Guides for Travellers
It can be a daunting thing moving from place to place – travelling through countless towns, cities and villages in which you have no friends or family for the first time. But there are steps that a traveller can take to make these transitions more fluid, and things that can be done to make acclimatising that little bit easier too:
1. Base yourself somewhere
Firstly, consider choosing somewhere that you’re happy to spend a good few days in. While you might be tempted to move about as much as possible spending two nights here and three nights there, most experienced travellers usually end up spending longer in places the more they travel. Find somewhere that has good enough facilities to support you for a few days and where there are plenty of sights and attractions within a two-to-three hour bus ride. You might find you enjoy the location that bit more if there are plenty of things to keep you busy in the surrounding area – although this means you’ll definitely have to do some research first!
2. Book the first night
When travelling on a budget, it’s not uncommon for backpackers to arrive somewhere after a long journey and then hunt around either by foot, tuk-tuk or taxi for somewhere reasonable to stay. While this type of room-hunting is often the cheapest way of doing things, it can be tiring, frustrating and occasionally fruitless – especially in the wrong town or district. But if you book somewhere online the first night, you’ll then know exactly where you have to go, you’ll be expected by the staff there, and you’ll have the option of organising a pickup should you need one. Plus, if you happen to quickly like the accommodation and can afford to splurge, then you’re basically already there. And if you don’t, you can always spend the first day looking at other accommodation options first-hand.
3. Find accommodation that suits you
If you are happy to drop your bags off somewhere pricier that first night and then have a look around, you’ll usually be able to find somewhere that’s not only amenable but that best suits your needs as a traveller. Not only will this experience help your language skills (if you’re keen to practice the local lingo), but you’ll have plenty of time to negotiate the price face to face, to scope out whether there’s a relaxed or party atmosphere going on, to check out the internet situation, and to see whether you can cook there and wash your clothes if needs be. It might take a little time, but most places around the world have a variety of accommodation options within walking distance and you’ll soon work out what type of establishment and scene best suits you.
4. Go for a walk
Spending your first day finding accommodation on foot should mean that you’ve already explored a little, and going for a walk is probably one of the best things you can do to acclimatise yourself. Drop off your rucksack, grab a map, mark a few places of interest on it, pack a daypack with water and snacks, and then head out into the streets. Are there restaurants and shops near to where you’re staying? Are the roads easy to navigate? Is there much hassle? Do you feel safe wandering around? An hour or two’s walking about should answer most of these questions and give you a much better idea of where you are in relation to landmarks, geographical features, and areas of interest.
5. Sit for a while
While exploring the area around your accommodation on foot, it’s always a good idea to spend some time just sitting and people watching. Many people do it. Find a bench in a park, public square, plaza or waterfront, and just sit for a while. Perhaps enjoy an ice cream or a cold drink; soak in the atmosphere and the rhythm of the place; notice how many other travellers are passing through; maybe even strike up a conversation with a local. You might find that when sitting still in the thick of things, you don’t stand out quite so much.
6. Eat locally
If your accommodation has a restaurant of some sort, you’d be foolish not to give it a try at least once, especially when you first arrive. But it’s usually a good idea to quickly try out local eateries too – and that means the ones that are busy with locals and not just travellers! Not only will these restaurants help you to experience where the locals and workers eat, but you’ll become more accustomed to the cheaper and often tastier regional food more quickly. You’ll experience new flavours, and you may even find that excellent value-for-money place that keeps you returning back for more. Just expect to sample some pretty poor quality restaurants too, and don’t let those put you off.
7. Get into the countryside
If you’ve chosen to stay somewhere for a bit longer than usual to better acclimatise, you’ll probably now want to get out and explore the surrounding areas. It can be difficult to appreciate a city or town culturally, environmentally and geographically without first getting outside of the city limits. Doing so will give you a real opportunity to meet the rural folk, to experience the local plants and wildlife, and it better situates you with your surroundings. If you move too often from city to city on night transport, you’ll probably not get much of a feel for the very landscape you’ve been travelling through, and your journey could risk becoming a little vague and unconnected – especially if you plan on covering large distances.
8. Find other travellers
Finally, as great as it is sleeping, eating and partying with the locals, you’ll eventually want company with those that best understand your culture and language. Most towns and cities on backpacking routes will have at least one hostel or restaurant that’s run by a foreigner and that draws in the backpacker and expatriate crowds. While these types of places might cost you a little more, with a few drinks, a willingness to share experiences and a humble attitude, you’ll soon make friends. You might even find yourself crossing paths with these people again in the months to come!