The Wildest Commutes in the World

By Rosunnara R.Last Updated Apr 2, 2020 5:26:43 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: Shadman Samee/Flickr

If you think you have a rough commute to get to work or school, you might change your mind after reading what some people around the world go through. Some commuters have found unique ways to avoid mega-traffic jams. Others risk their lives everyday to earn money or get an education. School children zip lining and mountain-scaling are just a few terrifying examples.

Despite the dangers of a crazy journey, some commuters are willing to do whatever it takes to reach their destination. Here are some of the wildest commutes in the world.

China's 50-Lane Traffic Jam

If you think a five-lane traffic jam is terrible, imagine how awful a 50-lane jam would be. That's (kind of) what happened in Beijing, China. For three hours, the painful commute trapped thousands of drivers on the G4 Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau expressway.

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Photo Courtesy: @MarketWatch/Twitter

News reports claimed the highway is 50 lanes, but the freeway only has 25 official lanes before and after the toll booth area. However, this portion of the road can fit 50 cars across it. A combination of a new checkpoint and the busiest tourist event of the year caused the 2015 mayhem. Does this happen all the time? There haven’t been any further reports of massive gridlocks, so it must be good news.

Boat Jams in Venice, Italy

Many commuters get trapped in car traffic, but have you ever been stuck in a boat jam? Venice, Italy, is known for its large canals and beautiful architecture. The famous city is basically without cars, so everyone gets around on boats.

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Photo Courtesy: Pixabay

Ranging from cruises and gondolas to water taxis, boat rides have caused a lot of congestion on the canals. The excessive boat traffic has even damaged some canals and nearby structures. As a result, the Italian government banned large cruise ships from the city in 2017.


Pushers at Tokyo Train Stations

During rush hour, subway rides are usually extremely crowded in any city. In Tokyo, train traffic is so crazy the city hired "train pushers." The job is exactly what it sounds like. The workers push passengers into packed trains until the car doors close. Not weird at all, right?

Photo Courtesy: @PollyJames/Twitter

Although the job description sounds aggressive, train pushers make sure everyone is safely inside and doesn't get stuck in the doors. Plus, the workers are polite and wear uniforms, hats and white gloves. Almost half the commuters in Tokyo travel by train, so it's no surprise the system needs a little help (or maybe a push?).


Mountain-Scaling in China’s Atule'er Village

Atule'er village, also called the cliff village, is a poor, isolated community in China. Commuting to school is quite a journey for children. In fact, the kids must brave a half-mile climb up towering, steep cliffs on ladders to reach their school.

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Photo Courtesy: @Independent/Twitter

The children's story went viral after a Chinese newspaper published pictures of students climbing the 4,593-foot cliff on rickety, wooden ladders. Shortly after, the government upgraded the ladders with steel, shortening travel time from three hours to one — better but still terrifying.


Piling onto Bangladesh Trains

If you think your daily train ride is a chaotic nightmare, check out the train commute in Bangladesh during rush hour. Passengers in Dhaka City usually fill up trains to maximum capacity — but why stop there? Not only do they pile into the train, but they also climb on top and cling to the sides.

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Photo Courtesy: @Razarumi/Twitter

With nearly 2,000 men, women and children hopping on the train’s roof, how fast does the locomotive move? The heavy train struggles, but it still chugs along at 27 miles per hour. Good luck, if you're hoping to find a seat on the train.


Swimming in a River to Work

How far would you go to avoid traffic? One German commuter had enough of the busy roads, so he jumped into Munich's Isar River and swam to work. Each morning, Benjamin David packs his laptop, shoes and suit into a waterproof bag and puts on a swimsuit before jumping into the river.

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Photo Courtesy: @IOL/Twitter

He says swimming is faster and more relaxing than sitting in traffic. While he's having fun watching squirrels and ducklings, he can hear frustrated commuters up on the riverbank. If David ever gets thirsty during his journey, he just drinks a mouthful of the river's drinking-quality water. Whoa!


Crossing a Narrow Suspension Bridge

In Java, Indonesia, students risk their lives everyday on their school run. Every morning, the children take a shortcut using a suspension bridge that connects Suro village and Plempungan village. What makes that so scary? The bridge wasn't made for people to cross it.

