College is the perfect time to get out there, explore and expand your horizons. Once you learn these top tips for how to explore a new city, the world will be your oyster!

To travel is to explore and experience new places, people and things! Take advantage of everything a destination has to offer with these tips on how to explore a new city and start checking off items from your bucket list.

1. Take public transportation

Traveling is not just about getting to your destination, but everything you see along the way. Taking public transportation allows you to reach further and see more diverse parts of the area and it also sets you in with the locals and their routine. Plus, it’s much cheaper than a taxi!

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2. Don’t plan every second

Everyday you learn more about where you are and what you can do there than you knew while planning the trip. There may be amazing places and activities that you never even heard of before, and you don’t want to be restricted from doing so. Almost everywhere you go, you’ll leave saying, “if I just had a few more days…”

Make sure your itinerary provides time for changes! This (plus public transportation) also helps you…

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3. Allow yourself to get lost

Perhaps decide to get off at a random station and see what you find. Sticking to a strict route may be efficient for checking all the points off on your map, but you might be surprised to find that there’s more to a city than the travel sites tell you. Pull yourself away from only the areas every tourist sees and into the local culture. There are countless hidden gems all over the world, and a good traveler can usually find a few!

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4. Talk to Strangers

Open yourself up, this is another advantage of getting lost. When I was in Venice, I heard just about every language in the crowds around me — except for Italian. But we were in Italy? So my friend and I pulled off into one of the many side streets and, yes, allowed ourselves to get lost. On the way, I found a local street artist and had my portrait drawn. When he was done, we started talking and he told me about him growing up in Venice and learning his practice.

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Locals can recommend and tell you about the best parts. Talking to strangers, I’ve meet some of the friendliest and most interesting people.

Also, meeting people gives you contacts. This is great if you ever want to return, or if a person happens to be a the position to possibly present you with opportunities in the future (wink wink).

5. Try the food

The food may be weird… but you may be surprised. Have you ever heard of the smelliest fish in the world? Surströmming is fermented herring and one of the most Swedish things that Sweden has. I was living in Sweden for a year and decided that I needed the full experience. So I convinced my friend to do this with me: we opened the can at midnight on Midsummer’s Eve and took a bite of this slimy crap and almost puked.  

On the other hand, my visit to Poland introduced me to the delicious pierogi, an absolutely not-disgusting dish that I did not expect, but loved.

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Pierogi dish in Cracow, Poland.

The point is: I’m extremely happy for both experiences, but I could only have ever fulfilled them because of these unique situations.

6. In fact, try everything

Traveling is a “say ‘yes’” game and the best way to get the most out of your journey (and your life btw) is to pursue every possibility that presents itself. If someone invites you to go somewhere or to try something (another reason strangers & contacts are great to have!), do it, despite the little doubts or fears in your mind. Saying yes to others and to myself has resulted in me: independently traveling, riding a zipline, hiking for 21 kilometers in the Austrian Alps, attending a world-famous rock festival, visiting the Arctic Circle, etc.  You could end up with some pretty incredible stories.

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Dog Sledding in Kiruna, Sweden

7. Take home a souvenir

While all those souvenir shops litter the streets of tourist cities, getting something more personal and unique will make you want to keep it a lot longer than a magnet. Finding something on a beautiful landscape or buying a handmade item from a local shop will do a much better job representing the culture, reminding you of YOUR personal experience in the area, and diversify your travel souvenir collection!  

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My sister taking pictures in the ancient Roman city Herculaneum.

Included in my own collection are two beautiful handmade books that I purchased by the castle in Budapest, as well as volcanic rock from the historic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Cool, right?

Of course, everyone has their own way of traveling. Do whatever you feel will provide YOU with the best experience. To make the most of your trip, save money on flights and hotels with exclusive student deals with StudentUniverse. Safe travels!

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    About Emily Majluf

    Emily Majluf has stayed for weeks at a time in South America, studied abroad for one year in Sweden and spent a summer traveling Europe. She is a senior in high school and, after graduating, will continue to see the world.