5 Simple Tips for Exploring a New City Without Getting Lost

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Ask a young person what he or she wants to do in the next three years, and it’s all but guaranteed that “travel” tops almost every list. After all, we are the Wanderlust Generation—the generation that wants to see the world, experience new things, get lost.

But here’s a fun fact about getting lost: It actually sucks, especially when you’re trying to get the most out of that plane ticket you just dropped two months’ rent on. Worse than that, losing your sense of orientation in a new place can be scary — even dangerous.

Don't let the urban jungle intimidate you, take matters into your own hands. Photo: Unsplash.
Don’t let the urban jungle intimidate you. Take matters into your own hands. Photo: Unsplash

Even though new maps, new languages and spotty Wi-Fi can be intimidating, there are a few easy-to-follow steps to keep getting lost to a minimum. Here are five ways to catch your bearings and hit the ground running the next time you hit the road. Study up, wanderers.

Get Up High Right Away

No, guys, put that thing out. We’re talking vantage points, not altered perception. Identify a high point in your new city—either a building or a vista where you can get a bird’s-eye view of your surroundings.

Maps can help you gain your bearings, but getting a real-life view of what you’re looking at on paper will help it all sink in. Identify key landmarks, neighborhoods and geographic features to keep yourself orientated when you drop back into the maze.

Photo: Courtesy of Yasmina Black/Unsplash

Swallow Your Pride and Take the Tour

It may seem like the square thing to do, but tours are a great initial step to learning a new area in a hurry. After all, before it was personified by Hawaiian shirts and fanny packs, tours were (and still are) meant to give travelers the quickest possible guide to a city.

If price is your excuse, hostels often provide free city tours that bring together lots of young travelers with similar objectives. Plus, you’ll probably learn a few trivia points that might not show up in your Lonely Planet guidebook. Get a leg up Day 1 and spend the rest of the time exploring stress-free.

Photo: Courtesy of Unsplash

Find Your “North Star”

It doesn’t matter how good you are with directions, everyone gets lost. Before that happens, pick a well-known landmark and identify which side of that landmark leads home.

Staying on the river side of the Eiffel Tower? Let that oversized erector set lead you home when the streets all start to look the same.

Also remember that churches are often aligned with directions. (For example, Christian churches often face east-west.)

Photo: Courtesy of Eva Dang/Unsplash

Make a Photo Log

Wi-Fi isn’t the only thing that makes our phones useful travel tools. When service is spotty, our phones can also act as memory logs. Take pictures of street signs and landmarks along your journey to create a virtual map to trace back if you get twisted around.

Yeah, it’s kind of nerdy, but believe us, you’ll be thankful for the clues when you end up on the wrong side of town.

Photo: Courtesy of Jorik Kleen/Unsplash

Grab a Business Card at the Front Desk

As a final safety net, be sure to grab a business card from the front desk at the hotel or hostel where you are staying. That way, if you find yourself lost, you can ask people to help you find the address on the card or show a taxi driver where you need to go.

It may seem easy to remember an address or the name of a location, but a card scales any language barrier and will get you to where you need to go a lot faster than fumbling for the right words.

Photo: Courtesy of Tim Photoguy/Unsplash

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