco

San Francisco and the Bay Area have exceptional public transportation, says Kevin Callaha, CEO of Flatline Van Co. “The Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART) connects the entire Bay Area with easy, affordable public transportation,” Callaha says. “Additionally, San Francisco’s Muni system of metro transportation makes getting around the city easier, greener, and saves you the headache of trying to find a parking spot anywhere.”


Related: Free and Cheap Things to Do in San Francisco

Seattle Monrail


“Seattle, Washington, has one of the best public transportation systems in the U.S.,” says Steve Schwab, CEO of Casago. “The city uses rails, buses, streetcars, and water taxis to help its citizens get around — and their ridership numbers continue to grow. Their systems are accessible, reliable, and safe, which makes them hard to deny.”

Providence, Rhode Island Cityscape

Providence, Rhode Island

“Being an entrepreneur, I moved to Providence, RI, making it my new home for a few years. I was short of money and was looking not to buy/hire a car till my startup raises money. RIPTA (Rhode Island Public Transport Association) came to my rescue as their buses cover almost the entire Rhode Island (not just Providence),” says travel expert Rahul Rajguru. “I have lived in many parts of the U.S. but have never seen such expansive and efficient public transportation systems anywhere else in the States. The buses hardly run late, and the staff is very friendly.”

Light Rail Commuting Portland Oregon

Portland, Oregon

“While Portland, Oregon, has other issues, public transportation is certainly not one of them,” says Brian Donovan, CEO of TimeShatter, which helps people end their timeshare agreements. “Portland has one of the best public transit systems I've seen. It's very affordable, very easy to use, and you can get around the entire city. On top of that, it's relatively safe as well.”

Dotonbori shopping street in Osaka, Japan

Osaka, Japan

“Osaka is my favorite city for public transport for its world-beating system,” says Chris P King, founder of the Train Hacker. “It's quick and easy to get around with a comprehensive, convenient, and comfortable public transit network.”


King points to the seven railway networks and subway serving Osaka with dozens of lines. The subway's eight routes and Japan Railways reach all city areas, and there are five private railway networks to fill the gaps. Two lines connect Kansai International Airport and Shin-Osaka Shinkansen station. There are multiple options to reach other cities in Japan; for example, there are four rail options to travel from Osaka to Kyoto.


Nearly all stations have clean and well-kept restrooms. Most stations have convenience stores, which sell food and drinks and necessities. You'll find coin lockers everywhere, which are very useful for travelers. Finally, Osaka's public transport is affordable and costs less than most other developed cities', King says. For example, a 7-mile journey by car costs just $1.60 by train.


Related: How to Avoid Being a Crime Victim When You’re on Vacation

Prague street


“While this isn’t a city that most think of when it comes to excellent public transit, I believe it has one of the most robust and easy-to-use public transit systems in Europe,” says Maggie Turansky, founder of the travel website The World Was Here First, who lives in the Czech capital when she's not traveling.


“The public transit system in Prague consists of trams, buses and a metro, and there are very few gaps where you cannot use a public transport option. In the city center, the tram reigns supreme, and you can easily find a route that will quickly and efficiently take you to where you need to go. They also come very frequently, so you will never be waiting long.”


If you’re venturing a bit farther from the city center, the metro trains are also a great option, and the network is extensive. Where the tram and metro don’t cover, there are always buses to take you where you need to go, Turansky says. “Not only is Prague public transit extensive, but it is also very affordable and easy to use (you can easily purchase tickets from an official app).”

Westminster Bridge


“I have been to London a few times, and it always staggers me how great the transport infrastructure is there. There are so many modes of public transport there, and you will never be stuck,” says Jim Campbell, founder of Honeymoon Goals. “Not only have you got the famous London underground that has a different stop every couple of streets, meaning that you can get anywhere around the city, there is also a bus system that rivals it. The buses also go everywhere, and there are stops more frequently than the underground.”


In addition, Campbell wagers half of all the cars in London are taxis, so if you want to have a little privacy on your journey, you could always flag the next one down. That isn’t all, however. London also lets you easily access bikes to ride around the city and drop them off at several points.

