There is a thin line between being a traveler and an explorer. Now a days, people don’t believe in hopping from one tourist attraction to another. Instead, they try to live the city they visit, know its heart. And for that, you need to see beyond the cliché tourist packages and major spots.
Traveling is an expensive and insatiable hobby. And to do it right, you need to learn a few cheat sheets on how to explore a new city. Let’s check out a few pointers to make your travel a more worthwhile and learning experience.
1. Follow Travel Bloggers Online
I am sure you do your share of Internet research before hitting on your vacation. But what most people are not aware of is the help they can get from experienced travel bloggers. Backpackers and luxury globetrotters like Nomadic Matt, Rick Steves, etc., write wonderful stuff about smart and fruitful traveling.
You can learn about every teensy-weensy here on these blog sites. Just know your travel style, goals and budget, and plan your trip accordingly.
Well, it’s not too much to ask. If you opt for pretty hotels, you could be wasting a lot of time just lazing around, like I did in a few of my initial travels. Instead, go for couchsurfing or reasonable hotels. Besides cutting down on your travel costs, you will also be able to interact with amazing globetrotters. That way, you will get to learn a lot from their experiences while make your stay more resourceful.
This site is undoubtedly the best site to explore couchsurfing options wherever you go.
3. Let the Locals be your Official Guide
This is really fun. Request your concierge to help you out with exploring the city. If you are lucky enough to find a friendly local, you could actually get through the hidden treasures of the place, unknown to the tourist eye.
Although, I would suggest you to not blindly bank upon their advice. It often happens that your taste may not match with his, or he may actually consider some amazing places as trivial, while they may fascinate you.
4. Learn the Lingo
Ok. I’m not asking you to do a professional course in any language. But learning a few basic phrases and words of the place you are visiting is not Rocket Science. You must know words like “Hello", “Excuse me", “Good Bye", “Can You Help Me", etc., to act more local and friendly. People love when tourists respect their language and readily help them out.
There are many apps now a days, that help you understand the dialect of the place you choose to go. If you are not so much of a tech-freak, pick any random Dictionary that converts various languages into English.
5. Be Smarter with your Smart Phones
Apps are the latest tools to ease your travel. For instance, to know the local transportation of any city, use Citymapper. Your transit from A to B will be a breeze! Besides, whether you are looking for places to eat, dance, or book your flight tickets, there are apps built for every purpose.
Make sure you get your Mobile connection and Internet set before leaving for the trip. A sound Internet connection is fodder for gadget usage.
6. Don’t Tune out Guidebooks Though
A lot of you would disagree with me on this, saying guidebooks are but a heavy burden to carry in your already meager baggage allowance. But I truly disagree. Not wonder technology has outdone these thick volumes, but it still ain’t potent enough to help you out with serious globetrotting.
On the other hand, guidebooks are essentially the whole city in a book.
Go for a veteran travel blogger and get an edition of his experiences. You will be amazed how much your traveling skill will improve. Also, you will be saving a lot of bucks that you would’ve otherwise spent on Internet packs and gadgets. A petty $15-20 guidebook would suffice instead.
7. Always Go for Cycling/Walking Tours
Public Transportation is a good thing, in that you save quite a few bucks. But cycling is no big-ticket either. And walking is absolutely free. I would suggest you to opt for these slower modes than swing by the entire city in fast-moving trains and buses.
If the place you are about to visit offers rentals bicycles, nothing like it. Just revamp your fitness before leaving for your vacation and enjoy pedal power. As for walking, you can discover the most intricate alleyways and paths by foot. These alternatives allow to take a halt wherever you want while exploring the soul of the city.
Do buy a local city map to get better with the directions.
8. Take the City Bus Tours if you are Time-Crunched
If you are on a very short trip, whether for business, or as a hault before getting on the next flight, City Bus Tours are a great option. Some might call it corny, but its better to have something than have nothing at all. In these Guide Tours, you can get an overview of all the major touristy spots in one go.
Even for cities that are too large to walk around, bus tours are of great help. You can take a peripheral look of the city and then shortlist the places you want to explore further. For instance in most European countries, the number of museums and art galleries is unimaginable. So instead of going to all of them, you can take a guided tour and then decide if it is worthwhile to look inside.
9. Respect the UNESCO Sites
It often happens that the main sightseeing spots turn out to be a bummer. However, this rarely or never happens in case of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. So if you are at a place where there are a few of these, always check them out. Heritage sites always manage to leave you awed and with memories.
You can easily access the entire UNESCO list here.
10. Believe in Documenting your Trip
Always Capture Your Junket on Paper or in Camera. In the enthusiasm of here and now, people often tend to forget what they saw, or how they felt experiencing a particular thing. There is nothing seizing memories of your voyage and looking at them year later in retrospection.
So if you are a writer, make notes in your diary. For shutterbugs, nothing more than a decent camera. A combo of both would be immaculate.
11. Savour the Local Flavor
Most people look for their home food if out for a long vacation. Bad idea! Instead, get over Mc Donalds and try some local food. You’ll be surprised how much the world has to offer for your palate.
Also, don’t frantically trust the online ratings of best food joints. Some truly amazing eateries might not even be listed on the web. Interact with the locals and ask their personal preferences. Try a restaurant only for its specialties. besides, never hesitate going for street food. Check for its hygiene and try out the most scrumptious local cuisines while on the go.
12. Get a Bird’s Eye view of the City
Every city has its highest point to view the world go by, be it a mountain, rooftop of a commercial building, or a popular restaurant offering fantastic views of the city. Not only will you be able to get a gorgeous view of the city at your feet, but will get a better understanding of the directions.
While some places like Paris charge an entry fee for their top points, cities like Edinburgh, San Fransisco and Hong Kong offer such experiences free of cost.
13. Always Keep your Safety Devices Handy
What’s meant to happen can happen in any part of the world. In your native land, you have ample alternatives to rely on, in case of any emergency. But in a foreign place, you can’t trust anyone but yourself. Make sure you always carry your safety tools along all the time. Your cellphone, pepper spray, and of course, your self-defense skills- need to be at an arm’s distance.
14. Locate Local Currency Exchanges
Getting the entire amount of currency exchange before leaving could be a costly affair. Instead, check your local bank charges and Exchange fee. Then, scroll through the ATM usage fees and exchange rate available for the city you are planning to visit.
You can get the local currency from any ATM at the airport as soon as you land. For most part, it costs you less than.
15. Always, Always a keep an Extra Day in Hand
Excess of everything is bad, even Planning. So after you have completed all the agendas of your planned vacation, take a break! There might be some place not mentioned in the popular websites that you would want to visit. Or simply for the sake of spending a day in leisure. Save a day if you wish to repeat going to a place or just hanging around randomly.
True adventure begins when you combine your perceptive skills with a tinge of spontaneity. So make the most of your travel with this little tricks.