Language is a funny thing, something you don’t always realize is such an important part of our lives until you travel to another country that doesn’t speak your language. Travelling abroad has it advantages, but when it comes to getting around a new city, language is a key component.
In my travels, I have been lucky to have grown up in an English speaking country. English is the international language of aviation, all pilots must speak it in order to communicate to air traffic control, who all speak it as well. This also means that 99% of the time, airports of labeled in the local dominant language as well as English. This is not always true when you leave the airport, though this can be a mixed bag. South Korea was labeled so well in English that I had no issues at all getting around, of course a good public transit app helped with that as well. France is a whole different story, leave the airport, the English goes away.
The other place that can get complicated fast is when you start getting around cities, or areas where taxis come into play. This can be a big problem if you are attempting to communicate where you are going with a barrier of language impeding the way the entire time. Up until now I have used public transit almost exclusively to avoid this issue. Although my interests tend to be in cities anyways, so I haven’t needed a taxi outside of my home, or the very rare occasion where I need a late night ride in San Francisco… yeah that was a specific example because it’s only happened once.
There is another option though, and one I’m going to start relying more and more upon. Cape Town, South Africa is not a city built upon subways, so a taxi or car is going to be the way to go. This is where Uber is going to come to the rescue for me. Uber, for those who have been under a rock for a while, is a taxi/car service that is requested from an app, driven by normal people and is in 67 different countries right now. The beauty of this is that the app can request a car right to your location, you can put in your destination and the driver gets that information. There is no question on where you are going, so forget the language barrier, the app handles everything.
This is also great in that the fare is completely handled through the app, so there is no need to worry about being ripped off by a driver who doesn't turn on the meter, or does something nefarious knowing that you may not be familiar with the local currency or charging methods.
Uber has quickly become a go to in my home of Philadelphia, but I don’t need it there very often. It will become invaluable in Cape Town and Dubai this year. While I'm aware that in both South Africa and Dubai, English is a fairly widespread language, Uber is still a beautiful thing for convenience and the consistence of their product. Now if they could only get to Buenos Aires before I visit next month, that would make my life much easier in Argentina.
If you haven’t signed up for Uber yet, use my link below and it’ll get you your first ride free! Check it out if you haven’t yet used Uber.
Rocket Scientist, Travel Junkie, and Ruler of the 4th Moon of Omicron Persei 8