Home Speaking Improve your IELTS Vocabulary – Topic: Transportation

Improve your IELTS Vocabulary – Topic: Transportation

Welcome to our second post on expanding your IELTS vocabulary! In the first post of this series, we talked about the benefits of learning new words and phrases through common IELTS themes and explored vocabulary related to education. Today, we’ll be looking at expanding your vocabulary on the topic of transportation.
Vocabulary sets related to transportation

Talking about transportation is a frequent occurrence in everyday life, and the IELTS Speaking test is no exception. The theme of transportation is likely to arise in any of the three parts of the Speaking test. You may be asked to discuss your experience with public transport and daily travel, talk about a specific type of transport (e.g. boats), describe a journey you’ve made, or speculate about transportation in the future. In addition, transportation is also a common theme for Writing Task 2. Here you’re likely to be asked to analyze a specific problem related to transportation and, in some cases, identify possible solutions. So let’s take a look at five relevant sub-topics that we recommend you use to get your vocabulary sets started:

  • Means of transportation

part of speech
common collocations

an electric vehicle similar to a bus but goes along metal tracks on the road
catch/go on/take the tram, get on/off the tram, miss the tram, tram service/system, tram stop, (travel) by tram
In my opinion, the tram system is not as efficient as other means of public transport.
/træm /

a bus used to take groups of people on long journeys

private/air-conditioned/luxury coach, go/travel by coach, coach journey/trip/tour
I’d like to tour the country by coach.

a boat used for travelling around for pleasure or racing
luxury/private yacht, cruise on/sail a yacht, yacht club/marina, on/on board a yacht
We spent our holiday on a private yacht in the Caribbean.
/ jɑt/

  • In the topic of transportation, coach can also be used to talk about the cheapest type of seats on a plane or train.


  • Roads & traffic

part of speech
common collocations

a bridge that carries one road over another road
freeway/highway overpass
Traffic in the area significantly improved thanks to the new overpass.
/ˈoʊ·vərˌpæs /

service road
a small road next to a busier, faster road, that you use to drive to homes and shops
on a/the service road
In my city, truck traffic is not allowed on service roads.
/ ˈsɝː.vɪs ˌroʊd/

traffic jam
a large number of vehicles on a road moving very slowly or not at all
long/severe traffic jam, be/get caught/stuck in a traffic jam, traffic jam on the (road)
I was stuck in a traffic jam on my way here.
/ ˈtræf·ɪk ˌdʒæm/

  • Transportation & the environment

part of speech
common collocations

the amount of gas, heat, light that is sent out
vehicle emissions, greenhouse gas/carbon dioxide emissions, cut/reduce/control emissions, emissions from (traffic)
In my opinion, governments are not doing enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from traffic.

noise pollution
noise, such as that from traffic, that is considered unhealthy for people
to tackle/ease/reduce noise pollution, noise pollution from (type of transport)
Noise pollution from trains passing through residential areas is a major concern in my country.
/ ˈnɔɪz pəˌluː.ʃən/

not harmful to the environment
environmentally- friendly vehicles/ transportation/ fuel/ alternative
Electric cars are a more environmentally-friendly alternative.
/ɪn.vaɪr.ənˌmen.t̬əl.i ˈfrend.li/


  • Travel

part of speech
common collocations

in a foreign country
travel/go abroad, to be abroad, to move abroad
It’s much easier to travel abroad now than in the past.
/ əˈbrɔd/

business trip
a journey taken for business purposes
take/make a business trip, on a business trip
I went to New York on a business trip.
/ˈbɪz·nəs trɪp/


(or noun)
to travel regularly between work and home
daily/every day commute, to commute from/to (place)
I commute to the city by bus every day.
/ kəˈmjut/


  • The future of transportation

part of speech
common collocations

space travel
travel through outer space
human/commercial space travel, the future of space travel, achieve space travel, to space travel
There’s a lot of interest in space travel these days.
/ spās ˈtravəl/

autonomous vehicle (also known as driverless caror self-driving car)
a car capable of driving itself
be driven by an autonomous vehicle
I don’t believe autonomous vehicles can keep us safe.

high-speed rail
a high-speed passenger train
by high-speed rail, high-speed rail network/route/service, high-speed rail accident/crash/disaster
In the future, high-speed rail networks will take over traditional rail systems.
/ˈhɑɪˈspid reɪl/


Idioms related to transportation

When learning idioms related to transportation for your IELTS, keep in mind that many idioms in English include words related to transportation, but are not necessarily used to talk about transport (for example, the idiom to throw someone under the bus means to put the blame on another person). Here we’ll look at some idioms that you can use to talk about transportation on your IELTS test:


bumper to bumper
with very little space between two cars in a line of cars
The traffic’s usually bumper to bumper all the way to work.

backseat driver
a passenger in a car who gives unwanted advice to the driver
My wife’s very much a backseat driver – she always tells me to speed up or slow down.

hit the road
to begin a trip
I like to hit the road early when going on long journeys.

hitch a lift/ride
to get a free ride in someone else’s vehicle
After the festival, we hitched a lift back to the city.

beat the traffic
to leave early to avoid traveling when the roads are crowded
I always try to leave early in the morning so I can beat the traffic on my way to school.


Don’t forget to keep your vocabulary notebook nearby when preparing for the test in order to keep extending your vocabulary sets. If you think of other possible sub-topics that you can explore during your preparation time (e.g. at the airport), write them down and make sure to include the useful details shown above for each new vocabulary item.

Stay tuned for our next IELTS vocabulary theme – the environment!

By Andrea Castro – IELTS Canada