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Acclimate yourself and find your way around when your in a new location...

Do you have some tips or hints how to acclimate yourself to a new location once you arrive on a train or plane to a location and how to get to your hostel or hotel? If your doing a around the world trip it is hard to carry maps for every country so do you buy them at each location and ask for help at the airport or station? Then if its open visit the tourist office.etc...? I will be taking public transpiration and walking around cities and have the guidebooks but its always hard to find things until you get your bearings.

Posted by
209 posts

I like to look at maps before I go. In the larger cities where it' is possible, I get a map with enough detail to find my hotel or apartment. Maps, unlike books don't really take much luggage space. I check the directions against the map. In smaller places where there aren't many maps for sale here other than rough ones in guide books, the first thing I do when I arrive is buy a local map. Once there, I like to go for a walk and get both the lay of the land and a feel for the city. If it's too large to walk in an hour I look for a cheap bus tour or something tall to climb.

Posted by
44 posts

Hi Dan - I just went on a trip to three cities - Reykjavik, Iceland; Helsinki, Finland; and St. Petersburg, Russia. In Helsinki, I stayed with a friend and didn't need to learn the maps. In the other two cities, I plotted out itineraries using google maps. It was a great way to determine where the best hotel location would work for me and where most of the easy to find restaurant areas were. Reykjavik and SPB both have large maps (like the directories you find at the mall) along the main streets, Laugavegur and Nevsky Prospect respectively. There are in your pocket guides that you can download from online that are also helpful. http://www.inyourpocket.com/ Our hotel in SPB happened to carry free copies for us to use. Our hotel in Reykjavik had 24 hour reception and map at the front desk.

Posted by
1976 posts

Hi Dan. I study the maps of cities I'll be in before I take my trip. I'm going to Paris and London in September and every couple of weeks I'll take out the maps and look at them, as well as the subway systems. I also use Google Street View to see what the street and hotel look like. When the time gets closer, I'll contact my hotels and ask them for directions, either from the train station or airport to the hotel. I assume I'll get turned around (not lost; if I have a good map I don't get lost) so it's important to pack a lot of patience along with everything else!

Posted by
246 posts

Sarah has it. Big thing is to look at the maps ahead of time, and know which transit stop is for your hotel before you get there. In many cases, even if you dont call the hotel directly, their website will give you directions to/from nearby transit stations. As Sarah indicated, Street View is also helpful to give you an idea of what the surrounding location looks like. Aside: two replies from St. Louis! Woo-hoo! :)

Posted by
2827 posts

If arriving by car, I always plan where to park and put it on my GPS and verify the GPS part of the route that might include the last few hundred meters in narrow streets (if the case). If arriving otherwise, I always have a plan set and saved on my tablet/smartphone.

Posted by
23 posts

Let me recap, - Print out maps on google pre-departure - do a street view and save photos of hostel/hotel and train station or airport for review - buy a local map once you arrive - review public transport for ways to get to the hotel - contact hotel for directions from train or plane Did I miss anything? Thanks,
Dan

Posted by
3696 posts

Phrasebook... so if after all that you are lost, you can simply ask someone for help.

Posted by
11798 posts

I like to visit the tourist information office when I first arrive. They will usually give you a local map, help you find anything you need, and the latest sight opening hours and local events that you may be interested in. Even if I'm only going to be somewhere for a few hours, a trip to the local TI is a good way to organize your sight preferences.

Posted by
2349 posts

Now, I love google maps, and have spent way more time on street view than I should have. But to orient yourself in a new city, there is no substitute for a big, detailed, paper map. It's too hard on a computer screen to go back and forth from detail to overview. You can find many maps at a good bookstore, or order them online.

Posted by
1064 posts

I have a problem with big-city train stations, where it is not always easy to know if you are exiting from the side or front of the building, and streets are not clearly marked. That leads to the old question of do I go left or right. I solved that problem by using my GPS in pedestrian mode to point me in the right direction toward my hotel. That worked great until last spring, when my GPS quit working in pedestrian mode and I did not have a paper map. Even when I bought a map, I still had to ask the sales clerk to point me in the right direction. I never thought of a compass as a necessary travel tool for city use, but I will in the future.

Posted by
23 posts

Carrying a paper map for each country on a around the world trip would be insane not to mention heavy. We are talking about alot of countires. A big paper map isn't going to have the detail I need so I guess google maps it is. Regarding a phrasebook I have basic terms on a 3x5 card and conversions for each country I have a gps thing on my phone just have to make it work I agree that train stations are confusing hence me asking the question, you have no idea where your exiting. I agree about the tourist info office and that would be my number one priority ... you can't always count on hours of operation, it being at the train station, or other factors.

Posted by
9110 posts

The simple rule for most of europe (which doesn't always hold true for the rest of the world): The historical center is either: a - - on the highest ground b - - on the river In either case the most prominent landmark is the highest steeple. The TI is usually across the street from the train station or the church, or else on the main square which is somewhere nearby. If the TI is closed, there's usually a big map just outside, anyway. Never buy a map except for the huge cities: London, Paris, Rome, Cairo, Tokyo. The free one from the TI will do just fine and you can chunk it when you leave. With a bit of guts you can also skip buying one for the big places and use the ones outside the metro stops (which won't show the whole ville, but will cover the immediate area). In my experiece you get pretty good help from the train station, but about zip (except how to get to town) from the airport crowd.

