The World's Best Subways: 10 Top Cities

Get a grip on a loop in the Tokyo Metro. loops
By Charis Atlas Heelan

Mastering public transportation is one way to feel less like a tourist and more like a local. What makes the world's best subway, Metro, and Tube systems? Other than safety, cleanliness, and cost, it doesn't hurt to have amenities like great architecture or underground shops and eateries. Bonus points if the transit stations aren't too crowded or have endless staircases.

Photo Caption: Aboard the Tokyo Metro. Photo by loops/Flickr.com
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Chandeliers in the Kievskaya Metro station in Moscow. Borya
If you prefer subway systems with ornate architecture and chandelier lighting, then Moscow is your city. Like many former Soviet transportation systems, the Moscow Metro oozes architectural grandeur (both inside and out). By European standards, the subway is super cheap and relatively fast. With more than 180 miles of track serving 177 stations, it is also one of the largest and most efficient, operating from 6:00am to 1:00am daily.

Ticket Price: A single ticket is 50 Rubles (about 80¢); multi-ride discount smartcards are also available.

More Information: www.engl.mosmetro.ru

Photo Caption: Chandeliers in the Kievskaya Metro station in Moscow. Photo by Borya/Flickr.com
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The Sherlock Holmes-themed Baker Street Tube station in London. Cocoarmani
The London Underground system (also known as the Tube) is as much a part of the city as the iconic double-decker buses -- the trains are just a lot faster and used by more people. Considering that the system has been running for over 150 years, the Tube is doing pretty well. Illuminated digital signs let you know that your train is approaching, and lines interlink for effortless transfers. Tall people may have to stoop over a bit if they're standing near the doors, since the tube-shape tunnels means that the trains themselves have curved sides. And course, don't forget to the Mind the Gap.

Ticket Price: Prices are split into zones with £4.80 being the full (and exorbitant) price for a single journey; a pay-as-you-go Oyster card is the most cost-effective choice. in all zones. A single trip costs £2.90 in Zone 1 and 2. A day ticket is £12, and a weekly pass is £32.10

More Information: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/ 

Photo Caption: The Sherlock Holmes-themed Baker Street Tube station in London. Photo by Cocoarmani/Flickr.com
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Some of the T-bana subway stations in Stockholm have unique details, such as cave-like walls. Metro Centric
Of the 100 or so stations that make up the Tunnelbana (or T-bana) network, more than 90 have works of art, making it ostensibly the longest art gallery in the world. With pieces by 140 artists, the stations also have unique features, such as huge murals and cave-like rough-hewn wall surfaces.

Ticket Price: A single Zone 1 ticket is a hefty SEK 36 ($4.42) or SEK 72 ($8.85) for all three zones. A 24-hour ticket is SEK 115 ($14.13), a three-day is SEK 230 ($28.26), and a seven-day pass, recommended for visitors by the Swedish public transit authority, is SEK 300 ($36.86).

More Information: http://sl.se/en/

Photo Caption: Some of the T-bana subway stations in Stockholm have unique details, such as cave-like walls. Photo by Metro Centric/Flickr.com
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White-gloved attendants often help passengers board crowded subway trains in Tokyo. (Jc)
You've got to love a city that has women-only carriages on its subway trains. Sure, there are stations where men in little white gloves nudge you onto the train, especially during rush hour. That aside, the Tokyo Metro is a sensible option for making your way around the city. In fact, you can reach many shops, malls, restaurants, and commercial buildings without ever surfacing. Tokyo's newest Oedo line has stations with beautiful art installations.

Ticket Price: Sold at vending machines, tickets are available in denominations of ¥170 ($1.45) to ¥ 310 ($2.64) depending on your destination. You can get coupon packs with 11 tickets for the price of 10, or 12 tickets during off-peak times.

More Information: www.tokyometro.jp

Photo Caption: White-gloved attendants often help passengers board crowded subway trains in Tokyo. Photo by (Jc)/Flickr.com
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Entering the turnstiles in a New York City subway station. Frommers.com Community
Crowds aside, the extensive New York City subway system has to be among the world's best. In general, the system is easy to navigate with its color-coded and letter-or-number-named lines. Below ground, you'll find entertaining street (or should we say platform) performers, period tile work, funky art installations, and occasionally a newspaper/candy stand. The MTA network has 468 stops over four boroughs -- sorry Staten Island, your short railway isn't technically part of the subway system, but you can still use your MetroCard there. In the city that never sleeps, the subway is definitely quicker than taking a cab.

Ticket Price
: One flat rate, no matter where you're going. A single ticket costs $2.50. Put $5 or more on a MetroCard, and you'll receive a 5% bonus (for example: a $20 purchase gives you $21 on your card). A weekly pass is $30.

