Who doesn’t enjoy exploring a city? It is always exhilarating to visit a ‘new’ city, one that you’ve never visited before. Maybe a little bit scary as well. Even just thinking about a trip is exciting and then the fun starts with booking flights, trains, buses, accommodation, reading up about the surroundings, about what and where you want to explore. All this preparation adds to the excitement for your trip. Then you get there and suddenly it is all a bit daunting and things are not exactly working like you thought it would.
Let me just immediately say this blog is not about what you need to know and bring on a journey, or how to pack, what to take for short journeys on budget airlines or any of that. This is how to make those first few days in a foreign city just that much less stressful by arming you with some common-sense tips.
I’ve travelled to many cities and countries, for shorter and longer periods. Living in Ireland this (the travelling) is mainly possible because we make use of budget airlines and the summer can be very unpredictable on the green Isle. So we’re always on the look out for a good deal.
And I’ve found there are a few things you can do to make the first few days in a brand new country or city a bit easier and less stressful. Many of the points I make can also be researched beforehand, but sometimes in practical terms things are not exactly as they are in theory.
Here are my top tips.
Find you bearings
Start with simple practical things like on which side of the road do people drive, is it different from where you are from? For example, we recently travelled from Ireland to France and it is different. Thus keep looking all around you when crossing the road, be attentive and also look out for bicycles and e-scooters which will be coming from a different direction than you’re used to.
Also try and be alert on that first introduction to the city. Remember landmarks like certain shops or bridges or things that stand out to you. Those things will help when you suddenly feel lost.
How to get from point A to point B
If you’re not renting a car, you need to work out the best route from the airport to your accommodation, how to get to the beach, the closest supermarket, all those kind of essential places. Important to have is a map and these days it is so much easier with having everything online. Like google maps. From this you can also see how buses and trains are working or how long it will take you to walk a certain route. Handy apps include Uber, and then some countries use their own apps for travelling. For example not long ago I used 9292 in the Netherlands, a real-time travel planner for buses, trains, trams, that issues e-tickets.
But all this can change if you don’t have WiFi or a bad internet connection. That is why it is important to download the travel part beforehand. Especially if it is time-related and you’ve booked a specific bus or train. Always a good idea to take a screen shot of those important bookings and e-tickets.
It can be overwhelming when everyone around you speaks a different language. So if you are travelling to a country where they speak a foreign language, try to learn the basic words like ‘hello’ ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’. To have some kind of idea about numbers in the foreign language is also handy when you have to pay. Local people really appreciate if you make an effort and it makes for a much more involved holiday. Don’t be shy if you pronounce it incorrectly, people in general appreciate the effort.
Take other people in your travelling party into account. Listen to what each wants to do and see and be patient with each other. Strike compromises. In the end you have to remember it is a holiday and things don’t always work out exactly like you planned and envisaged. Go with the flow, relax and enjoy.
Food & culture
Prepare yourself for a different food and cultural experience. Don’t immediately run for the closest fast food brand that looks familiar. I know I’ve also done it, especially when tired and grumpy, but it makes your experience so much more worthwhile if you try the local foods, the local restaurant. And it is a great talking point when you get back. Same for the culture, respect the culture of the country and try to be open-minded about it.
Live in the moment. Enjoy those short moments which you can hold onto later when life gets stressful. Those are the memories you make and take with you. Those moments when you shared a cool drink or ice cream or slept under a tree in the heat of the day.
It is your holiday and you want to relax and recharge your batteries so make it worth your while.