How to ride a Metro Subway?
One of the most intimidating things for a new or solo traveler is learning how to ride the Metro, as subways are called around the world. How does one even know where to begin, especially in a place with another language?
There you are, in a new city, ready to explore. In order to do that, you’ll need to use public transportation. So you bravely set out for the nearest Metro stop. They’re often marked with a big “M” or whatever the city uses to designate the place where you descend to start your journey. Montreal uses a white circle with a downward arrow, displayed on a blue background. All around you, everyone is zipping along without hesitation. Suddenly you feel like a doofus.
Let’s learn to navigate a Metro Subway, using Montreal’s system. Montreal has a the same type of rapid transit system that is found around the world, only it’s a little simpler. But as my math teacher, Mrs. Chouinard, once said, “If you can do a simple problem, then you can use it to do a more difficult one.”
Ready, set, RIDE!
Step-by-step, here we go!
- Before you leave home, look up the public transportation system at your destination. There should be an option, usually at the top right corner of the website, to choose a language; you may see the British “Union Jack” flag instead of American “Stars & Stripes.” Both mean English. The site’s metro map may not make a lot of sense until you arrive, but you can find out how passes are sold (1 day, 3 day, week) and how much they cost. A map of the Metro subway will give you an idea of what to expect, and where the stops are. Here is the Montreal Metro map.
- Once you arrive, you’ll need a Metro map. They’re in guidebooks, at hotels, and at the stations. To make it easy, each line has a color. To determine which way to go from your stop, find where you want to go. Then look at the name of the final stop–that will be the way to know you’re headed in the right direction. For example, to go from Berri-UQAM–which is the intersection of the orange, green, and yellow lines–to Montrose (orange line) look for the platform and train going to Montmorency. The train will stop at all the places in between, so you’ll just get off at Montrose.
Let’s try another one: Suppose you want to get from LaSalle (green line) to the famous market at Jean-Talon (intersection of orange and blue lines). Get on the green line going towards Honore-Beaugrand. Get off at Berri-UQAM, and find the orange signs for Montmorency. You’ll walk from one to the other, then board the train that says Montmorency, then get off at Jean-Talon. It’s like an underground maze, except it’s easy! And there are ALWAYS police, agents, shopkeepers, or other passengers to ask.
- Now that you understand how to get around, it’s time to get your pass. Stations have ticket machines that are easy to use. Many stations also have ticket agents, but their hours may not be convenient. Find a machine and take a minute to figure it out.
- Ticket agents and turnstiles are outside the train area.
- Once you get your pass, don’t lose it! Keep it in a handy spot where you can get to it without digging around. You will always need it to get through the turnstile to the train platforms. Depending on the city, you may also need it to exit. Walk to the turnstile and look for the outline that shows where to put your pass.
- Place your pass on the turnstile and wait for the green light. Then just walk through! Don’t forget your pass! In some cities, you will feed your pass into a slot and collect it on the other side of the turnstile. If in doubt, just watch to see what others are doing.
- Now you’re ready to find your platform. Look for signs that show the color of the line and the final destination of that line. The first few times, feel free to ask. The security police and other passengers can help. Just show them your map and where you want to go. All over the world, people are friendly and helpful.
- Head for the platform. Stay behind the yellow line and stand anywhere along the platform. You’ll see people scattered along the length of the platform; they are regular commuters who have their favorite places. Pick one of them and wait nearby.
- When the train comes, wait until people get off the train, then hop on. There are seats and places to hold on. You’ll also see a map of the line above the seats, so you can follow your trip. Some trains have electric signboards telling the next stop. It’s a good idea to count how many stops you will be on the train.
- When you reach your stop or intersection, step off the train and head for the colored sign that you want. If you’re ready to exit, follow the exit signs back to the street. SUCCESS!
- What if you make a mistake?!?! This is the good part. As soon as you realize it, get off at the next stop and change platforms. Ask for help if you’re not sure. Your pass is good for unlimited trips, so the only loss is time. And trust me, we have ALL done it!
- After a few times, you will find yourself zooming along with the locals. Now you can relax and enjoy the art or themes that each station has. Some are quite fancy or tell a story about the name of station. Each trip, you’ll get better at it. You’re a confident traveler now!
For more blog posts about travel and safety: