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Updated May 2021
I get it. Nothing really says “you’re really here” like having to figure out what the signs at the airport say when you first arrive in a foreign city. Am I right?? It also somehow happens to be one of my favorite things ?especially after discovering these tips that I am about to share with you on how to navigate any foreign city like a champ!
Not knowing how to navigate foreign norms, language, let alone script! It’s not that easy, but it’s also not impossible to still navigate a foreign city. So today’s post was written to give you tips that you can implement the next time you are traveling to a foreign city. Read below to learn about the 5 suggestions on how to navigate a foreign city. These are tried and tested by yours truly ?so any questions about them, leave them in the comments below and I will get back to you! Also, make sure to stick around till the end for this post’s FREEBIE! It’s a good, practical one so stick around.
Observe your surroundings
It’s like the saying, “in Rome, do as the Romans do.” When you find yourself in surroundings where you don’t understand the language and you can’t read the script. In theses situations, you have to rely heavily on other forms of understanding the surroundings within the foreign city. For instance, you don’t know what the proper etiquette is when ordering a coffee? Look at what others are doing when ordering a coffee. Make sure to look around at what others are doing, and look to see how they do it. Beforehand, do your research ahead of time also and search proper etiquette in other public situations like ordering at a restaurant, taking public transportation, etc. Check out blogs like the one you’re on ? and youtube videos and see what others have done. All the guess work is taken out!
Use Google translate to navigate those language barriers
Whether you find yourself at that coffee shop about to order, or you find yourself at the metro station, getting around trying to read a foreign language and/or script is no joke. One tool that has helped me countless times, especially when I was in Bulgaria, was Google translate. What I love most about this tool is the ability to take a picture of the text you want to translate, and the capability it has to automatically translate it for you into your language. No need to type anything out. It’s SUCH a great tool that I think is essential to have when traveling to a foreign city. Make sure you do have space for this in your phone however, as I think that in order to use it without phone data or wifi, you’ll have to download some keywords of that language you’re translating.
Google maps will save your life finding your way around a foreign city
So, I could have just included this above when I was talking about Google translate, but Google maps has helped me out so much when finding my way around new cities, it deserved it’s own post. Google maps has been my saving grace and worst enemy (simultaneously) when navigating around a foreign city because as much as it’s helped me, it has also gotten me slightly lost lol. For the most part however, Google maps has literally given me the ultimate confidence in navigating a city either by myself or with others. Navigating a foreign city with the help of this app has allowed me to see different corners of a city, connect the different streets, and take the public transportation without fear of not knowing how to get back. And that in itself you guys, is so liberating and empowering if you ask me.
Learn a few keywords in the local language
So this may or may not be contradictory to the point I made earlier about using Google translate, however hear me out. I am not saying you have to go and dive into a deep sea of language learning books and youtube videos, but what I am saying is that learning the basics could get your much farther than you can imagine when traveling to a foreign city.
Let’s take this point to a situation I had when I was studying abroad in Athens. My friends and I were exhausted from walking all day through Athens, that we decided to take a Taxi back to the Acropolis (where we were set to meet up with the rest of the group). We got into the taxi and our driver didn’t know a lick of English. He looked at us blankly, and we returned the stare (yes, it was awkward ?) and he finally broke the ice when (we think) he asked us where we wanted to go. My friend sitting shot gun said Acropolis with the most American accent you could think of, and of course, the blank stare continued. I jumped in and said Ah-kroh-poli (in my best Mexican/Spanish-Greek accent) and he looked at me and said, Ah! Ναί! (yes!) And he took us right to the Acropolis. Other times, it was simply walking into a shop or a restaurant and greeting the shop owner with γεια σας (geia sas – hello) or saying ευχαριστώ (efcharisto – thank you).
I am really not trying to toot my own horn here, but my point is mostly that it doesn’t hurt to learn how to say hi, good bye, thank you, and other key words you might think would be helpful to know. It literally makes such a difference, even if you have a strong accent when you say it, the locals will definitely appreciate it. It will break the ice, they will see the effort you’re putting in, and they will feel even more inclined to help you or give you tips on what to see and do in the city you’re in. It’s something I can’t stress enough. Learn some basics σας παρακαλούμε.
Read More: Travel Planning Resources
Buy a good SIM card
If you’re phone is unlocked, or if you can get it unlocked before traveling abroad to a foreign city, please look into that. Once you’re phone is unlocked, you are free to use that baby all over the world – phone calls, text messages, and instagram (the essentials ?).
But really, the first thing I do when I arrive in a foreign country is to go to the nearest phone shop and buy a SIM card. Many times, these phone shops/services will be located inside the airport, so you can literally get one as soon as you land (perfect if you want to find your way to your hotel from the airport, ya know?)
Something you may be wondering is how expensive they are, which is a great question! They typically range from a variety of prices, depending on what you want as far as minutes, data, for local or international use etc.
For example, when I was living in Spain, I got my SIM card from a company called Orange (which is actually no longer in use and is such a shame because they offered really great service) but I will use it as an example of what it offered me and what I paid. With this company called Orange, I got the “Mundo-Internacional” (World-International) plan which not only worked within all of Spain but all across Europe without ever being disconnected – super convenient!
I paid 20 euros per month for this service, and I had around 6-7GB of data, and I can’t remember how many minutes of calling time I had, but I mostly used Whatsapp to message people, and it somehow always worked for me pretty well. I was never left without minutes or data, and I relied pretty heavily on my phone to explore.
Nowadays, one of the things I include in my travel planning process, is look up most popular cell phone carrier networks in the destination that I am traveling to, and I get a better idea of what that network offers us travelers, how to get one, prices and plans, and where they are located within the city. Usually you can get these in the airport, at a kiosk!
Whether you’re planning a visit to one country, and one country only, I would research what those popular cell phone carrier networks are, and do your research from there, as knowing this information prior to landing, will save you time and stress from trying to figure this out on the spot, probably feeling tired, and confused – don’t put yourself in that situation, trust me!
So to make things easier for you, I created this SIM Card 101 sheet that has some helpful pointers on what to look for in a SIM card, as well as some of the most popular cell phone carrier networks to look out for. A boost in your research – all in in this FREEBIE. Leave your info down below!
Also, if you’re planning a longer, multi-country trip, and you don’t want the hassle of manually connecting to each country’s cell phone network, then definitely consider Drimsim – the first-ever global SIM card that is available for use in 190 countries, with no subscription price, only paying for the traffic that you use. It’s the convenient, easy, and quick way to stay connected, use internationally and nationally, and so much more! Click here to check out their pricing, custom phone number options, how to top off, how to order, and so much more!
So what do you think?? Do you find these tips useful? As always, I am open to any and all feedback you all have, as I write this and every post with the hopes to help you and everyone reading to explore the world to learn about it and themselves ❤️I hope these tips facilitated and boosted your confidence the next time you find yourself not knowing how to navigate a foreign city.
Also, don’t forget to download the FREEBIE that I am providing you all with. It is a beginner’s guide to understanding international SIM Cards. This is honestly a game-changer, as it has not only helped me navigate foreign cities, but also it has made me feel confident enough to roam a new city, and discover it even further. I hope this guide serves you well and gives you a good basic understanding of how to purchase one for your travels.
To many more travel moments like these,