Beginner’s Guide to City Survival: How to Prepare in the City

Boy Scouts can teach you how to survive if you get lost in the woods. But these days, it sometimes seems more likely that you will get lost in a big city that can seem just as intimidating. Here’s how to get by if you need to hail a taxi and not start a fire.

Large cities face many unique survival challenges. Of course, you don’t have to defend the jugular vein from bear attacks or navigate the moss. But getting lost in the city center can be as easy as in the forest. Whether you’re moving to a big city or just visiting, there are a few skills that everyone should know.

Find out how to get from one place to another

Most of the US travels by car from one place to another because there are not many other options. This will change when you enter the city. Public transportation, taxis, cycling or walking are all becoming viable options for everyday travel, but they have their own challenges. Here’s how to navigate each one.

How to read public transport maps

Each city has a different approach to public transport. Many major cities have metro and buses. However, reading maps and public transit timetables can be confusing and tiring. But if you know where you are and where you are trying to get, you can decipher them.

The NYC by Natives blog has a quick guide to NYC subways, but the basic rules can be extrapolated to most cities. To determine which train to take, you need a few key data:

  • Train line: Metro systems are a network of individual train lines that run between designated stops. Lines run in both directions at the same time and include connections with intersecting lines. Your first step is to figure out which line or lines you need to take to get to your destination.
  • Local and express trains. A common problem newcomers encounter with train lines is the mixing of local and express trains. Local trains stop at every stop on the line, while express trains only stop at major stations to save time for regular passengers. Make sure you check the legend on your map to see which one you intend to land on. Also check any signs on your station platform, as sometimes lines may change depending on the time of day.
  • Train Direction: Most signs on metro platforms have the names of major stations or landmarks so you know which direction they are heading. It’s easy to get confused because you found the platform for the C train, but ended up moving away from your destination, not towards it. When trying to find a platform you need to be on, look for the names of attractions or areas like Times Square or Brooklyn Bridge to make sure you are heading in the right direction. Some signs may include street names or even directions, such as Upper Town or City Center, to indicate when they are driving towards or away from the city center.

Google Maps is very helpful here. If you have access to it, it will be able to tell you which route to take, after which it will need to follow the signs and know the basic schedules and jargon. Buses require a similar approach. If you use an app like Google Maps to find your route, you just need to make sure you are at the right bus station at the right time.

The key difference between buses and metro trains is that buses, like any other vehicle, are subject to rush hour. For this reason, their schedule may be a little more important to follow. Skip your bus and you will be waiting for a while. Every city is different, but MetroTransit (Minneapolis Public Transit Service) offers a basic guide to reading bus times here . However, be sure to check the bus timetable in your city for changes.

How to call a taxi

When you need to arrange a trip on a non-standard route (or you just don’t have time to spare), taxi is a great way to do it. On the other hand, finding a taxi can be more difficult. It’s not always as easy as waving your hand into traffic (as I’ve seen Lifehacker editor Whitson confirm). If you’re in a city that has Lyft or Uber, this might be easier, but getting a taxi is often faster if you know how.

The Chicago Tribune has some tips on how to successfully grab the driver’s attention. A correctly executed hail comes down to two points:

  • Be clear: calling a taxi is not the time for subtleties. Raising your hand slightly will not cut. Raise your hand up and stretch in the direction of travel. The better the driver sees you, the more likely he will stop.
  • Be there: if you want a taxi to pick you up, give them space. Do not try to stop a taxi over other cars, in the middle of an intersection, or anywhere other than the sidewalk.
  • Watch out for active cabins: As TaxiWiz explains , empty cabins will have roof lights on. As soon as they take the food, the lights will go out. Focus on getting the attention of an empty booth to increase your chances of success.
  • When in a popular location, queue up: there will be queues at many major train stations, airports, hotels, or other places where a person is likely to need a taxi. For example, if you are leaving anywhere in the Las Vegas strip and need a taxi, don’t worry about going outside. Go to the front door and look for the taxi queue. Get in line and the next taxi available will delight you.
  • Stick to Licensed Taxis: Travel blog Go See Write recommends avoiding unlicensed taxi operators. This can usually be determined by the markings on the license plate or on the car’s shields. While this does not guarantee anything will go wrong, you can at least have some confidence that there is an agency that is responsible for that particular taxi.

