8 Things to do When You First Arrive in a City
Arriving in a new city can evoke a mixture of emotions. Firstly, you’re probably very excited - you might have been looking forward to the trip for a long time and will most probably have a certain amount of expectation surrounding it.
Secondly, it might also be incredibly daunting, especially if it’s a place you’ve never been before and you’re not really sure what you’re going to do when you land.
You definitely don’t want to be stressed out or anxious and there’s absolutely no reason why you should be. Plus, you’ll obviously want to make the most of your time while you’re there.
So how do you cover all bases?
It’s easy, really. There are a few things you can and should do when you first arrive in a city to make things smoother and much more fun.
First things first –
Let your loved ones know you’ve arrived
This is such a quick and easy thing to do. Just send off a quick text message to say you’ve landed safely and you’ll instantly know a few people are breathing easier back home.
If you’re traveling alone or are concerned about your safety in any way, it’s a good idea to leave a copy of your itinerary, hotel details, and travel plans with a family member or friend – better safe than sorry.
In the vast, vast majority of cases this is not necessary at all, but it will give you peace of mind as well as placate people back home.
Take a break and breathe
When their plane touches down, travelers tend to race their way through the airport, scooping up their luggage on the run and dashing to the bus terminals, train stations, and taxi ranks.
Remember you’re on holiday, so act like it! Rushing around and panicking about transport will only get you worked up, especially if you’re tired, hungry, and disorientated after a flight.
Instead of heading immediately to the transport terminals, why not take a moment to regroup? Grab a coffee at the airport and take a look at your itinerary and accommodation details.
Travelers are usually taken advantage of by greedy taxi drivers and local touts when they are visibly dishevelled. So, collect your thoughts, set up a plan of action, and take a moment to survey your surroundings and figure out the best way to get where you need to go.
Memorize your travel route
You’ll probably need to get back to the airport at some point, so while you’re traveling to your accommodation make a mental note of the route you’ve taken.
There’s nothing worse than getting lost and panicking when you need to be at the airport within the next half an hour.
Instead, have it all sorted so your trip home runs smoothly.
Grab something to eat
You’re probably going to be a bit hungry when you land so it might be a good idea to pack a snack to quench your immediate needs before you have the chance to enjoy a good, filling meal.
You probably don’t want to sit down for a three course meal at the airport so just grab a sandwich or a bag of chips to keep you going – you’ll be surprised at how much just a little morsel of food can help!
Scout out your surroundings
Okay, so you’ve made it to your accommodation – phew! Now what? Well, after you’ve freshened up it’s always a good idea to scout out your surroundings and discover what’s in the vicinity.
All you need to do is take a little walk around the block where you can pinpoint restaurants and bars that look good and stores where you can buy any essentials if you need them. If your snack from earlier wasn’t quite enough, now’s the time to grab something a little more substantial – but don’t just flop into the first place you see!
If you’re only in a city for a short amount of time it’s well worth hunting down the best places to eat – life’s too short for bad food!
Buy bus and museum passes
One of the best pieces of advice for budget travel is to make good use of the tourist cards available. Most large cities will have some kind of pass system in place that allows visitors multiple entries to various institutions and attractions for a flat fee, and most places will have a city transport pass that allows you a certain amount of trips on the subway or bus for a flat fee.
Scout these out early so you don’t waste money elsewhere, but be sure to figure out if you’re actually going to need them first.
Don’t buy a multi-museum pass if you don’t like visiting museums and don’t buy a bus pass if everything is within walking distance of your accommodation.
Grab a map
Chances are you’re going to get lost a few times during your stay. You’re in a new place, you don’t know the roads – it’s inevitable. It’s certainly not always a bad thing, though. In fact, you can happen upon some awesome discoveries when you put the map down and just wander.
But if you’re looking to cram a lot into a short stay, you’re probably going to want to get your bearings pretty quickly.
For this you’ll need a map. Google Maps is fine if you’re happy to use your data, or you can grab a good old fashioned paper map from your accommodation or the local tourist office. These are particularly good because you can mark attractions and sights you want to see on them and then draw up a workable itinerary from that.
Plus, you’ll have a great souvenir to remind you of your trip!
Take a walking tour
The best way to get to know a city is to walk and walk and walk. You’ll get to see the major attractions as well as snippets of local life in the quieter areas, and you’ll really get a feel for the atmosphere.
Many places offer free walking city tours, where you can join a group at a certain meeting point and get to know the history, stories, and sights of the city with a knowledgeable guide. It’s a great way to get a brief introduction and you can go back later to the places that were of interest to you.
It is worth mentioning that, while organized walking tours tout themselves as being free, it’s considered good etiquette to tip your tour guide, especially if they provided an in-depth and entertaining experience.
As well as organized walking tours, there are plenty of websites where you can meet up with locals who will show you their favorite places around the city. This is perfect for an in-depth look at a place from a local’s perspective, with more emphasis on local hangouts and real-life stories. Sites like TravBuddy, Couchsurfing, and Barefoot Globetrot are great places to start looking for your local guide.
After ticking off these things to do, you’ll be in a great position to start exploring on your own. With the initial insights into the city from the walking tour, the map, and the general scouting out of your surroundings, you’ll be best placed to find your own story and create a trip that is perfect for your wants, needs, and expectations.
By Lizzie Davey
Lizzie is a freelancer travel writer who currently spends her time between sunny Barcelona and beach-side Brighton in the UK. When she's not weaving words, she likes to travel to new places and wander through great galleries. She's the founder of creative travel blog wanderful-world.com, and her personal website can be found at LizzieDavey.com.