More Information: www.mta.info

Photo Caption: Entering the turnstiles in a New York City subway station. Photo by DiamondJim/Frommers.com Community
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The Louvre-Rivoli Métro station in Paris. Amy Chen
The 110-year-old Paris Métro consists of 16 color-coded lines plus the RER train lines which criss-cross the city. Many stations feature historic and distinct Art Nouveau signage and ornate entrances designed by Hector Guimard. Stations like Musée du Louvre have museum exhibits, and others feature tiled vaulted ceilings and minimalist designs.

Ticket Price:
A single ticket €1.80, and a "carnet" of 10trips is €14.10. A tourist pass (Paris Visite) is available for one, two, three or five days (€12.30; €20.00; €27.30; and €39.30).

More Information: www.ratp.fr

Photo Caption: The Louvre-Rivoli Métro station in Paris.
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Inside a new Dubai Metro train. philcampbell
Bigger is not always better, as seen with the pocket-size Dubai Metro system. Technically, only part of the network goes underground; it also links to a monorail with the best train views over Dubai and the Gulf. Operational for little over five years, this modern train network is pretty glamorous for public transportation. Each station has Wi-Fi access (for an additional cost), a cell-phone signal, and elevator access to all platforms. The train seats feel almost like La-Z-Boys, and there are specific train carriages for women and children. It's also worth checking out the Arab-inspired architectural motifs at Al Jafiliya station, the blue jellyfish-design chandeliers at Khalid Bin Al Waleed, and the steel-and-glass masterpiece of Mall of the Emirates station. 

Ticket Price: Single tickets rangefrom 4 UAE dirham ($1.09) to 8.5 UAE dirham ($2.31); a one-day ticket is 20 UAE dirham ($5.45). The rechargeable red "Nol" card is a multi-ticket pass that's best for tourist and visitors.

More Information: www.rta.ae

Photo Caption: Inside a new Dubai Metro train. Photo by philcampbell/Flickr.com
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The Akropoli subway station in Athens. swimparallel
One of the crowning achievements of this city's Olympic bid was the creation of Attiko Metro, a system with stations housing archaeological exhibits and items that were uncovered while digging (walls, cisterns, urns, and even sarcophagi). Even if you don't need to get to any of the 50-plus stations, it's well worth a visit to Syntagma Square or Akropoli stations to see the relics or Ethniki Amyna station for more contemporary art installations. Though the trains aren't that modern or efficient, the visual surroundings make it all worthwhile.

Ticket Price:
A single ticket is €1.20, a daily ticket is €4. A ticket from the airport is €8.

More Information: www.ametro.gr

Photo Caption: The Akropoli subway station in Athens. Photo by swimparallel/Flickr.com
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The efficient Wan Chai MTR station in Hong Kong. countries in colors
Clean, efficient, and almost sterile in its appearance, Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR) should be emulated by more cities. Passengers wait in orderly lines and approach glass-barrier screens, meaning you don't have to worry about pushing or shoving. The signs (written in Chinese and English) cater to most users, and the color-coded lines and illuminated routes are easy to decipher. As for the noise, you'll hear more cell-phone ringtones than anything else.

Ticket Price: Prices vary according to the distance and destination (from HK$4 to HK$26, or 50¢ to $3.30), so consider getting a rechargeable Octopus card. The Airport Express Travel Pass for HK$300 ($38.60) includes two Airport Express one-way trips and three days of unlimited MTR travel. Of this, HK$50 ($6.40) is refundable after the initial three days, or you can put the balance toward more subway trips.

More Information: www.mtr.com.hk

The efficient Wan Chai MTR station in Hong Kong. Photo by countries in colors/Flickr.com
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The new Line 2 trains on the Beijing subway have no doors between cars, allow you to see from one end to the other. beltzner
As with Hong Kong's MTR network, you'll never miss a cell-phone call while riding on Beijing's new subway system. A legacy of the Beijing Olympic Games, the Beijing metro trains are pristine. Announcements are made in Mandarin and English, there are television monitors to keep you informed and entertained. You can also find shopping malls, entertainment hubs, and restaurants in many of the major stations. Although already quite extensive, there are plans to extend the lines and create several dozen more stations within the next few years.

Ticket Price: A ticket for use on any line -- except the Airport Express -- is 3-6 Chinese yuan (about 48¢-97¢, including transfers.

More Information: www.ebeijing.gov.cn

Photo Caption: The new Line 2 trains on the Beijing subway have no doors between cars, allowing you to see from one end to the other. Photo by beltzner/Flickr.com
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