10 Tips for Traveling to Unfamiliar Places
Traveling often entails exploring new places, exposing yourself to different environments and immersing yourself in other cultures. Visiting an unfamiliar place can seem scary, especially if it is to somewhere remote or “off the beaten path”.
However, there are dozens of benefits and reasons to travel someplace new. It has been linked to personal growth, improved health and increased brain function. One study even claims that foreign experiences and travel can boost your creativity. Some of the most memorable and exciting experiences can happen in places that you otherwise wouldn’t know.
But, there are also a lot of variables to consider and manage when traveling to a place that you haven’t been to before. Here are a few key tips to help you prepare, navigate and enjoy your next trip.
1. Read traveler reviews
Researching a destination before is crucial to help you prepare, pack and plan. Luckily, there are hundreds of research resources for travelers, from personal travel blogs to review sites. In fact, when it comes to getting research on potential trip spots, over 64 percent of travelers look to online guide and review aggregator sites like TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet. You can access Lonely Planet eBooks and travel guides on a mobile device to refer to them during your trip. Scour TripAdvisor, read reviews, view traveler photos and get as much information as you can from previous visitors. This will help you make informed and smarter travel decisions.
2. Email lodging accommodations before you arrive
Emailing hotel, hostel or other lodging accommodations doesn’t just confirm your reservation, but it can help prepare you for your visit. Often hotels can provide you with essential information regarding directions, amenities, transportation, nearby attractions and other valuable insight. Some locations may even offer you an airport pickup or other transportation service from your arrival destination to your accommodation. Contacting a hotel or other accommodation before your visit helps to establish a relationship before you arrive, which could make your stay more comfortable and enjoyable.
3. Look up health and safety advice
Health and safety are major considerations for travelers. When traveling within your home country, it may not be a huge concern. But when traveling abroad, you should always check for healthy and safety warnings. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are both reputable sources to find information on recommended vaccines as well as health precautions to take in specific regions. The U.S. Department of State also has information online regarding travel safety and warnings. You can sign up for STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) which will send you real-time updates on security and health concerns.
4.Equip yourself with sleep supplies
For many, traveling could mean jet lag, insomnia and a host of other sleep problems. According to a recent research study, people often struggle to sleep soundly in unfamiliar settings. On the first few nights, part of our brain is ‘on guard’, which makes sleeping difficult. To help you adjust to your new environment and get a better night’s sleep, pack earplugs, a sleep mask and a relaxing facial mask or soak. Try to pack one or two lightweight items in your suitcase that remind you of home or make you feel comfortable, so that you’ll be more likely to relax and rest easier.
5. Sign up for a guided tour
Walking, biking and other guided tours are some of the best and safest ways to get to know the layout of a foreign location. Oftentimes, they are free or low-cost for travelers. The people leading them are usually locals that know every street, neighborhood and attraction that is worth seeing or avoiding. In the first few days of your trip, try scheduling in one of these tours. This allows you to become familiar with your surroundings early on, while in the safety of a guide. If you find yourself on your own later in the trip, the experience could help you navigate your way around and prevent you from getting lost.
6.Connect with the locals
Going to an unfamiliar place can mean going to a place where you don’t know anyone. The thought can be unnerving, but it can also open you up to opportunities to meet new people and step out of your comfort zone. Before your trip, connect with locals and other travelers through apps like Couchsurfing and MeetUp. On Couchsurfing, search for local hosts and ask them if they would be willing to show you around or give you advice. MeetUp is great for connecting with locals and travelers once you arrive. You can also find interesting events happening at your travel destination.
7. Learn the basic phrases and customs
If you are traveling abroad to an area where your native tongue isn’t spoken, learn the basic phrases and questions to help you get around. These can be questions like:
- Do you speak English?
- Where is the bathroom, hospital, or police station?
- Can you repeat that or say it slower?
- How much does this cost?
- When is the next bus or train?
Numbers, common phrases and words like thank you, please, excuse me and sorry can also help you avoid offending the locals and can prove extremely valuable in different situations. But, asking questions and learning phrases is useless if you don’t understand a word that someone says in response. Train your ear to listen and understand certain instruction and direction vocabulary like right, left and stop. Apps like Duolingo or Rosetta Stone can help you learn the basics. Watching foreign language movies with English subtitles is another way to get used to different accents and sayings. If language barriers are still a major pain point for you, research what translator or tutoring options are available in the area that you will be visiting.
8. Bring a map
Even if you start to become more familiar with your surroundings, a map is always a useful tool to have in your suitcase. Bring a paper map, download one or use mobile apps like CityMaps2Go or Google Maps. If you need directions, transportation information or just in case you get lost, a mobile map app with GPS navigation can help steer you in the right direction. You can also search nearby places and identify restaurants, stores and attractions to visit during your stay.
9. Share travel information with a trusted person
It is important to let a trusted relative, friend or other contact back home know where you will be staying and how to contact you in case of emergency, especially if you are traveling alone. Your loved ones may worry about you if you are traveling to an unfamiliar location, so sharing information can help to make them feel more comfortable. If traveling internationally, you should make two copies of your travel documents and passport. Give one to the person at home and pack the other with you in case your documents are lost or stolen.
10. Pack your own a wireless charger and hotspot
The growing popularity of travel blogs and review sites has helped to expand traveler resources and knowledge. GPS devices and mobile technology have enabled us to navigate our way through strange places. Apps like Skype, Facebook and WhatsApp have made it easier for travelers to connect with loved ones that are thousands of miles away.
However, taking full advantage of these resources usually requires a full battery and a reliable Internet connection. Both of those elements can be hard to find when traveling. Travelers can avoid the stress by packing a high-capacity wireless charger and one of Keepgo’s international mobile data SIM cards or mobile WiFi hotspots. With your own personal mobile connection that works in 65 destinations worldwide, you can research, navigate and communicate anytime that you need to throughout your trip. Traveling without a way to stay in touch is a risk, especially for first time visitors.