I’ve been in this situation a lot of times. Being an impulsive solo traveler, I choose places that a lot of people have trouble spotting on the map. But most often than not, that ends up making the whole experience wildly quirky. Then again, when you are looking to tread across a place that you know nothing about, it might feel like being up against a blank wall with no sign boards.
But this isn’t necessarily bad. I’ve had episodes where unnoticed towns have surprised me with their charm and mysticism. On the up-side, when a place isn’t famous, it means that you don’t have overflowing hostel rooms or crowded restaurants – making it infinitely easier to roam around and have an excellent time.
From experience, there is a list of stuff that I always make sure I know or have in my backpack before I start out on my journey. I’ve sorted them and listed out the most important points to think off before you set off on your adventure!
Geography 101 – Understanding the General Terrain
The first thing I do when I zero in on any travel destination is to comprehend the rough size and terrain of the place. Pouring over a map for such specifics gives you a better understanding of the important landmarks in town and also a sense of direction when you are out on the street.
Phone and Internet Connectivity
Check if your network provider is available in the place you are traveling to. If not, it would be prudent to get a SIM just after you land – at the airport or the central railway station. When you are walking along the alleys alone, it makes sense to have some connectivity in your pocket.
The extent of connectivity across town should also be assessed a bit. It could be a problem if you are in an obscure town in central Asia or Africa for instance. I’d advise you to download Google Maps offline for the location you are traveling in. This way, you never get lost. Also try getting an offline map of a local equivalent to Trip Advisor, which could suggest good restaurants and locations around town for you to explore.
Fashion and Utility
Understand and respect the laws of the land you are traveling to. For example, the East is usually quite conservative in their attire, and it would be good to adapt yourself to the local environment in order to not stand out. Also, make sure to wear a nice pair of shoes if you were looking to walk a lot and don’t forget to carry a water bottle in your backpack. I usually also carry a Swiss Multi-Utility knife with me because you never know when a prying knife or a cork opener would come in handy. Just my two cents.
Mapping the Transportation Route
Knowing the transit routes like the railway and tram lines would be very helpful while you are traveling. I usually make it a point to take a map of the transit lines with me and try buying a day or a week travel card for unlimited trips. This is very useful in Europe for instance, where individual tickets would generally end up burning a hole in your wallet.
Getting to Connect with a Local
When booking accommodation, I tend to prefer AirBnB over generic hotel reservations, just because you get to learn more about the local demographic if you are staying with a local. Locals who open their house up for travelers are usually extroverted and with a little prod would tell you fascinating stories and hacks into navigating their city. I’ve had some pretty insane experiences with my hosts while backpacking across Europe and would totally recommend an AirBnB if you are looking for having fun.
Couchsurfing would be an interesting alternative to AirBnB, but the ubiquitous and perennial availability of it is questionable.
There are probably a lot more little tidbits that could be helpful of course, but I believe I’ve covered most of the important ones to look out before setting out on your journey.
Do you have any suggestions that you think I’ve left out? Don’t hesitate to put them in the comments below!