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Photo Courtesy: Agoes Rudianto/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Stretching above the Pepe River, the bridge is actually a water line for irrigation. Students stare death in the face every time they use it to walk or bike on the narrow wooden planks. Holding on to a handrail, they make their way across the dangerous bridge.


Reindeer Sleds

Sledding anyone? What about reindeer sleds? Some Russian folks still use animal transportation in the Arctic region, and using reindeer has plenty of pros. They're easy to maintain, they can run long distances and they can travel across challenging terrains, such as dense forests and frozen lakes.

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Photo Courtesy: @businessinsider/Twitter

It's common for Sámi people to ride around the Arctic on sleds pulled by reindeer. In recent years, more Russian soldiers have trained with reindeer sleds. Their photos don't look serious, but the Russian military has expanded to the Arctic with high-tech weaponry.


Motor-Powered Paragliding

Imagine never getting stuck in traffic. Paul Cox is living the dream because he doesn't get trapped in congestion; he watches it from the sky. Every morning, the daredevil flies 10 miles to work using a paraglider powered by a motor.

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Photo Courtesy: George Amaro/Flickr

Cox previously rode a pushbike to work, but he eventually traded it for a paramotor. The swap was a great choice. Now, he enjoys the beauty of the Wales coast from 7,500 feet in the air. His coworkers and locals love watching him land, pack his gear into a suitcase and casually stroll into work.


Descending into a Volcano

On Indonesia's Java Island, workers at the Mount Ijen mine have to climb down into an active volcano every day. Before the sun rises, they hike 9,000 feet up the mountain and then climb down 3,000 feet into the heart of the volcano.

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Photo Courtesy: Pxhere

The air at Mount Ijen is filled with thick smoke and a strong burning smell. The workers deal with these conditions on their way to work and at work everyday, damaging their skin and burning their lungs and eyes. Ouch!


Guoliang Tunnel Road

Found in the Henan province in China, Guoliang Tunnel is a breathtaking tunnel road carved into a mountainside in 1972. The road gives Guoliang villagers easier access to Huixian and Xinxiang in the Henan province. Tourists from all over the world also visit to look at the incredible hand-carved feat.

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Photo Courtesy: TPG/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Although the landscape looks like a scene from a fairytale, Guoliang Tunnel Road is actually terrifying. Fortunately, it’s less than a mile long, but it's still a dangerous road. Drivers must remain close to the mountainside to avoid steep drops. Falling rocks and mudslides can also occur on the road. Yikes!


Bison Jam

If you work near Yellowstone National Park and find yourself stuck in traffic, it’s most likely caused by a bison jam. Get ready to call in late to work because commuters can get trapped for hours. In fact, you probably won't even make it to work.

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Photo Courtesy: Yellowstone National Park/Flickr

Honking your horn or trying to tell the bison what to do won’t help either. Bison regularly take group strolls and cross roads — or just stand there. These 2,000-pound beasts will move out of the way on their own schedule.


Dangerous Small Boats in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, thousands of Dhaka commuters use water transportation to cross the Buriganga river. For passengers using small wooden boats, it's very dangerous. The busy waters are crowded with cargo ships and other passenger boats, so the small boats must be very careful.

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Photo Courtesy: Zakir Hossain Chowdhury/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Even when the weather is pleasant, passengers and ferrymen risk their lives to reach the city center or residential areas. The small boats are only powered and steered by one oar, so it takes a lot of strength and courage to brave the waterway. Sometimes, the boats capsize or get squashed by bigger boats. Yikes!


Beijing Trains

If you think your daily subway ride is a headache, take a look at the insane rush hour conditions in Beijing, China. Almost 9.75 million riders take the trains across Beijing everyday, and they usually have to squeeze their way into already packed cars.

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Photo Courtesy: @CCTV/Twitter

Stretching 327 miles, Beijing's subway system is larger than London's and New York's. Although it expanded in recent years, the system still isn’t large enough for the commuter population. Some riders have quit riding the subway because of the overcrowding, even though it's cheaper, faster and easier than driving.


Guwahati Flood Commutes

Floods are a common occurrence in Guwahati, but they don't stop people from reaching their destination. After heavy rains submerge the roads and tracks with water, trains get canceled in the Indian city, forcing locals to find a different way to commute.

