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For someone who didn't grow up with an underground mass transport system, experiencing the metro the first time I went to Europe was overwhelming.  Years after, I've developed my love-hate relationship with it and eventually made the most from using it.

So, here's my top 20 hacks for travelers using the metro for the first time.  They're simple and practical which will help save you from the stress once you set your foot on the train door.

1. Choose to use the metro over taxi especially when you're alone.  It's cheaper and more efficient.

2. Understand the metro map.  Know the end points and intersections of each line – they are usually color & number coded.

3. Look for and take the lift if you have a baggage.

4. Place your trolley bag in front of you when taking the escalator and stand on one side (usually right).  The other side is for people walking.

5. Put your phone on your back or side pocket.  Best to feel it to make sure it's safe and always with you.

6. Metro & credit card, money bills and ID on your other pocket for easy access.  If you can make do without a wallet, the better.

7. Stay close to the train door if you have only one or two stops.  Hold on to the railings or easily balance by using your soles and core while going the opposite direction when the train breaks.

8. Save an image of the metro map on your phone and mark it as a 'Favorite' for quick access.

9. Download the offline map of your destination - comes in handy as a navigation tool while walking.

10. If you're bringing a bag, just carry the essentials - copy of your passport / visa, hard copy of maps or places to visit, charged power bank, camera, book, money / card.  The lesser, the better.

11. Go for the 1 / 2 / 3-day metro pass instead of paying per trip.  Saves more than 50% if you'll use it and other public transport frequently.

12. Main stations are connected to malls / shopping area and have food shops.  Best bet if you're looking for cheap and convenient options.

13. If you look like a tourist, don't look confused and stupid.  It attracts bad elements and makes you an easy target.

14. You'll see different characters.  Mind your own business.  Give and show respect.  Remember that you're the tourist who should adjust to their culture (not the other way around).

15. Wait for passengers to exit the train before you enter.  Stay on either the left or right side too so you won't block their way.  Give priority to elders, women and kids.  It's common courtesy wherever in the world you go.

16. There are multiple exits in one station.  Know which exit is closest to where you're going.  When in doubt, simply ask.

17. Some cities have free Wi-Fi in stations and trains.  Or go to a coffee shop (usually Starbucks) that offer the service if you need to connect.

18. Be honest.  There are some cities where they won't check if you paid or your card still has credit.  Know that when you get caught, there are always repercussions.  And come on, it's only fair to pay for a service you're using.

19. During rush hour, expect huge crowds.  If you can avoid it, good for you.

20. Enjoy every ride.  It's part of your travel journey.  There are stories from every character that you'll encounter in the train that speaks of the city's culture, beauty and reality.  Simply love them all!

Written at Leningradskiy Station, Moscow (while waiting for my train to Saint Petersburg), 4 July 2016.

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