Istanbul views


“If you would have told me I would be an adult one day without a car and love life, I would have thought you were joking. There is no way. That is, not until I moved to Istanbul,” says Kimberly McCauley, founder of The Art of Living in Turkey. “I live in Kadıköy, Istanbul, Turkey. The public transit situation has vastly changed in the last 10-15 years. The president has put so much work into building new metro lines and adding buses. We have metros, metro buses, dolmus and minibuses, ferries, and the Marmaray,” a commuter rail line.


While there are still a few things lacking, there are still more being built, says McCauley. “You can get to most places by way of public transportation here. Not to mention everything is so close you can walk to the things you need for daily life. But my favorite thing is having all the options. Depending on where I am going, I have options on how I want to go.”

Blurred People Getting Into Subway Train During Paris Rush Hour


“Paris has an extensive metro system which is one of the most reliable modes of transport in the capital,” says Michael Baldicaña, pet and travel blog writer at Stayyy, a site that connects dog owners with dog trainers. “It also has a large and dense network of bus lines.”

The underground metro system has 16 different lines that are all interconnected. It’s also linked to the RER express train that connects the city center with the suburban neighborhoods just outside of Greater Paris.

Mexico City Subway

Mexico City

The subway system in Mexico City is by far one of the best modern networks in the world. Operated by the Sistema de Transporte Colectivo, it’s the second largest subway network in North America after the New York City subway but offers much more modern and efficient train cars.

The STC has 12 interconnected lines that service the city center and most of the Greater Mexico City region thanks to the modern ​​Bombardier train cars. The best part: The subway system is one of the most affordable on this list, costing just 5 pesos (about 25 cents) per trip.

Montreal metro
Valerie Loiseleux/istockphoto


Montreal's public transit is arguably the best in Canada. The underground metro system was inaugurated during the city’s Expo 67 and continues to offer one of the easiest ways to get from one end of the city to the other quickly and efficiently. The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) bus network serves the Greater Montreal Area, connecting commuters to the metro system and Bixi bike rental service. The city is also undergoing major construction to accommodate a new commuter light rail train system, set to open in 2023, that will connect the outer suburbs to the downtown core.

Hong Kong Street Scene, Mongkok District with busses

Hong Kong

The Hong Kong public transport system is considered by many to be one of the best in the world. The sophisticated network encompasses a subway system, ​​buses, minibuses, tramways, and ferries that allow locals and visitors to get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. The fare for a single trip is just HK$8.70 (about $1.10). Hong Kong is also known for its infamous Ding Ding trams, a network of tramways that dates back over a hundred years and still has a handful original tram cars in operation.

Chicago CTA Elevated Train Downtown Urban Buildings


Operated by the Chicago Transit Authority, the public transportation offerings in Chicago make it extremely easy to navigate the city and outer suburbs. The network of trains is the second-largest in the United States and the largest above-ground train system in the country. Additionally, there are trains from downtown that run as far east as South Bend, Indiana.

Seoul, South Korea Skyline


The public transportation network in Seoul is consistently voted one of the best in the world — and for good reason. The color-coded subway system is easy to read and available in English, Chinese, and Korean for added convenience. Single-journey tickets run about $1.10 and all transfers are free. The nine major subway lines cover the entire downtown core and connect the outer city limits with the suburbs and surrounding area.

Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse at Sunset, Switzerland


The public transit system in Zurich is considered to be one of the most reliable networks in the world. Street cars and buses are the preferred form of transportation for locals due to the timely schedule and comfortable infrastructure. The system is comprehensive throughout the downtown core and also services the airport, which is a mere 10 minutes away by train.

Luxembourg city

Luxembourg City

Luxembourg City public transportation isn’t just highly efficient, clean, and easy to navigate, it’s the world’s first public transit network to offer 100% free services for commuters of all ages, locals and travelers alike. The network of trains, trams, and buses services much of the downtown core and residential neighborhoods and operates from 5 a.m. to midnight every day. The city also offers a comprehensive night bus system for late-night commuters.

Brussels Metro


The public transportation system in Brussels is vast and accessible with options spanning from train, tram, metro, bus, and waterbus, depending on personal preference and destination. One single-journey adult fare runs about $2.27 and includes free transfers. The vast train network also connects Brussels to other major cities throughout Belgium, including Bruges and Antwerp. 

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