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Photo Courtesy: BIJU BORO/AFP/Getty Images

Some folks still use rickshaws to commute through flooded streets following heavy rains. Others just power through the water on their own two legs. However, walking through flooded areas is dangerous because whatever is in the water can be harmful, and it’s easy to slip and fall.


Kayaking the Hudson

Each morning, Zach Schwitzky kayaks across New York's Hudson River to work. It only takes him 20 minutes to paddle to the city. Where does Schwitzky park his kayak? He doesn't. He pulls it around the busy streets of Manhattan with him. Sounds exhausting, right?

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Photo Courtesy: Pixabay

Yes, he gets a lot of strange looks from people, but he'd rather lug the kayak than get stuck in gridlocked traffic. He says it's a beautiful commute, and it allows him to get in a workout. He also happily notes that there's no carbon footprint.


Zoji La Pass

To reach Ladakh and Kashmir in India, many residents must travel Zoji La, one of the most dangerous roads in the world. With an elevation of 11,575 feet, the road has some amazing views, but it’s not like you can take your eyes off the road to enjoy the scenery. It’s often a scary commute.

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Photo Courtesy: Blaine Harrington III/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images Plus

Drivers stress out over the lack of protective barriers, the cliff's steep drops and the narrow, unpaved roads. During and after a heavy snowfall, Zoji La is impassable in some sections. In fact, the road closes for almost half the year because the snowfall makes the road too dangerous.


Clinging to Buses in Karachi, Pakistan

It's common for Karachi folks to travel by rickshaw or taxi. Most people get around by clinging to the sides or sitting on the roof of buses when there's no longer space inside. Finding an available seat isn't impossible; it just involves a lot of pushing, shoving and elbowing.

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Photo Courtesy: @dailytimespak/Twitter

On a clear day, bus rides are already uncomfortable, so when it rains or floods, it's even worse. However, that doesn't deter passengers from hanging onto the sides. Visitors might find these conditions unappealing, but for locals, taking the bus is essential to their way of life, especially for those on tight budgets.


Walking on a Frozen River in the Himalayas

During the harsh winters, some roads from the Zanskar district to Leh close. That's a problem for students who need to take that route to reach their boarding school in India's Himalayas. As a result, they walk a different, yet dangerous path.

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Photo Courtesy: @skylife/Twitter

The Chadar Trek is a perilous journey students must take to reach their school. It involves walking on the Zanskar River, which turns into a frozen highway in the winter. However, on occasion, the ice breaks and people fall into the river.


Afghanistan's Kabul-Jalalabad Highway

Kabul-Jalalabad Highway is one of the most dangerous roads in the world. Along the Kabul River Gorge, the road stretches 89 miles along terrifying cliffs. Commuters often get stuck in mega-jams for hours, especially in snowy conditions. The traffic gets so bad that food vendors set up shop along the road.

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Photo Courtesy: Peretz Partensky/Flickr

The worst part is the narrow turns. Commuters can easily plunge down the cliffs at each narrow turn or crash into another vehicle. Unfortunately, fatal traffic accidents are a common occurrence on Kabul-Jalalabad Highway. Sometimes, deadly disasters take place on the same day.


Paddle Boarding Across the Hudson River

Running late to a meeting, Scott Holt refused to take the train or ferry. Instead, he paddle boarded across the Hudson River in his business suit and dress shoes. Within half an hour, Holt managed to travel from Jersey City to New York City.

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Photo Courtesy: Inside Edition/YouTube

His journey wasn't exactly smooth. With a briefcase strapped around him, Holt fought against boat wakes and currents and almost fell in the water a couple of times. However, his story has a happy ending: He made it to his meeting on time.


Bike Traffic in China

If you think getting stuck in a bike jam is impossible, look for pictures of the 7 million registered bicyclists in Beijing or the 6.5 million in Shanghai. Frustrated commuters also have to deal with bicyclists who swerve or ride in the wrong direction.

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Photo Courtesy: Vmenkov/Wikimedia Commons

All sorts of bike commuters contribute to mega-jams, including students, workers and tourists. To ease traffic jams, Chinese cities have adopted bike-sharing services. Bike-sharing has helped to some degree, but it has caused different problems, like riders leaving bikes in the middle of the sidewalk.


