When you leave home to travel, you’re leaving behind your support system. It’s easy to forget all the things you rely on — like regular access to food, medicine, money and information — until you don’t have them anymore.
Fortunately, you can find a substitute for your basic needs in every city you travel to. Whether you’re travelling for vacation or business, there are three places you should identify, preferably within a short distance of your hotel. Once you know the location of all three, you’re prepared to tackle almost anything a new city can throw at you.
First, find a drugstore.
Few places are more useful to a traveler than a drugstore. While you can bring some medicine with you when you travel, you never know what’s going to come up. If you sprain your ankle or catch a cold, you’ll need to know where to get supplies.
Additionally, most drugstores have a selection of food, drinks and other merchandise that you might also need. You can’t bring your fridge with you and restaurants are expensive. If you’re staying somewhere for a long time, find a proper grocery store, but if you’re only staying for a few days or a week, knowing the closest place to grab a light meal can be a lifesaver. Some drugstores are even open 24 hours, so you can grab some snacks after other stores are closed.
Next, locate an A.T.M. (or currency exchange).
If you’re traveling domestically, your credit or debit cards might serve you well (just be sure to let your card carrier know that you are travelling). When you need cash, you’ll find that drugstores often have A.T.M.s inside, so you can kill two birds with one brick and mortar store. If you can find an A.T.M. that doesn’t charge a fee, though, all the better.
This becomes even more important when you’re travelling out of the country. You can usually get local currency at banks or airports before you leave, but you can’t plan for everything. If the closest drugstore doesn’t have an A.T.M., find a place to exchange your money without exorbitant fees.
Finally, find a Wi-Fi hot spot.
Navigating any new, unfamiliar city is easier when you have steady access to information. At home, your phone’s reception is likely reliable enough to get by, but when traveling it helps to know where your hot spots are in case you lose service or need to avoid data charges. Ideally, your hotel will have Wi-Fi available, but it might be unreliable or cost too much.
With that in mind, finding an open, free hot spot near your hotel can be a good fallback. More important, if you’re planning to be away from your hotel for a long time, find a hot spot near where you’ll be spending the day. The simplest way is usually to locate a restaurant or coffee shop that has free Wi-Fi, but crowd sourced apps like Foursquare can also help you find open networks that are less obvious.