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7 Unusual Modes of Transportation from Around the World

Buses, taxis and trains may be universal, but sometimes the form they take isn’t so familiar to the traveller. In some instances, they’re just downright peculiar.

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Turkey's modes of transportation include the Underground FunicularPhoto: Ozgur Guvenc/Shutterstock

Underground Funicular in Turkey

A funicular is an inclined railway in which a tram is moved up and down a hill with a cable. Istanbul’s Tünel is an underground version. The route is just over half a kilometre and covers the 60-metre height distance between the seaside on the Golden Horn and the beginning of the famous pedestrian mall that is İstiklal Caddesi (Avenue) in Beyoğlu. The funicular opened on December 5, 1874 making this the second oldest subway in the world after London’s Underground. The funicular has been so effective that the city added another one nearby to connect the ferry terminal with the subway system up top.

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The Cyclo in VietnamPhoto: Tony Duy/Shutterstock

The Cyclo in Vietnam

In Vietnam, it’s popular for tourists to climb on the front of this tricycle taxi to get a little tour of the city, especially the Old Quarter of Hanoi and the lovely Hoan Kiem Lake. Locals also use these cyclos to get through the city’s chaotic traffic. In some cases, they are actually faster than a car – and a lot greener!

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Canal Taxi in Bangkok, ThailandPhoto: De Visu/Shutterstock

Canal Taxi in Bangkok

Bangkok is sometimes called the “Venice of the East” due to its network of canals. River and canal taxis are still an important part of the city transit system and in many cases are much faster than the gridlocked traffic on the roads. This particular canal route goes right through the heart of downtown. Due to the fluctuating tides and some low bridges, it is necessary for the boat to “duck” at some points. The boats will slow at low bridges and the canvas canopy will drop a bit, forcing all passengers to crouch for a moment.

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Chicken Buses in GuatamalaPhoto: Joseph Mortimer/Shutterstock

Chicken Bus in Central America

These brightly coloured buses have become the budget traveller‘s quintessential Latin American transport experience. For locals in places such as Guatemala or Panama, these buses are an essential and affordable means of transportation that gets them from village to village. The bus gets its nickname from the chickens sometimes on board being brought to or from a market. Don’t be surprised if it’s standing room only. That goes for the chickens as well.

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Camel Bus in CubaPhoto: Matyas Rehak/Shutterstock

Camel Bus in Cuba

Cuba has been known to have a few unusual vehicles on the road, particularly an abundance of classic American cars left over from before the days of the revolution. However, its mass transit classic was the camel bus. Recently retired, this semi-truck pulled a payload of passengers on a sloped back trailer. Locals used to jokingly say it contained all the elements of an adult film: sex, violence and bad language. These crowded meat wagons have recently been replaced by modern Chinese buses. Only the tourists with cameras will likely miss them.

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Maglev Train in Shanghai, ChinaPhoto: Lee Prince/Shutterstock

Maglev Train in Shanghai

This is not your normal train to the airport. Not only does it make the 30-kilometre run in just a matter of minutes, reaching speeds of up to 431 km per hour, but it rides atop a powerful magnetic field. Maglev is short for magnetic levitation. Don’t worry, it won’t pull off your wristwatch or swipe the coins out of your pockets, but it will put a thrill in what may be the shortest airport connection you’ll ever experience. The speed is shown on a monitor in each car and is likely the most photographed speedometer in the world.

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Hovercraft in the Isle of Wight, United KingdomPhoto: Gail Heaton/Shutterstock

Hovercraft in the United Kingdom

The heyday of the hovercraft has come and gone. Suspended on a cushion of air, these crafts offered a smooth ride across the water. Generally, high-speed catamarans have taken over. Not so in the UK, however, where Hovertravel still runs one from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight. This is the longest running commercial hovercraft ferry.