School Children Zip Lining

In Los Pinos, Colombia, young children only have two options to get an education: walk for an hour or zip line across a canyon above the roaring Rio Negro. Reaching speeds up to 40 miles per hour, zip lining is a bit scary, but it’s easier and faster.

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Photo Courtesy: WISE Channel/YouTube

Children throw themselves from a point 1,300 feet above the canyon and zip through the air to the other side. Although the community maintains the zip line, it's still a terrifying and dizzying journey. Small children who can't zip line by themselves get help from an adult.


Manila Trolley

Walking on train tracks is dangerous, but dodging trains is even riskier. The capital of the Philippines, Manila, is one of the most populated cities in the world. To save time and money, some commuters have found a different way to get around: a conveyance propelled by "trolley boys."

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Photo Courtesy: @NRT_English/Twitter

Trolley boys push passengers on metal carts along Manila's railways. However, the railways are already in use by trains, so the boys must know all the train schedules to avoid getting struck. Deaths are rare, but many workers have close call stories. Gasp!


Waterfall Road in Nepal

Along the Annapurna mountain range, Manang Road is a perilous, long, winding path carved into the side of a cliff. Beautiful waterfalls cascade down on some sections of the road, requiring drivers to cross through the waters. Doesn’t sound too bad, right?

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Photo Courtesy: Sergey Ashmarin/Wikimedia Commons

Well, after heavy rain and during the spring thaw, the waterfalls powerfully overflow onto Manang road, like a roaring river. The road becomes scarier and more challenging to pass, even with a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Do you dare drive down the crazy waterfall road?


Kite Surfing

Imagine traveling with the wind in your hair and the warm sun on your face. David Grimes, an IT manager in England, puts on a wetsuit every morning and kite surfs to his office. The wind does most of the work for Grimes.

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Photo Courtesy: PeakPX

On good days, he sails 20 miles per hour. He prefers kite surfing over sitting in traffic and smelling petrol fumes. It's a great way to exercise and is environmentally friendly. After his 30-minute commute, Grimes simply swaps his wetsuit for a suit and tie.


North Yungas Road

Stretching 43 miles and reaching heights of 2,000 feet at some points, North Yungas Road is a deadly tourist attraction and commute. It earned the nickname "Death Road" due to the high number of fatal crashes and drivers tumbling off the cliffs.

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Photo Courtesy: @XHSports/Twitter

Each year, North Yungas Road claims nearly 300 lives. The road is filled with dangerous, sharp turns, and it certainly doesn't help that the road is only 10 feet wide and doesn’t have any guardrails. When the fog or rain rolls in, driving conditions get even worse.


Building Your Own Plane

Some folks take unusual commutes on the water, while some prefer to take to the skies. In the Czech Republic, Frantisek Hadrava travels 9.3 miles to work. He got sick of driving only 14 minutes in his car to work.

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Photo Courtesy: @sciencefocus/Twitter

Frantisek hated his commute so much that he built his own plane and flew it to work instead. The aircraft cut the commute time in half. Plus, he gets to throw on a cool scarf and helmet. After the flight, Frantisek parks the plane in his office's parking lot. Can you imagine the look on his coworkers’ faces the first time he did it?


Lion Traffic Jam

Found in South Africa, Kruger National Park is home to 1,600 lions, so it's no surprise that cars get stalled occasionally by the king of the jungle. It's a thrilling, yet scary experience because things can go wrong quickly.

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Photo Courtesy: @ABC7Chicago/Twitter

One traffic jam involving four lions went viral on social media. The lions casually strolled along the road, causing the cars to pile up. Getting close to a lion is obviously dangerous. They have attacked humans in Africa. If you ever find yourself in this situation, roll up your windows and enjoy the show — but keep a safe distance from the beasts.


Electric-Assisted Water Bikes

In California, San Francisco and Oakland commuters often travel by vehicle, the subway system and the ferry — all methods that are jam-packed. In 2019, locals may soon have a new way to get to school or work: a personal water bike.

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Photo Courtesy: @sfchronicle/Twitter

To avoid traffic jams and crowds, locals could own or rent electric bicycles that are also part catamaran. They can propel the bikes two ways: pedaling or with an electric boost. A lot of testing in the Bay Area has been completed. Unfortunately, it won't replace a person’s Bay Bridge commute (for now).