Posted by
4359 posts

Yuvs me some Google Street View! Be sure to actually 'walk' the path from train station to your hotel, etc., and spin around to see landmarks from all directions. I've even walked around the interior of several train stations - great for planning strategies for buying lunch, locating restrooms/showers, metro stations for connections, track layouts, etc. It's wonderful to arrive in a (literally!) foreign train station, airport, metro stop and 'know' exactly where I am and where I need to go! Also, many city hotels are not marked well, or at all, so GSV has saved me lots of wandering-around time - I simply work all of that out while still at home!

Posted by
23 posts

@Eileen hows does one do this for 100 plus countries since its a around the world trip. Do you save videos of each street view on google earth?

Posted by
437 posts

Local maps are a must and I'm with Monte, I always have a compass. When I come up from the subway, I sometimes have a little trouble with directions. If the city has one, I like to take a hop on hop off bus tour to find where things are too.

Posted by
284 posts

I can only speak for myself, but here are my general tips. Break down the areas that you are visiting to subway stops. You don't need to know every inch of the city, only the areas that you'll actually visit. There's no need to know the details of places you won't visit. Creating a system of landmarks in your head is a better way of navigating than trying to remember every street you go on. As long as you remember roughly where you started, you should be able to look at a map and figure out where you are. Where is "the water"? Where is the square? Where is the museum? Where is the subway entrance I just left? Always note ANY transportation hubs you come across. If there is a subway station you don't recognize, that may be a short cut back or give you a better idea where you are. Remembering streets with no landmarks can also be made easier by paying attention to the qualities of the street as a member of the network. How big is the street? Is there any transit on it? What angles do the streets form at the intersection? How many streets are there at the intersection? Are there any T or round abouts near where you are? These usually combine to mark a specific point on the map. When reading a map, it's also go to figure out what would mean you've gone to far. For example, if there is a park beyond your destination then if you reach a park you know something went wrong and you need to check the map and rethink where you are.

Posted by
1826 posts

I was lucky to marry a woman who was raised in Vancouver, the B,C. one, who has the inate ability to navigate cities with little or no aids. Its remarkable, I tell you. Sometimes I'm spellbound. She can spy an Ibis hotel sign a quarter mile away. At night. All I need to do is follow along.

Posted by
1804 posts

Agree with Ed. I did not bother with getting maps for every country, city, town and village I was headed to during my RTW. It would be overkill. I also did not have a SmartPhone, GPS or even a compass to guide me. For a major metropolitan area (Paris, London, etc), I bought a really detailed street map that I would sometimes consult at night when planning the next day, or would refer to it mid-day while having lunch. I would jot down directions in a small notebook as I would pretty much know the night before what sights I hoped to cover the following day - so I would include details like address of the sight, nearest Metro or bus stops to the sight and which metro or bus line to take to get there from my lodging (or which streets to walk down if it was close enough). The smaller maps from the TI, train stations, hostel or hotel front desk staff, etc. are generally fine to use to get around smaller towns. Phrasebooks are ok only to a point. You may be able to ask where something is, but are you able to understand the answer if they don't speak any English? Maybe invest in one of those "Point It" photo books so when you get to a place where language really is a problem for you, you have a way to open the book and simply point to what you are looking for (i.e., grocery store, pharmacy, laundromat, etc.).

Posted by
1064 posts

Ceidleh, before you can use a map, you have to know exactly where you are and in what direction you are pointing. I believe that was the point of the original question. Dan is not the only one with that problem.
Even with a map but without a working GPS, I find myself going the wrong way on a street half the time (figure the odds of that happening) before I get oriented. A compass should help solve that problem; but if we are going back to Boy Scout tactics, I may also start checking tree trunks to see which side has thicker moss. :)

Posted by
4359 posts

I don't take screen shots or anything - the foreign location simply looks familiar to me once I arrive. Like getting close to the Eiffel Tower - the Champ de Mars, the Trocodero, that little red building with the pink turtles out front, whatever, lets you know you're on the right path. The brain will store this info without your realizing it. Now, if I were going to over half of the countires in the entire world, I'd expect to have to make some screen shots of things... Frankly, if you're planning on 100 countries, you may have to bring some supplies along and mail them home/throw them away as you go...especially the more remote places. OR, have access to them as you go - store info in emails, pdf files, whatever, and get them as you go; you may not have the space to download all of your info at once. And ask LOTS of questions, especially on arrival! Just because your guidebooks and internet research shows there's a type of TI across the street from the bus station in Mombasa or London doesn't mean it's there on the day you arrive :-( I'd suggest going to some of the long-term travel websites and blogs and picking their brains...they've been there, done that. To address the 'disorientaion' upon arrival, I just study, study, study the maps while I'm planning my trip. Some places are harder to figure out than others...so I just have to study them. And a compass never hurt ;-)