I have been doing some city research of my own today as I will be landing in Vancouver at the end of next month, and thought to myself - this might be a good topic to write about!
Before you arrive at your destination, make sure you do a fair bit of research (BEFORE you depart) on the following:
1. The cheapest way to get from the airport to your hostel/hotel
I know this sounds incredibly obvious, but airports are never located within walking distance of the CBD in majority of cities! The distance between the airport and your destination can sometimes be a lot more complicated then you think, and I have underestimated this plenty of times.. When I arrived in London for example, I thought I could just catch a train straight into the city just like you do at Rome... but instead it was a sky-bus, to a train, to an underground, to a taxi! And all of this at about 1am at night - which definitely is something everyone should avoid. I had never used the underground nor a sky-bus which was a bit daunting when you are in a rush so you dont miss the last train before the morning.. I cannot stress arriving in a new city in daylight hours enough!
A new city is always disorientating at first, especially if it is foreign, and it takes you a little bit to get your bearings. Make sure you know all your options and obtain a timetable where necessary so you are prepared, which means you wont get ripped off and your arrival will be stress free and easy! The usual methods of transport are:
- Bus (usually the cheapest)
Find out transport prices of each of the above to compare (you can contact your hostel for transport prices). Avoid a taxi if you can - unless you are arriving at some ungodly hour and prefer a stress free and safe option to get to your accommodation. Some taxi drivers can take advantage of your lack of knowledge and drive around in circles! The best option is usually a bus or train, so check out your airport's website - they usually will provide information on how to get from the airport to your accommodation. It's always a very good idea to put the phone number of your hostel into your phone. Hostel staff can help you avoid getting lost, and advise the cheapest and easiest way to get to their front door. Taking their number can also be a good backup if you need help and don't have any emergency contacts in your phone.
2. Speaking of phone numbers..
Make sure you do some research of the city you are going to and put the following in your phone:
- Hospital/Ambulance number
- Your hostel (or accommodation)
- A personal emergency contact if you have one
- Your home number with the +61 3 thing (For Victorians!)
For example, if your mums mobile number is 0407 123 456 then dial +61 3 407 123 456. Take out the 0 at the start. This is what I had to dial when I was in Italy using TravelSIM. I can't remember how I contacted my parent's home phone - I just got them to ring my number and used the caller I.D to get their number. It takes a little experimentation, so make sure you are able to successfully contact home when you arrive at your destination.
Buy a map, save one on your phone or print one from your computer prior to your travels, and label the following on it:
- the location of your hostel/accommodation
- the hospital
- the police
- any sights/shops you want to visit while you are staying
If you arrive in a non-english speaking country and get lost trying to find your accommodation, you can just ask a local to help and point to where you need to go - if you have marked your map. It is so much easier, especially if you can't speak any of the language, but can use your phrasebook to ask 'How do I get to here?'.
Another good tip is to get onto google street view and suss out what the front of your hostel looks like before you go. If you can identify landmarks it will make finding things a lot easier!!
4. Book your accommodation before you leave
Whenever I am going to a major city, I only ever book 2 nights (maximum) in advance at whichever hostel I choose (unless it is peak season and beds are limited). I am usually an unplanned traveller though, so take this into consideration while you read - I like to be as flexible as possible when backpacking. If I like the hostel, I book more nights while I am staying there. If I don't like the hostel, I find another one. Compare www.hostelbookers.com and www.hostelworld.com for the cheapest prices, and make sure you read as many reviews as your eyes can cope with - they will give you a good insight into things you might need, such as earplugs if your room is right next to a busy street or something.
Consider a hostel close to public transport so it is easy for you to get to and from the airport. Remember you will most likely be carrying a backpack containing your entire life, which somehow gets heavier every 200m or so!
(Samesun Hostel, Vancouver)
Make sure you either get some currency exchanged, or order it through your local post office. You can also exchange it at the airport or on main streets. But it is probably safer to get it through the post office before you leave so no one has the chance of seeing how much cash you have on you!
Have enough to pay for the basics:
- Your transport
- Whatever you owe for your accommodation, unless you want to pay with your card.
- Food and drink
- Anything else you might buy
Well that is all I can think of for the time being! Like I always say if there is anything you think you could add please do =)