Tour guides are an excellent way to get around the city, but they usually have rigid schedules and routes. You may want something unique to your taste or something unstructured. A self-guided tour may be what you are looking for, but be mindful that there are cities that are better suited for it than others.
Solo Travel Struggles
A self-guided trip may be something you are interested in, but before you set out, you should know what you can expect. An unguided trip enables you to embark on a discovery journey and enjoy some sites off the beaten path. You may save a few dollars by not falling into the tourist traps. But you may also encounter challenges, chief among them getting lost or going over budget due to unseen expenses.
If you want to enjoy your solo trip, there are some particular tips you can follow to enhance your experience and ease in travel, such as:
Map It Out
Study the map of your destination. You will need to take note of landmarks that will help you navigate along with the layout of major streets.
Prioritize your activities. Every city has many attractions, and you may not have enough time, resources, or a desire to see them all. You can create a list of destinations and activities that appeal to your interests. Visit travel blogs and tourism websites to get ideas.
You don’t have to pay for everything; some experiences come at a low cost or even free. You can opt for low-cost travel and eating joints or enjoy free views and walks like at the beach.
Once you have an idea of the places you want to see and things you want to do, you can book accommodation that is near or central to the places and activities. It will make it easier to get to the locations and cheaper on your budget.
Local Transit Apps
Get an understanding of the transit system. Some are simple, while others provide apps that help you get around.
Getting Turned Around
Getting lost in an unfamiliar city can be part of the adventure, but at some time, you will need to find your bearings. That’s when it can get a bit scary. You will be lost, with no idea where you are, how to get to or back to your base, or even speak the local language.
There are numerous apps that will generally be able to help you, but you might also find yourself in an area with no wifi or cellular network, rendering apps unusable. Here’s what you can do when you get lost while traveling.
If you’re lost in the woods, use the S.T.O.P. acronym to guide you. Stop wandering aimlessly; it will only get you even more lost. Think through your next step; you don’t have to panic. Observe your surroundings for anything that can help you, like shelter or water. Plan how to build shelter, fire, and a signal to attract attention.
Start Off Points
Use landmarks as navigation points. Locals may not know your hotel, but they will recognize a tall or distinct building next to it. If you can’t find anyone to help you, use any high point, like an observation deck or a large hill, to get a better view of your landscape.
Public transit stops usually have a map to show you where you are and the route to your destination. You can use the map to determine your route if the bus or train is no longer running, but if they are, you can jump on and have them direct you to your destination.
Catch a Cab
An alternative is to catch a cab. Cab drivers have an intimate knowledge of every street, destination, and location. To make it easier for your cab driver, always write down the name and street address of your hotel (especially in the local language). You can also use the hotel’s business cards or flyers you will find at reception.
Find a nice hotel; the reception will be able to assist you. They can call a cab for you or give you directions to your destination.
WiFi on the Go
If the network is a problem, go to an establishment that provides wifi for its customers. Buying a coffee will get you wifi in most cafes or bars.
Self-Guiding Like a Pro
There are some cities that you will have trouble navigating. You shouldn’t take it personally as it has more to do with bad public transport systems, city layouts, and the complexity of directions. But you will come across cities that make it easier to get around, such as the following.
Portland, OR, has one of America’s easiest and most tourist-friendly public transportation systems. It’s public transit includes Trimet busses and light rail trains with extensive routes. For example, you can get a light rail train from the Portland International Airport (P.D.X.) to the city for about $2, which is much cheaper than a cab fare of around $35. If you plan to walk you will find it easy as most of the city is flat with lots of green spaces.
Bikes are a popular mode of transport, and they can get you anywhere in the city of Seattle, WA. Seattle is a bit hilly, and the metro can get a lot of traffic; on the other hand, downtown is better suited for walking. Nonetheless, you will have the Trip Planner app that can help you with the bus service, light rail, train, ferries, water taxis, and the monorail schedule to help you get around.
Oakland, CA, is a large city, but its extensive public transport can reach any point of interest or community at any time of the week. Public transit options, like B.A.R.T. and Free B Shuttle services, can get you to uptown neighborhoods, downtown San Francisco, UC Berkeley, or to Jack London square events and things to do.
You can reach a lot of Denver, CO’s attractions by foot as they are mostly close to each other in the downtown area. For those attractions a distance away, you can reach them through the city’s Regional Transportation District’s light rail routes, which can get you close enough to walk.
Baltimore, MA, has an affordable public transit system. If you like walking, you can experience most of the city’s attractions within one hour. You can use Maryland’s free ticketing app, CharmPass, to buy your public transport tickets. A one-way fare for core services gets you a 90-minute courtesy window where you can bounce between services without a charge.
There is a lot you can find off the beaten path. Visit the cities that make it easy. If you ever have trouble, keep your wits and don’t panic. Many before and many after will be going through similar challenges when traveling alone.
Sometimes, getting lost and finding your way back to the beaten path is part of the experience of travel. Although, understandably so, you might not always have the time or energy to waste on struggling to get around. Set yourself up for solo travel success by choosing an area or destination that is easier to navigate depending on your travel needs and preferences. Whether it’s a shorter trip or a longer, more extensive one, make the most of it by always knowing where you’re headed and how to get there.