Traveling and exploring new cities around the world can be an incredible experience, but it can also be pricey and endlessly confusing. It is easy to idealize that everything will simply connect when you step foot onto this new soil (pavement)…but it doesn’t always turn out that way. However, with a little of planning and creativity, you can avoid those boring step-off tour buses, and really get a taste for where you are visiting. Make your own itinerary! Here are some ideas how:
Nowadays, technology actually makes it kinda hard to get really lost in a new place. Smart phones have taught us to instinctively kick-start that map app the minute anything starts to look unfamiliar. Apps like Yelp, Foursquare, and Groupon are AWESOME and I love using them, but they are completely based on other peoples’ opinions. Get out there and experience it for yourself. Try turning off the phone and just take a walk to see what you find. If you are too anxious to handle it, after you’re good and lost, use it to navigate home.
Make a run for it
This one doubles as a sick cardio workout too, and many cities are big…but give this a try. Before you get to the city, make a running route to via points and sights you want to see. Keep this list with you, and on the day of your grand adventure, lace up those running shoes and see how many sights you can see in one day. This is a pretty intense way of seeing a city, but really rewarding.
Utilize the locals
Did you know that couch surfing has the option that you can classify your profile as “available for coffee?” What better way to explore a city than through the eyes of a local? Meeting up with an amiable native for a cup of coffee and a little tour of the town, or at least a few suggestions on where to go, not only gives you a unique perspective on a new city, but can also reap heaps of new friends!
Do a scavenger hunt
Go on a picture hunt! Before you go to a city, create a list of things you want to see. Then, throw a few other bits and pieces in there, just random things for fun, like “a hot dog stand” and “a hot guy” and maybe “the cutest dog in the city” and go around trying to get a picture with each “goal”—see how much you can accomplish!
Try a theme
This is especially awesome if you are going to a city especially known for something, like a certain food or drink, or maybe bookstores or coffee shops. Pick a theme to angle your city exploration towards and try and hit as many of those locations as possible. Examples are, “a quirky coffee shop tour” or “fountain tour”.
Do a bar crawl
This obviously requires that you are of legal drinking age, but going on a bar crawl allows you to see a city like you could no other way…that is, if you remember it. You’ll really get a feel for the people and culture of a city by going to local bars, or you could choose to be blown away by the crazy antics displayed at huge nightclubs in big cities.
Rent a bike
Many cities have the option of renting a bicycle for a day. Make sure to wear a helmet, though. Riding a bicycle will get you more places than you would on foot, yet still allows the personal experience of discovering unique parts of a city from something other than the windows of a bus or taxi. Just be careful to read the fine print for different bicycle rental locations to make sure that you stay within the time limits of the rental.