1. Find the tallest building in the city and go to the top
My favorite way to see any city is from above! From the Eiffel Tower in Paris to Taipei 101, views are always spectacular from the sky. Especially if you go at the end of the day, you get to see all the landmarks you’ve already been to from a different perspective, and if you're lucky, you can catch a beautiful sunset over the city.
2. Make friends with the locals
There is no better way to learn about a place than from the people who actually live there. Locals always have the best restaurant recommendations and often can tell you a lot about the culture and history of the place you’re in. I’ve really enjoyed staying in Airbnbs or with host families to immerse myself and learn more from people who really know the city.
3. Avoid restaurants with pictures on the menu
This was a tip I got from a tour guide in Rome. Restaurants, especially near touristy spots, will often have giant posters outside with pictures of their food to entice you in. These restaurants tend to be geared more towards tourists and aren’t as authentic. I’ve found that the best places to eat are the hole in the wall restaurants that don’t advertise their food. I also highly recommend street markets!
4. Don’t be afraid to take lots of photos
I love to take pictures! I know some people can find it annoying to stop all the time to take photos and would rather just live in the moment, but I love to capture as much as I can so I can look back on all of my adventures. It’s a great way to cherish your memories forever and have them documented. Plus, now that I have all these photos, I get to share them with you!
5. Do your research, but don’t be afraid to be spontaneous
I usually do a lot of research before visiting a new place, making a list of all of the must see attractions, best restaurants, and famous museums. However, it is more than okay to not stick to a plan! Some of my best adventures have been to places that I didn’t even know existed before I got there. Get recommendations from hotel or hostel staff or ask the locals in order to find the best hidden gems!
6. Learn basic words and phrases from the language
It is always good to know some basic words, such as hello, goodbye and thank you! Even if the city has lots of English speakers, which is common in Europe, it is still important to know some words of the native language. I’ve also found that phrases like “where is the bathroom?” and “I don’t speak ___ language, do you speak English?” are helpful, especially when English isn’t as common.
7. Pack light
There have been so many trips where I packed loads of clothes, to only end up wearing half of them. Especially if you are visiting many different cities or switching hotels a lot, make sure your bags are easy to transport. You really don’t need as much as you think, and you can always do laundry and rewear clothes! There is nothing worse than having to lug a 50 pound suitcase around for miles.
8. Get a local SIM Card for your phone
The first time I went abroad, I stuck to my American phone plan that charged $10/day for spotty international service. When I lived in Taiwan for two months, I was able to get a SIM card for the whole summer for $50. Local SIM cards are often much cheaper than international plans and have much better service. Whether you are only staying in a country for a couple days or for a couple months, I highly recommend getting a local SIM card.
9. Take a cooking class
Eating local cuisines is one of my favorite parts of traveling! I love trying new foods from different cultures. Taking cooking classes is a great way to learn about the culture and be able to make your favorite foods from around the world when you get back home! Especially if you are staying in one place for a while, it gets expensive to eat out all the time. Learning how to cook special dishes with local ingredients is not only fun, but can be cost effective, too.
10. Don’t be afraid to buy souvenirs
Souvenirs and gift shops can get expensive, which is why I always try to only buy something small from every place I visit. Souvenirs are great mementos and a fun way to symbolize a vacation. Personally, I collect shot glasses from every city I go to. Postcards and keychains are also fun, cheap items that can be collected.
Did you find these travel tips helpful? Did I miss anything important? Let me know!