Stepping out of the airport at a new destination always comes with mixed emotions; you’re excited to check out a new country, but all those unknowns can throw you off your confidence game. Arriving in a new country, but not yet having arrived at your lodgings, can easily be the most stressful part of your trip. Here’s how to show up at your destination like a total boss.
Sleep on the plane during your destination's nighttime The best way to get past jet lag is to adjust as quickly as possible to local time. If you can, sleep on the flight if you'll be landing early in the morning, in order to be as refreshed as possible. Noise-cancelling earplugs and an eye mask will help; avoid caffeine and alcohol during the flight if you hope to sleep.
Land during daylight hours You’ll be safer and more comfortable travelling between the airport and your hostel/hotel during daylight hours. You’ll have more transportation options (train, tram, bus, shuttle, taxi, etc.) and be less harassed by drivers. Politely decline offers to have your bags carried and keep a sharp eye on them. Do not share taxis with strangers, no matter the cost.
Set your watch to local time When the pilot announces the local time upon landing, immediately adjust your watch and all devices.
Get a new SIM card Look for one at the airport so that you can complete this important task as quickly as possible. You’ll have to have an unlocked phone to switch your SIM card. Text a few people to tell them you’ve arrived safely. Add important numbers to your contacts (insurance/bank emergency numbers, local police, your government’s local consulate office, etc.).
Have your first night’s accommodation booked, including transit Know where your hostel/hotel is and how to get there from the airport. Download maps with maps.me, which allows you to use them offline, or screenshot directions from GoogleMaps. I once had multiple taxi drivers in North Vietnam refuse to drive me when I showed them my route on my phone; they would rather take a customer who didn’t know the way in order to drive them around and collect higher rates.
Pre-book your transfer and be ready to show proof before stepping outside the airport. This will be a life-saver if the airline loses your checked bag and you can provide them with an address for quicker delivery.
Head outside Get a head start on fighting jet lag by walking around your new city. It will energise you and help you fight the urge to curl up in your new bed (if absolutely necessary, set an alarm for a short nap). Sign up for a free walking tour that very afternoon. Try to stay awake until local bedtime and get up at a ‘normal’ local time the next morning.
Keep a screenshot map of your lodgings on your phone Make sure to include some landmarks near your accommodation in the screenshot. Download a map with maps.me to use offline. Better yet, get your hands on a paper map of the city. Keep a business card from your hostel/hotel in your wallet (or at least its name/phone number written in the local language). Show it to local drivers if you find yourself lost or if you get stuck in a sudden downpour.
Keep an extra set of clothes in your carry-on bag You could change clothes after a long flight. Bringing extras in your carry-on will be particularly useful if your checked baggage gets lost; one extra outfit, undies, important medications, toothbrush/paste, refreshing wipes, etc.
Keep the important stuff accessible Money, cards, phone and maps. Organise everything inside the airport. You don’t want to be sorting your bags or rummaging through your stuff outside the airport, where you’ll be vulnerable to pickpockets and scammers.
Do your research regarding food near your lodgings OK, I might sound a bit paranoid about food, but if you know of a few fun places to eat (or a nearby grocery store), you can set your bag down on your new bed and head out for a bite before you become really hangry.
Pre-load your destination’s currency rate Download xe.com on your phone so that you don’t guess the conversion rates at the airport's exchange bureaus, which will greatly increase your risk of getting ripped off. I strongly suggest that you order a bit of cash before leaving your home, as you never know if your cards will work right away.
Remember that the world is typically a friendly place, and genuine safety risks on your travels will be relatively low. The trick to staying safe and secure is to take steps to prevent those threats from occuring in the first place.
So the next time you find yourself arriving in an unfamiliar setting, remember that you’ve done everything in your power to be well-prepared. Now walk out there like you own the place.
See you out there.
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