On arriving in a new country, the very first thing you’ll probably look into is ways to move about. Transferring to the hotel from the airport? You’ll probably grab a cab. Heading out for your first meal? A leisurely walk might be the thing. Planning a day trip to a scenic attraction? Hiring a car is a great option for the day.
From tuk-tuks in Thailand and jeepneys in the Philippines, to electric trams around Melbourne City, trying different modes of transport is a novel experience for junior and will really enrich his travel memories.
Here are some unusual transport options to check out with your cutie...
Gondolas in Venice, Italy
While a gondola ride through the canals of this historic city with your significant other is the very stuff of romance, your kids will also dig a jaunt on a flat-bottom barge along a Venetian waterway. Book a ride and your gondolier will make his way through the labyrinth of canals, so that you can appreciate the palazzos and elegant architecture. Top tip: Choose a boatman who’ll be happy to interact with your children, and even serenade you all with traditional Italian songs! If you prefer the DIY route, go to Row Venice to learn basic rowing strokes and to steer like a gondolier.
Ferry ride at Sydney Harbour, Australia
Hopping on a ferry is an excellent way to soak in the sights and atmosphere in one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Different cruises at Circular Quay or Darling Harbour Terminal take you to countless attractions around the city, including the Sydney Aquarium and Taronga Zoo. You can even book a two- hour-45-min Whale Watching Cruise on an ocean catamaran that’ll take you to the mouth of the Sydney Harbour.
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Canal taxis in Bangkok, Thailand
Explore Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River with your brood on a traditional canal taxi. Following a day of shopping, this makes for a relaxing day trip to the suburbs — you’ll even see a floating market during the excursion. The Chao Phraya Tourist Boat, which serves eight piers, gives you access to famous attractions like the Temple of Dawn and the Reclining Buddha. Your young ’uns will also learn how the river not only led to the birth of the Thai civilisation, it has always provided a livelihood for the Thais.
Junks in Hong Kong
Board a traditional red-sailed Chinese junk to soak up the sights and sounds of Hong Kong’s stunning skyline and the Victoria Harbour on a 45-minute evening cruise. You’ll enjoy a complimentary drink as you relax on the lounge beds on the Aqua Luna. If you’d rather explore the city during the day, the Harbour Discovery Tour should suit — you’ll be able to hop on and off the junk as you please, visiting attractions like the Avenue of Stars and the Maritime Museum. By the way, junior might enjoy the factoid that it took Hong Kong craftsmen 18 months to build the boat from scratch using traditional shipbuilding methods.
Shinkansen “bullet train” in Tokyo, Japan
Your mini-speed demon will get a thrill riding a high-speed train that can go as fast as 320kmh. The bullet train — a network that connects Tokyo to most major cities, such as Hiroshima and Kyoto — is a comfortable, safe and efficient way to travel in Japan.
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Funicular railway in Bern, Switzerland
Adrenaline junkies will surely get a rush at the Gelmerbahn funicular, which takes you 1.8km above sea level to Lake Gelmer in Bern, Switzerland. You’ll ride in an open carriage (seats 24 passengers) up the steep cliff face from Handegg in Hasli Valley. Though it moves slowly, it’s not for the faint-hearted, but rest assured that it’s completely safe. The cable railway operates from June through to mid-October, and only during daylight hours.
Maglev train in Shanghai, China
Imagine how thrilled your tot would be at the thought of sitting in a train that moves by magnetic levitation (Maglev). Shanghai boasts the world’s first high-speed Maglev train, which connects Shanghai Pudong International Airport to the outskirts of central Pudong. After a 31km-long journey lasting some eight minutes, passengers will switch to the Shanghai Metro to continue their trip to the city centre. Because the trains are lifted by magnets above the track, they are able to reach much higher speeds than conventional trains (up to 400kmh).
Hot-air balloon rides in South Island, New Zealand
Jumping into a hot-air balloon is a fantastic way to see New Zealand’s incredible natural beauty. Rising to altitudes as high as 1.8km and drifting with the breeze, you’ll soak in views of Queenstown in the South Island, breathtaking mountain ranges, as well as recognise remarkable locations featured in The Lord of the Rings films. As part of your experience, you’ll help to inflate the balloon and pack it away after the flight, before celebrating with champagne, pastries and muffins.
