I absolutely adore the mixture of feelings of freedom, mystery, intrigue and expectation that inevitably come tumbling upon me when arriving in a new place.
Somewhere you’ve never visited before can hold such promise and there’s always so much to explore that sometimes it can be a little overwhelming and you don’t quite know where to begin (this happens to me often). So, what are the best things to do in a new destination to help you get your bearings and become more acquainted with the culture, language and complexities of the place you’re exploring?
I’ve put together a little list of what I think are the best things to do when arriving in a new place…
Get a map
I’m talking about a real paper map, not the little digital one on your iPhone or whatever other device you’re carrying with you. Get a good old fashioned paper map, have a look over it before you leave your new home in the city, pop it into your handbag and go.
The fact that you won’t be relying on technology and the ‘location services’ function to tell you just *exactly* where you are at any given time will immediately cause you to pay more attention to landmarks, street names and other pin points along the way so that you’ll know your route home. It’ll also save you a fortune on data roaming costs if you’re in a foreign country and, lets face it, map-reading is a valuable skill to have!
If you want some good recommendations on where to eat and drink then often one of the best things to do is ask the people working reception in your hotel, hostel or guesthouse. These people live in this place and so know it far better than you do so they should be able to give you some good ideas and starting points.
I did this at the reception desk when I visited Reykjavic, Iceland and the friendly girl there was so happy to help. She pointed me to some of the coolest eating spots in the city and also helped when I was looking for ideas of tours to take outside of the city. It never hurts to ask!
Take a walking tour
Walking tours are another great way to get to know a new place. There are walking tours in the majority of large cities and lots of the smaller ones too, so you’re bound to find a few options after a quick Google search or from asking the reception staff.
Often walking tours are completely free, but if you’ve enjoyed your tour and found your guide to be helpful, informative and friendly then you should leave them a tip as they don’t make much money otherwise. Be respectful and give what you think is appropriate for the service you’ve had.
Walking tours can also be a great way to meet people in a new place, especially if you’re travelling solo. Don’t be afraid to strike up a bit of conversation with the rest of your group.
Seek out the local cuisine
As I’ve mentioned before, I truly believe that tasting local foods is one of the best ways to get to know a new place. Find a authentic looking restaurant filled with local people and sample out some of their best dishes.
If all the locals around you are eating the one dish then it’s safe to assume it’s a local speciality and, even if you don’t know what it is, order it anyway and you might just find you like it.
Take a sightseeing bus tour
I know there are plenty of people out there who think sightseeing bus tours are the devil in disguise and should be avoided at all costs but I don’t agree. I think if you’re visiting a new place for a short amount of time and want to see all the major attractions the place has then sightseeing buses are the perfect way to do this.
I’ve taken sightseeing buses in Rome, Barcelona, London and probably a few more that I don’t remember. I think they’re a great way to get an overview of a particular destination and you can hop-on and hop-off at different stops so if you see something that takes your fancy it’s as simple as getting off at the next stop to see it. Easy and usually quite affordable.
These are the things I usually like to do when arriving in a new destination. What are your top tips on getting the most out of a new place?