Ever wandered around a new city, completely dazed and lost and not sure on where to start?! Yeah that was us on our first trip together to New York City. We spent the first day literally wandering around and getting lost, staring at the bright lights and receiving puzzled looks for the fast paced New Yorkers leaping past us. For our next city break we were much better prepared so I thought I would share with you some tips on exploring a new city.
1. Visit a local market – Find out where the local markets are either before arriving or ask at the hotel and get going. You can learn so much about place by visiting the local market, trying the local food and just watching the locals. It can also get you off the beaten track a bit.
2. Sleep before you arrive – If you are taking a long flight, try and sleep on the flight so that you can get going straight away once you’ve arrived at the city.
3. Learn basic words and phrases – If you are heading somewhere that speaks a different language then learn or at least make a note on your phone of basic words and phrases you may need to use. When we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, it took us some time to figure out how to ask the lady at the reception desk where we could get food from at that late hour. I think she thought we were asking for a rest room not a restaurant…
4. People watching – A fave of mine, when we arrive at a new city (particularly a hot one), it has become a norm of ours to head to a local bar or pub (or cafe if it’s before noon…sometimes), get a seat either outside or one facing the window and just watch the world go by. Obviously we don’t spend hours doing this but you can learn a lot by taking time before dinner to just relax, drink and watch.
5. Embrace your inner tourist – Whether you are visiting a city on a trip or your moving somewhere permanently, there is nothing wrong with being a tourist and visiting the tourist traps. There are some bloggers, travellers and travel writers out there who will shun off tourist spots and focus on exploring the places less explored. Yeah that is great and we do try and see the less obvious attractions too but actually visiting the Colosseum in Rome, the Great Wall in China and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fran is what makes trips to these places so amazing. Don’t shy away from those busy attractions, there is always a reason those places are busy!
6. Talk to the locals – Alongside visiting those tourist spots, try and talk to locals to get their point of view for interesting things to do in that city. You may find hidden gems or an amazing restaurant – if you do, please share these with us in the comments below!
7. Take a cooking class – If you are in a city for a while, try your hand at a cooking course. Many courses include trips to local stores or markets whilst also giving you the skills to make and try the local dish. Plus, you can chat and socialise with other travellers and locals; learning more about their way of life and culture.
8. Eat where the locals eat – Avoid restaurants with tour buses nearby and picture menus, instead visit the restaurants down alleyways or around the corner from popular areas or ask locals where they would recommend. If a local would eat there then it will no doubt be good!
9. Walk – When visiting a city, especially if it isn’t too big, try and find as many opportunities as you can to walk to and from places. It is in these moments where you really get to enjoy and explore what a city has to offer and may even find some great restaurants, bars and attractions along the way.
10. Comfort – This may sound obvious but wear comfortable shoes and clothes! You will be walking a lot so pack clothes that are appropriate for your travel.
11. Drink – Not that type of drink… well not all day at least. But staying hydrated is of course important all the time, but especially important when walking around a city.
12. Moisturise – I don’t know about you but I find that busy cities can be very dry and leave me with dry skin and hair. Bring some moisturise with you and lather up every evening before bed.
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13. Do you research but don’t over plan – Before leaving, use blogs, youtube and trip advisor to plan what you want to see and do and work out which attractions are near one another. But don’t expect to see the Top 20 things to do in NYC in just 4 days…it won’t happen. Prioritise and make yourself a rough plan.
14. Plan an extra day – If time and money permits, try and plan an extra day. You will always realise there is something else you want to explore and see and that extra day will give you a chance to explore at your own pace and find time to relax.
15. Get up – In honesty, we are guilty of being those people who have occasional lie ins during our trip and end up missing something we wanted to see. Not anymore I tell you! When travelling for long periods of time then lying in at times is fine but if you are only in a city for a few days then get yourself up bright and early! Aim to leave by 8am so you can make the most of your day and don’t you dare head back to your hotel until at least 10pm.
16. Photograph it – Make sure you take photos of your adventures whilst you enjoy them. They make for great memories and we would love to see them so do share them on Instagram! That being said, take the photographs for you and not for Facebook… I know I have annoyed many a friends by uploading day by day piccies of our travels and as much as I may love to stalk my friends travels abroad, not everyone loves hundreds of pictures filling up their news feed.
17. Relax – You are on holiday and no matter how much you want to see, you must find time to relax! Whether its taking time for a shopping trip, heading to a show or visiting a spa; find time to unwind. Calum and I will spend all day exploring but then settle in a restaurant and/or bar in the evening, have a few drinks and chat about the day.
18. Follow bloggers – OK so this one may be biased but I wouldn’t have seen and done half as much as I have done in new cities if it wasn’t for the advise given from travel bloggers. Have a search online and see which bloggers have been to your chosen city and use their advise! Of course feel free to subscribe to Creative Travel Guide but also check out Alex in Wanderland, migrationology.com, Camels and Chocolate, Never Ending footsteps, Practical Wanderlust and the list goes on. These are the bloggers who have helped me with our travel plans. – Thanks!
19. Try a city bus – If you are short on time, then hop on a city bus. These are great for getting around a new city, showing you all the attractions and giving you the chance to hop off and explore at your own pace.
20. Bring a backpack or large handbag – You will be exploring the city most of the day so make sure you bring a large enough bag to carry essentials (water, camera, purse, phone, map, hotel keys, umbrella etc).
21. See it from high – Every city has a tall building in it somewhere. Find it and go up it! Not only is the experience itself a great one but the view can give you a whole new prospective on a city. The Eiffel Tower showed me how massive Paris actually is whilst the Sky Bar’s of Bangkok offer a different way of life to that on ground level.
22. Free Walking Tours – Many cities around the world offer some form of free walking tours. Have a google and sign up so you can see the city whilst mingling with locals.
23. Get Lost – So I know I complained about getting lost at the beginning of this blog but sometimes getting lost in a new city can be just what you need. Whilst in Tokyo we found ourselves lost and ended up somehow inside a gaming company that Calum loves and whilst in Paris, we found an adorable boutique restaurant that had cheap(ish) wine and beer.
24. Get a map – either download a map on your phone, ask at your hotel or nab one from a tourist stand but make sure you have a map. Exploring a new city can be tiring especially when you walk 30 minutes in the wrong direction (cough, cough Calum).
25. UNESCO sites – From my experience, UNESCO sites are always interesting and worth a visit. If your chosen city has any UNESCO sites, try to find some time to visit them.
These are some tips that we use to get use to and explore a new city.
How do you explore a new city?! Share your tips and suggestions in the comments below!