By Contikivacations | October 30, 2012
When you're traveling and visiting a new city, chances are that you'll want to venture out and explore on your own - and in a digital age, we have access to all sorts of information, such as subway maps and schedules, city guides, and driving directions. However, our budgets don't always allow for unlimited international 3G roaming charges, so without instantaneous step-by-step directions, what is one to do?
Before you take a wrong turn and end up on the street, check out some handy advice about how you can better prepare to navigate the streets while unplugged!
Grab a Map (It Rhymes with App!)
Every hotel you stay at will have city maps that show you how to get around the city. Often times, the maps come in pocket-size form so you don't find yourself fumbling with a large piece of paper figuring out where to go. While you can't access 3G on your phones while abroad (unless you paid for it), your GPS can pinpoint your location (depending on your carrier and phone) and give you some idea of where you are located and how to get around.
Ask the Locals
Chances are, if you pop into a cafe or restaurant to grab a bite to eat, you can ask your waiter or waitress to point you in the direction of the right spot. This option might be a bit more welcoming than stopping a random stranger on the street to ask for directions. Also, do your research in advance and make note of the tourism offices, which can provide a bevy of information to help you. If you duck into an internet cafe, you can also check out websites featuring local connections such as Triptrotting or Spotted by Locals to find what you're looking for.
Offline Guides & Travel Guide Books
Back in the day, this is how people used to travel - untethered from a life on the Internet. Even if you can't access many of your cell phone's features when you're not connected to wi-fi or fancy 4G, more applications are giving their users the ability access their services offline. From TripAdvisor's City Guides (which provide maps and reviews of local destinations sans internet), to subway maps that can give step-by-step directions (check out the Embark Apps as an example of a great FREE metro app for major cities in the US!)
Research, Research, Research
We can't stress the importance of researching your destination in advance. Understanding the public transportation system's costs, schedules, and routes make your life easier. Most metro stations have maps detailing lines and routes and keep notes of popular routes that go by your hotel and must-see attractions. If you mentally map out your trip in your head, you'll be fine navigating the streets like a pro. (see the above about offline guides and maps!)
Ask Your Contiki Tour Manager
It should go without saying, but your Contiki Tour Manager is a wealth of information about the city you are visiting - a human Yelp application and map all in one! They can point you in the direction of the nearest metros, the best place to buy souvenirs, and how to get around the city in one fell swoop. Take advantage of the fact that they KNOW the city you'll be walking in - which will keep you from worrying about how you're going to get back to the hotel.
Before you know it, you'll forget about your newfangled electronic device and feel confident exploring the streets on your own. Unplug and enjoy your travels! Good luck!