Need some travel tips on surviving the first 24 hours in a new city? Our travel writer Kate Gibbs provides 7 verified ways to make the first part of your adventure as stress-free as possible.
Travel can be a whole different animal. Even the most seasoned jet-setter can get caught up in the frenetic pace of a new city, a foreign plan, heightened energy or sudden absence of the luxuries they’ve become accustomed to. It takes a good 24 hours to get used to a new place, to really feel like you’ve arrived, and the longer the journey, often the more drawn out that process can be. But the first day abroad needn’t pass in a fog and it can be a jump start that sets the tone for a brilliant, even life-changing, adventure. Here’s how.
Water, water, water
High altitudes, salty plane food, coffee, booze, it’s no wonder we get off the plane feeling like our heads are still in the clouds. Drink a litre of water before you even leave home, then stock up on a couple of bottles of water at the airport (those tiny plastic cups they’re handing around won’t help you). Drink water on the plane, asking for refills when needed. When they offer another glass of red, drink water, when you go to the bathroom, drink water, when you stretch your legs, drink water. When suspended at 30,000 feet, eating not-exactly nutritious meals, water is the only way to flush your system and arrive feeling like you might survive the next 24 hours, no matter what happens next.
Book a room ahead
You’re not a cowboy. Even if you booked the flight on a whim and picked the destination by spinning a globe blindfolded, when you actually land in a completely foreign place armed only with a dose of jetlag, it’s good to have a place to go. Not only do customs generally like an address when you arrive in another country, having a hotel, street address or B&B to direct a cab driver, a bus depot, even a guy with a motorcycle, minimises stress. You can make it up as you go the next day with a clear (well-rested) head.
Keep your chargers and adapters in your carry on
Accidents do happy, luggage does go missing. The only thing worse than knowing you have the next few days without a change of underwear is not being able to access your various devices and plug in to the world back home to beg for help, or at least having enough battery life to moan about it on Facebook. Keep international adapters and chargers in your carry on with your passport and credit cards. If worst actually does come to the worst before your journey really kicks off, at least you can survive comfortably with what you do have.
Learn the language
One for the long haul flight, or the first night in your accommodation as you celebrate on the rooftop with a martini, or for the first meal with your companion and into the whole first 24 hours: learn the language. You don’t need to be able to write poetry in the local tongue, but learn how to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and even ‘do you speak English’. Knowing a few key words helps those first-word communications with a cab driver, it might just attract the waiter’s attention but, more than that, it makes you look like a decent human. There’s nothing worse than the traveller who just speaks English louder when their overseas host doesn’t understand a word they’re saying.
Explore a neighborhood
Pick a spot to be and explore it, make it your own, chat to boulangerie or the street-stall owner, or the man spooning ladles of pho into bowls on the corner. Bike it or do it by foot, and stop and wander and meander and amble about from morning to evening. Spending your first day on your feet in an inspiring neighborhood not only gets your body moving after a long flight, but it also gives you perspective on the local culture, you will hopefully meet some locals and get tips on places to go and things to see, spots to eat and drink.
Wandering is well and good, but it’s even better when you truly get completely lost, have no inkling of the way home, and explore the nooks and crannies of a new city. This rogue advice only works if either you speak the language, you know you’ll get a cab easily, or you have a decent smartphone with GPS. The age-old threat of getting lost is something we should all welcome when we first arrive in a new place. Forgo maps and truly explore, stumble on the unexpected and only turn to that phone when it’s really time to turn back home.
Be app ready
There’s an app for that, whatever it is you need, there’s an application that will help you do it. Forgot to learn ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in the appropriate language? Yep, there’s an app for that. In order to get your bearings and really survive in any foreign place, a few apps will save the day. AroundMe quickly identifies your location and allows you to search the nearest bank, bar, petrol station, hospital, café, hotel, pharmacy, petrol station, taxi and even weather. It’s a save-the-day kind of thing. iTranslate forgives you for not learning a word of the local language (even if we don’t). Just type in your query to an unsuspecting passerby, and iTranslate will tap it up in the local language on your screen. It will even translate voice, and translate to a Siri-sounding voice in the local language. iTranslate takes into account dialects, gender and context. It’s a must-have app for those mono-lingual travellers out there. AirBNB connects you with an accommodation experience in the local area, where that’s a cool urban apartment with a room to spare, a beach house, a tree house that sleeps just you, or a luxury penthouse with your own doorman. There’s a whole website for planners, but the app is great for accommodation on the fly.
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