The World's 10 Most Unique Modes of Public Transportation

We're all familiar with planes, trains and automobiles, but what about transportation of a more unusual nature? Colorful modes of transportation are on the itinerary around the globe from South America to Southeast Asia, often making navigating the way to the market an adventure for Western travelers. Read on for the most unique ways to commute, and click on each destination to find out more about their country of origin.

10. Jeepney, Philippines
The exhaust-belching people-carriers powered by ancient diesel car engines that careen around Filipino city streets are actually pieced-together former World War II army Jeeps. Adorned with painted flags, eagles, and starbursts, jeepneys are traditionally given names such as "Taurus" and "Mr. Lover Boy." They travel at breakneck speed overloaded with people and produce, often failing to come to a complete stop for passengers to leap on and off. These dirty, decrepit workhorses and their doctored diesel are responsible for a particularly toxic form of air pollution as well as health problems.

9. Commuter Train, India
The train lines are the arteries that keep the commercial heart of India beating, but with more than 4,000 deaths a year, Mumbai's insanely -- and inhumanely -- crowded trains are one of the worst the world's least safe way to get to the office. More than six million commuters travel in less than ideal conditions for up to three hours in each direction daily, risking life and limb to eke on and off (or hang off the sides and roof) of these congested cars.

8. Sled Dog, Alaska
Long the only way to cover distance in Alaska or the Yukon, dog-pulled sleds have been replaced by snowmobiles in some communities. But hard-core husky enthusiasts still opt for canine power. Used in areas such as Denali National Park where motorized alternatives are illegal, deliveries, vet calls, and even Census visits in Alaska are still sometimes done by sled. The main danger -- other than frostbite -- is being downwind from the dogs. It can smell really bad.

7. Tuk Tuk, Thailand
Brightly colored, three-wheeled tuk tuks beetle about Bangkok, cramming passengers into their covered back seats as they battle insane traffic and hurtle about in the heat, humidity, and pollution. The impatient drivers of these rusting, souped-up golf carts hurtle from one lane of traffic to another, barely registering the presence of lumbering buses, thundering trucks, and the mosquito fleets of other tuk tuk drivers. As you idle, you'll have the chance to really enjoy how the noisy vehicles themselves contribute substantially to pollution. Tourists often find themselves delivered to an extra, unexpected stop en route as tuk tuk drivers attempt to get a cut of commission at stores where they happen to take a detour.

6. Elephant Howdah, India
"Howdah" translates as "throne," a throwback to the days when the ornate platforms transported India's royalty from one place to the next. These days, it tends to be an array of tourists rather than the traditional aristocratic loads with which these big beasts of burden are encumbered. Howdahs can range from a simple seat and canopy to an opulent, gilt and jewel-encrusted carriage, complete with windows.

5. Bus, Bolivia
Bolivia's ancient, bald-tired buses rattle round perilous corners on narrow, unpaved roads that cling to the brims of steep cliffs. It's no wonder why the bus route from La Paz to the Yungas Valley is known as the "Road of Death" (the remains of unlucky buses protrude from behind waterfalls and from cliff sides below). It's dangerous even to try to get on a bus. Bolivian bus stations are renowned as some of the least safe places for tourists to tread and no traveler should even consider taking a night bus.

4. Ferry, Bangladesh
Rusting, dented, 100-year-old paddle wheelers ply the waters of Bangladesh decades after they should have been removed from service. Approximately a thousand people die annually aboard (or after being shoved off) the country's overcrowded, antediluvian ferries. The weight of excess passengers and the age of the ancient, hulking vessels are the main culprits in the dozens of accidents that claim the lives of travelers and commuters each year. With passenger numbers often not officially counted, no one can say for sure just how many are lost when a ship goes down.

3. Matatu, Kenya
A chaotically decorated minibus that speeds between Kenyan destinations piled high with people, produce, baggage, and even livestock, matatus are the most common form of transport outside of the country's main cities. Chickens are common passengers on board these recklessly driven adapted pick-up trucks, baggage tends to be piled precariously on the roof, and passengers cling on wherever they can, even if that means out the back door. Hurtling along Kenyan city streets and rural back roads at insane speeds, reckless matutu drivers are responsible for a few passenger and pedestrian deaths every week.

2. Rail Cart, Philippines
Most commonly encountered in the Philippines, rail carts are literally a cart pulled along the busy railroad tracks by a person, several people, or a horse. The carts' adapted wheels allow for much faster journeys. Unfortunately, a busy train line is not somewhere you want to get stopped in your tracks. These flimsy carts are not always able to stop in time when one of the official track users comes along.

1. Funicular, Australia
The Katoomba funicular in Australia's Blue Mountains, which at 52 degrees and a gradient of 122-percent, is said to be the steepest incline railway in the world, is the last cable railway in the area. The town of Katoomba sits on the brim where a plateau plunges into a lush, forested Jamison Valley and the funicular links it to the base of the gorge (once an active mine area). The most dramatic way to experience the funicular is to hike down and take the swift trip back up to town. Passengers gingerly board the cars and are trundled backwards to the edge of the plateau. The most startling section is when you are hurtled through a pitch-black tunnel.

Photo Credits: Jeepney - Jay Directo, AFP/Getty Images; Commuter Train - Indranil Mukherjee, AFP/Getty Images; Sled Dog - Getty Images; Tuk Tuk - Nicolas Asfouri, AFP/Getty Images; Elephant Howdah - David Ball, Alamy; Bus in Bolivia - Spencer Platt, Getty Images; Ferry - Farjana K. Godhuly, AFP/Getty Images; Matatu - Marco Longari, AFP/Getty Images; Rail Cart - Luis Liwanag, AFP/Getty Images; Funicular - Charles Brewer

Read Full Story

From Our Partners