Being in a new city can be daunting. Visiting, just moved or passing through somewhere new?
Here are some tips I've collected throughout my travels to help me get the most out of each place I wander into, no matter how short or long the stay.
Though not all cities are walkable, there are many that are, and if you happen to be in one then that is exactly what you should be doing. Walk down the streets, around the corners, walk everywhere. Besides it being a great form of exercise, which you will undoubtedly need after all the amazing food you'll want to try, it's a great way to discover a new city. The only way to find those unforgettable hole-in-the-wall's is by walking.
2. Public Transportation
As noted, not all places are easy to walk, if this is the case, then utilize the public transportation system. Even in times when you can walk around, realize that you can only walk but so far. Taxi's are for chumps! Do you want to be a chump? Didn't think so. Now get on that train, tram, bus, subway, metro, whatever. To really uncover the gems of a new place, you must live as the people there live, and unless they have "racks on racks" as my friends would say, they're most likely using one of these forms of transportation.
3. Talk to Locals
They live in the place for goodness sakes, so who would know the place better? In most places they are more than happy to lend a helping hand. Unless you're in France...sorry Frenchies, your reputation precedes you. (Although in my short 12 hours there, I found one very kind man who was the greatest.) Locals have almost always pointed me in the right direction. Make sure you ask them to tell you where they would go, not where they think you would want to go. You don't want to go to the tourist spots, get a genuine feel of this new place!
4. Get Lost
Today in Turkey, I got extremely lost. Had no idea where I was, and I had the best day ever! Getting lost is beautiful. Sure scary, but oh so wonderful. You come across things you normally wouldn't and are pleasantly surprised by all that you do. Get lost, make the wrong turn, figure it out. Your adventure is awaiting in your confusion. Suppress your need to ask for directions and try to go with the flow. You will appreciate it in the long run.
5. TripAdvisor/Lonely Planet
No one goes to China and doesn't want to see the Great Wall of China. You don't go to France and not see the Eiffel Tower. It's a part of the experience. For these reasons, I would use TripAdvisor/Lonely Planet. See what is worth your time, and what isn't exactly your cup of tea. Sometimes you don't know what the great things to do are, and this will give you the most touristy of touristy things to see and do. Not a bad idea because at the end of the day, no matter how hard you try, you still kinda are a tourist. Sorry love! Experience the Hagia Sophia and the Taj Mahal with the other tourists before going upon your own route.
6. Tourist Traps
You will undoubtedly get caught in one. It's going to happen. Don't run from it, just take it in. Learn from it and then never get caught again. You will pay too much for a cab before knowing how the metro works, you will pay $10 for a jacket and think it's a steal, until you discover you could have gotten it for $5. It's ok, roll with the punches my friend, just make sure you are learning from them.
7. Get Out
Don't stay locked up in your hostel/hotel attached to your computer/phone and ravaging for WiFi. Yes you might miss home, and you're you, so home definitely misses you, but don't waste your time trying to not miss out. In your FOMO anxiety, you will miss out on what's right in front of you. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. will all be exactly where you left them when you return. Someone will post about their pregnancy, another about an engagement, a marriage, a breakup, a hook-up. Do you really care? Go somewhere! Do something! Don't let FOMO hold you back! This city needs discovering!
8. Learn the Language
Locals are so much more receptive when they see you trying. They will laugh at your attempts, but internally they will be so pleased that you're trying. Learning the language doesn't necessarily mean you have to take a course. Learn the basics: please, thank you, hello, goodbye, bathroom (that one is important). What better way to immerse yourself in the culture than to slowly figure out what the heck everyone is saying.
9. Find a Friend
They are everywhere! In your hostel, on the streets, at the cafe you like to frequent, there are people waiting to be your friend. Who wouldn't want to be? It's you for crying out loud. Friends can help you get out, can teach you new things and show you all the places they've already discovered. Bond over your love of the city, your hate of the city, whatever! You don't know it all, so find someone who can teach you some things, and who you can enlighten. Discover the city together.
The best way to discover a new city is to enjoy it. No matter the turns and tumbles life hands you, have a great time. The whole reason you're in this new place is to enjoy, so don't deny yourself this wonder. Walk around and enjoy, get on a tram and enjoy, find friends and enjoy, meet locals and enjoy. You get to be somewhere new, even if for a little while, so smile fellow wanderer. The city is welcoming you, so welcome it back!
Hope these tips will help you to get out and discover your newest adventure!
What other tips do you have for learning about a new place? Let me know in the comments below!