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Helicopter rides to the Grand Canyon, USA
Consider a helicopter ride if you plan to visit the Grand Canyon. Book the Silver Cloud Air Tour for an amazing view of the Canyon — the three-and-a half-hour flight also brings you over Las Vegas, Lake Mead and Hoover Dam. Besides “ooh-ing” and “ahh-ing” at this massive gorge (one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World), your little ones will also find out that the pilot balances the helicopter by allocating seats according to a passenger’s weight. While kids under 2 can sit on an adult’s lap, older children will need their own seats.
Jeepneys in Manila, the Philippines
These huge, colourful jeep-like vehicles will certainly intrigue your little ones when you’re in the Philippines. Unlike taxis, jeepneys don’t deliver you exactly to your destination. Instead, like buses, they follow prescribed routes, so make sure to check the destination information carefully (usually located on the vehicle’s windshield) before boarding.
Trams in Melbourne, Australia
The Melbourne tramway network is one of the most popular means of commuting in Melbourne, Australia. Your mini-me may be keen to know that the world's largest urban tramway network consists of 250km of tracks, 493 trams, 25 routes and 1,763 tram stops. Buy a Myki pass to move around, or simply enjoy the free tram service that plies a special zone within the Melbourne CBD. This service covers the iconic Queen Victoria Market, across to Victoria Harbour in the Docklands, up Spring Street and over to Flinders Street Station and Federation Square.
Double-decker buses in London, England
Your munchkin will be thrilled to catch a ride on a London bus — one of the most recognisable icons in the UK. Pick a guided sightseeing tour atop a red London bus (www.theoriginaltour.com), where you’ll visit places like Buckingham Palace, the Big Ben and 10 Downing Street. If you prefer to take your own time to explore the attractions, hop on and off a public London bus.
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Tuk-tuks in Bangkok, Thailand
You’ll surely get a buzz from the wild ride when you take a trip in jam- packed Bangkok city on one of these three-wheeled vehicles. Modified from an old-fashioned rickshaw that was used during World War II, a tuk-tuk is essentially a rickshaw with a small engine. How much a ride costs will vary, though be warned that most vehicles don’t come with a meter. Remember to haggle — the price usually comes down significantly!
Vespas in Rome, Italy
Though your kiddos will probably have to sit out this expedition in this exciting city, they might have fun spotting the charming ltalian scooters. But if you or your hubs are keen to give it a whirl, a nifty little Vespa is a great way to get around this crowded city. With a motorcycle licence, you can rent a scooter or else, book a Vespa tour — you’ll ride behind your personal scooterist-guide, who will show you Rome’s famous sights.
Cycling in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Cycling isn’t just a really popular way of move around in Amsterdam, the city is very bicycle-friendly, thanks to 4,000km of bicycle paths. Along the way, you’ll see locals pedalling to and from work, ferrying young children to school, and lugging home groceries and even bulky furniture. The city boasts bike rental companies everywhere, but do abide by any instructions the vendor may offer, and only lock the bike up in authorised locations.
Ride a cyclo in Vietnam
This unusual mode of transport appeared in Vietnam during the French Colonial period, and these days, can still be found in parts of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. However, today, it isn’t so much a form of public transport but a tourist attraction. The driver sits behind — on a higher seat — with two passengers in front. Negotiate the fare in advance (haggle up to about half off the quoted price) if you intend to hire a cyclo. If you don’t, you may end up paying much more!
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Rickshaws in Tokyo, Japan
Leave high-tech, super- speed Tokyo behind and check out the historic Asakusa quarter on a rickshaw. While you and your mini-me are perched on the two-wheeled vehicle with the iconic bright red blanket, you regale him with a mini-history lesson — Singapore once had rickshaws, too. You’ll be ferried about by young Japanese men — many are students who want to earn extra cash while keeping fit. A 30-minute tour will take you through places like Senso-Ji, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple, and Hanayashiki Amusement Park.
Sled dog rides in Colorado, USA
Expect a fun and highly charged experience when you and junior sit in a dog sled that’s pulled by dogs and steered by a professional guide. You’ll be amazed by the athleticism of the cuddly canines at the Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park (County Road 5, near Fraser, Colorado, (1)970-726-8326). But if there’s no snow, try a dog-powered cart ride instead, or visit the kennels and learn hands-on ways to handle hounds.
Horse-drawn carriages in New York City, USA
Tour Central Park on a horse-drawn carriage to get a taste of old-time New York. Enjoy a relaxing 45-minute ride with your brood in a gorgeous open-air carriage. During your trip, your coachman will point out historical landmarks like Belvedere Castle, Central Park Zoo and famous movie locations, even as you take in the lush greenery of the iconic park.
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