Chances are that at least part of your next trip, no matter what far off land you jet off to, will take place in a city. Not only do larger cities boast cultural and historical sites that are often must-sees, but they’re also major transportation hubs that make your trip logistically feasible. I’m a city girl at heart, and I love the distinct vibes from each global capital. But of course, traveling in a city requires its own set of tips, far different than pitching a tent in some uninhabited mountain village. Here are a few ideas to make the most of your city travel:
Watch Your Belongings
Let’s get the downer out of the way—you’ll be surrounded by throngs of people. And although we’d like to believe everyone has the right intentions, it’s just not the case. It only takes a split second for someone to swipe your valuables and put a damper on the rest of your trip, so keep a close eye out and take precautions. Check out our tips specifically for avoiding being pickpocketed here.
Familiarize Yourself With Public Transportation
While walking is a fantastic way to get the lay of the land and discover new shops and restaurants in an unfamiliar city, it’s sometimes not feasible to go everywhere on foot. Head to a tourist information point for a map of the local transportation system, or look on station maps or your smartphone. The metro is often the easiest way to get around since you basically follow one colored line to a stop or another colored line. Buses can be a bit trickier but will do the job as well. Also, if you think you’ll be on public transportation more than a couple times, it’s usually worth it to invest in a day or multiple-day pass, which will cut the cost of each journey.
Hit Nearby Landmarks on the Same Day
In big cities, like London, you could spend more time below ground than above. To avoid zigzagging all over the city on the metro, take a look at the map ahead of time to plan on seeing nearby landmarks in the same day. It makes for less spontaneous travel, sure, but logistics-wise it could save you valuable hours.
Choose a Nearby Accommodation
On that same note, choose your accommodation near an area where you know you’ll be spending a lot of time. Most accommodation sites have a feature where you can search by map for a hotel or apartment rental. Hotels are usually more expensive the more central they are, so if you’re looking to cut costs by staying further out, just make sure you’re still near a bus or metro line.
Get the Feel of the Neighborhoods
Cities often have very distinctive quarters and neighborhoods. You probably can’t see every corner of a city in one trip, so you’ll have to pick and choose a bit. Research ahead of time which ones you think would be worth it and which to avoid. Keep in mind as well that some districts may be fantastic and lively during the day but turn a bit sketchy at night. Ask locals, bartenders, tourist information centers or the good ol’ Internet about the most popular, off-the-beaten-path and best-to-avoid neighborhoods.
Find the Calm Amidst the Chaos
The hustle and bustle and pulsating energy of a city can be great—maybe that’s why you traveled to a city in the first place. But without taking some time off, your vacation can quickly become less relaxing than you may like. Thankfully, nearly every city has some quiet oases to help you find that inner peace: parks, swimming holes, leisurely al fresco dining, comfortable cafés. If you feel like you’ve hit sensory overload, just take some time to unwind. The monuments will still be waiting for you when you’re ready.
Keep in Mind That Cities Are a Melting Pot
You may not find only “uniquely Spanish” in Madrid, for example, so be open to a fusion from all walks of life. I had the best Turkish food of my life in Berlin and an authentic Moroccan teahouse experience in southern Spain. City travel is about embracing this global melting pot and seeing how one country’s culture puts a twist on another country’s traditions.