Arriving in a new city can feel intimidating, especially if you’re on your own. So it’s important to familiarize yourself with the city, including learning how to get around, checking out the sights, and making new friends. Here are our top tips for getting to know a new city.
Before you arrive
If you’re yet to move to your new city, here are some things you can do to make getting to know your city easier before you even make the journey.
Do your research
You could buy a guidebook for your particular city (look online for a good deal) or alternatively, do your research completely for free using online resources. Even just searching “[Your city name here] guidebook” online will almost undoubtedly bring up good resources for learning about the geography, tips for getting around, attractions, food, and even cultural cues specific to the city.
Ask your friends, family, or community for advice
Chances are, someone you know has lived in or at least visited the city in question. Often word-of-mouth is the best way to learn tips and tricks about a new place, like the best place to get sushi or the cheapest way to get around. If they still live in the city, you may even find a new close friend or a tour guide for the day.
Figure out an immediate plan
Although it can be rewarding to leave a little up to chance, it’s a good idea to have a basic plan of what you’ll be doing in your first week of arriving in your new city – know where you’ll be staying for at least the first week and book this in advance, make a note of nearby restaurants you’re going to try, and learn how you can get your phone to work if you’ll be moving to a new country (you’ll probably need to buy a local sim card).
Don’t forget to also look into schools in the area if you’re moving with a family. For example, a family moving to Shanghai might start this by simply looking up ‘Shanghai international schools’ online.
Use a map tool
Use Google Maps or something similar to save “want to go” destinations on your phone. This makes a great visual tool and is perfect for planning.
Important: Before traveling to your new city, note down the local emergency services number – you can always call this number even if you don’t have a working phone plan. A number that works almost anywhere in the world is “112” – call this number, and you’ll reach the local emergency services.
When you first arrive
Some things to do within the first few days of arriving.
Stop by the visitor center
You might be thinking, “But I’m not a tourist!” Visitor or tourist centers often have free maps for you to take, and the staff should be able to help you with advice on things like buying sim cards, train/bus tickets, and which areas in the city to head to depending on your preferences.
Hit the main attractions
Even if you’re an “off the beaten track” kind of traveler, visiting the major tourist spots is a great way to get a feel of your new city as well as tick off some of the “must-sees”. You might also meet fellow city newbies.
Hop-on, hop-off bus tours
Another good way to learn your way around the city. Often there’s a guide who gives passengers a brief history of famous landmarks and other info about the city.
After you’re settled in
Once you’ve been in your new city for a little while and have gotten familiarized, it’s time to go beyond your comfort level a bit.
Chat with locals
Talking with locals is the best way to get the low-down on a place. You might meet people out in public (always be safe doing this), or you could find online meetups – check out Couch Surfing for this.
Keep up with your hobbies
Find places and groups to do your favorite sports, arts, or whatever your hobby is. Another great way to meet people with similar interests.
Go to local events
Find local events to attend like festivals, concerts, or even markets.
Now that you’re living in a new place, it would be nice to give back a little. See if there are any local volunteering groups, soup kitchens, clean-ups, etc.
Make your space your own
To make your home feel like a home, you could spend a day shopping for things like houseplants and local art to brighten up your space.
It’s important not to feel stressed if you’re struggling to “find yourself” in your new city. These things take time. If you haven’t made many (or any!) friends yet, don’t worry – and don’t give up. Things will get better!
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