While I have advocated in earlier blogs to explore the city that you are studying abroad in, I also think that it is important to venture out and see new places. After spending the last 10 months abroad, I have discovered a few very useful ways to get the most out of your time in a new city. While these are not foolproof, they have helped me to really get a feel for the vibe of a place, despite usually only being there for a few days.
- Consider the reason that you are visiting a city. Are you there visiting a friend who lives there? Are you going by yourself to explore the arts scene? Are you going with a big group because of the allure of the city? You should consider the purpose of your visit and try to decide what you want out of it. If you are going to a city like Paris, and only have two days, you won’t be able to fit everything in, and you simply need to accept that. However, 4 days in a smaller city like Dublin might be plenty of time to see all the main attractions. If you decide your purpose, then you can plan activities that help you to achieve this.
- Plan to walk a lot. The easiest way to experience a city is to immerse yourself in it. My rule of thumb is that as long as it’s less than a 3-mile walk, I will travel by foot. You never know what you will happen upon, an alley full of street art, a Hello Kitty themed café, or even a future X-Factor winning street performer. While I am aware that not every is able to follow my rule above, trying to spend as much time as possible outside will help you to find some hidden gems that the metro wouldn’t expose you to.
- Start your trip with a visit to the city museum. Almost all cities have these, and admission is either free or relatively inexpensive. While museums are not always the most exciting thing to do, these will oftentimes give you a good overview of the city and help you to understand the layout and why it has formed in the way it has. I have visited these museums in Shanghai, Singapore, Mumbai and Kuala Lumpur, and every time I have found them to be completely worthwhile.
- Download Google Trips. This is one of the best travel apps I have found. It will sync with your Gmail account to automatically track your reservations and then organize them by city. Within each location, there will be pre-made itineraries, overviews of how public transport works, as well as an ability to search for the best restaurants around you. It can also be downloaded to use offline, so you’re all set even if you end up not having service.
- Have cell service and data. I’m a big advocate for trying to immerse yourself wherever you are but having a cell phone and the ability to search for the best bakery/coffee shop/Hawker stand/pizzeria/etc. near you is a huge advantage. If you’re traveling to a city/country where you know you won’t have service from your main cellular carrier, then consider purchasing a tourist SIM card. These are oftentimes inexpensive and come with lots of data. I picked one up in Hong Kong that cost $11 and gave me 100 GB of data and unlimited calls for 7 days. This can ensure that you can always find your way around and see the most that the city has to offer.
- Take a free walking tour. Almost all cities offer free walking tours given by local volunteers. While you should absolutely give the guide a tip at the end, it is still a cheap way to interact with a local and hear their opinion of the city. These individuals are usually volunteers and so they are highly motivated to be there and want to interact with new individuals. If you’re a solo traveler, these can also be a great way to meet other travelers.
I hope that these tips will help you in the future, and if nothing else, I highly recommend you to download the Google Trips app for a guaranteed easier trip planning experience.
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<p>Hi, I'm Max! I am studying Real Estate and finance and have spent all of 2018 traveling. I began domestically, visiting St. Louis, Charleston and NYC in January. Then in February, I headed to China to spend the semester at Fudan University in Shanghai! I got to travel to over 15 different cities in China while there. Next, I spent a few days in Hong Kong as a tourist before heading to Mumbai to spend July and August working for a real estate development company. I have a passion for cross-cultural interaction and this year has truly allowed to explore that.</p>