On my most recent trip to Japan I was reminded of the importance of staying on your p’s and q’s to move around a new city as you learn the landscape. It’s easy to have expectations that things should just work out our way while putting little time and attention into how this will actually happen. Traveling in Japan, for instance, with all of the English accommodations, you can easily forget the importance of knowing some words or phrases in Japanese in order to ensure you can smoothly move around. As I tackled hailing a cab from the Tokyo Tower and hopped in a cab where the driver spoke no English that lead to Battle Royale when it was time to pay I was reminded of some simple tips that would have made the night a lot smoother
Take notes on landmarks and directions – It is no fun being lost in a strange city. Don’t’ assume everyone will have an idea of your destination. If you are leaving your hotel take note of important physical markers that can assist others helping you find your way back home.
Your phone can be a resource even without service or data – International service can be very expensive with iffy coverage at best. This doesn’t mean you can’t use your phone. The voice recorder is a great way to provide information in a different language to others. Also, have your hotel concierge record the name and directions to your hotel in the language of the country you are in or take a picture of a map directing others to its locations are great tools for finding your way back.
Ask questions before committing to a service – Transportation in other countries is notoriously a mix bag depending on the city and the particular driver you get. I learned in Italy pretty quickly that cab prices can be high and can be low but asking before you take off prevents you from getting locked into a war of words where neith3er party knows what the other is saying. Asking ahead gives you leverage to negotiate or find some alternatives if you can’t agree. If you want to use a comfort from home, check ahead if options such as Uber are available where you are internationally.
Use your other experiences to increase your travel savvy – I was never so happy to have a New Yorker for a college roommate than when I had a cab driver attempt to overcharge me in Japan. As soon we took off I saw he neither knew where he was going, nor what I was saying and was too stubborn to do anything about either problem. So when he tried to triple the charge for my return trip than I paid for my arrival it was on. Learning not to let people take advantage of you prevents you from becoming a walking doormat internationally. I quickly pulled out my New York negotiation skills and the haggling began. AT the end of it I had to hop out a cab but maybe a lesson will be learned about playing black women in cabs by this cab driver.
Be diverse in your back up plans – From addresses written in foreign languages to maps to asking your hotel for an international contact you have to plan for all the things that can go wrong while still being light on your feet. I always grab a map at my hotel and ask for details on the area that I am staying in. Your concierge is there for a reason so take a moment to discover what a local would know about your location as the small things may be important later when you are out about exploring away from the welcoming staff at your hotel.