Here’s a scenario that you’ll all be familiar with. You get off the plane, you jump on the subway. You emerge, blinking, into the sunlight after falling asleep on the train and missing your stop. Where is Brixton? Is everyone in London so unfriendly? And, more importantly, you appear to be miles from Oxford Circus. Things aren’t going well so far. However, it’s not the end of the world.
Getting lost is an intrinsic part of travel - it’s the only way to explore, and really get to grips with the places you’re visiting. However, if you find it more frightening than fun, here are some ways to minimise the chances of getting lost.
Keep calm at all costs: Seriously, what good will panicking do? Just stay calm, and take a few deep breaths. If you’re lost in the Outback, we’ve got a handy guide that’ll help you stay safe, but if you’re lost in a city, seriously, relax. There will be people all around you and you won’t starve to death as there’ll be coffee shops on every corner; there’ll also be a subway nearby. Find a quiet spot, open your map, and breathe. See? There you are; about eight miles away from your destination. Back on the subway you go.
Ask for help: Be careful who you approach - that group of sour-looking lads at the bus stop might not be very cooperative - but if in doubt, pick someone who looks like they know what they’re doing, smile, and ask. Most people will be happy to help you. Ladies - avoid any unnecessary hassle by asking women for directions, and don’t worry too much about possible issues with not speaking the local language. English is, luckily for you, pretty much universally spoken.
Keep any landmarks in mind: Whether it’s a massive mountain, the London Eye or a skyscraper that you know is near your hotel, make a mental note of landmarks that give you an indication of where you are. Chicago, London, New York and Paris are good for tall buildings that are easily-recognisable.
Use the sun: You know the old adage, don’t you? The sun rises in the east, and sets in the west - so if you know the vague direction you’re supposed to be travelling in, just use that massive fireball in the sky as your guide.
Seek advice from the professionals: Don’t just assume you’ll be fine, and you won’t get lost. Ask for a map at your hotel - the concierge will circle where you’re staying, local stations, and some good places to go/eat (take the restaurants they recommend with a pinch of salt; they might be fine, but the hotel will probably be working on commission with these eateries). Check out the local tourist information office - you’ll get more free maps, advice tailored for tourists, taxi numbers, and if there are any meal deals to be had locally, this is where you’ll find them.
Plan your day: If you’re sightseeing, plot your route - subway journeys can be tricky, especially if you’re in a rush, and make sure that you pay attention if a local event or attraction stresses it’s in a ‘hard-to-find’ place. These people don’t say that for their health - make sure you carefully make a note of where you’re going, and don’t assume you’ll just run in to your destination.
Take some time out: If you’re close to having a meltdown, this is stellar advice. Relax. Find a bar. Put the map away. Ask the bartender to help. After a glass of wine, you’ll stop feeling so tense, and you’ll start to see the funny side.
Embrace being lost: Slightly contradictory advice, we know, but this is one of the best ways to find hidden places and get off the beaten tourist track. No, you may not make it to the Les Miserables matinee, but you might find an amazing cafe, have a brilliant chat with the locals and discover an underground drinking den that isn’t in the guide book.
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