Of course, this is 2015. Waving your arms isn’t the only way to hail a taxi. You can also use a good old phone call. A quick Google search for “taxi company” and your city will find several traditional companies with phone numbers you can call. Just give them the address and wait for them to show up.

How to rent a bike

Some cities also offer bike rentals to get around quickly. Bike rental systems like Citi Bike in New York or Hubway in Boston usually operate on a pass system. You buy a travel card that can be used to rent a bike at stations scattered around the city. You can go for a little bike ride and then return to the nearest bike rental station. Passes only give you access to the stations themselves, but each ride still has a time limit (so you don’t take your bike or keep it for a few days when you’re not using it). You can rent a bike as many times as you want, but if you leave it for longer than the rental period, you start to get surplus.

For example, Citi Bike allows visitors to buy passes for 24 and 72 hours. However, this does not mean that you can take the bike and leave it for three days. When you rent a pike, you pass the ticket at the kiosk and get access to the bike for 30 minutes. If you keep the bike longer, you will have to pay the excess. You can return the bike to the kiosk and rent it right away, but the system is designed to prevent riders from using their bikes for a long time.

If you opt for a bike sharing system, be sure to download any related apps if available. The Citi Bike app, for example, can tell you which stations have free bikes nearby, can give you a specific bike route and manage your account.

Be aware of your surroundings with technology

As humanity crossed the wilds of the primeval Earth, we invented tools to fend off predators and find food. Life isn’t much different today, except that your smartphone runs on battery a little better than a rock tied to a stick. Here’s how to tackle the biggest technology-related survival challenges you’ll face in the city.

How to find free Wi-Fi

The fact that you are in the city does not guarantee that you will have a signal. Not all cellular frequencies are suitable for penetrating buildings (or reaching underground in places like the subway), and you have many more people using this network. At some point, you will lose the signal on your smartphone. Or you need to download something too big for mobile connectivity. In this situation, you will have to look for Wi-Fi. There are several ways to do this more efficiently than others.

  • Check with your ISP: Many home ISPs will allow you to access their Wi-Fi hotspot network using your credentials . So, for example, if you have a Time Warner at home, you can access their Wi-Fi hotspot network for free wherever you are. Some even have apps that can find a place near you .
  • Track your business with the famous Wi-Fi: in big cities, it’s convenient that you are always close to Starbucks or McDonald’s. Coffee shops, bookstores, hotels, and fast food outlets often have free Wi-Fi for itinerant travelers. While some may make you buy something, many offer it for free, especially on major chains.
  • Connect your phone: If you have internet on your phone but need to share it with your laptop (or friend), you can always try a modem . Some carriers charge extra for this service, and it can accumulate data quickly if you have a limitation, but it’s nice to be able to. However, be careful: the modem drains your battery very quickly.
  • Use hotspot tracking apps: If your ISP doesn’t include a hotspot network (or if they don’t fit), you can use apps like WeFi to find nearby hotspots. Not only can it point you in the right direction, but it can also manage your connections to bypass annoying access filters.
  • Use social sites like Foursquare to get passwords: even if the network is public, you may need a password to access it. Often helpful users on sites like Foursquare share passwords to make it easier for you to access.

When you are in the city, you are rarely away from a Wi-Fi network. This can save you a ton of hassle. In most cases, you should be able to find free access. While some places still charge internet connection fees (especially in places like airports), if you are in a densely populated area and a certain hotspot charges an access fee, you can usually walk a few hundred feet in any given direction and find her. is not

How to survive without the Internet

Despite your best efforts, you can still be left without service. However, this does not mean that you have to find yourself in a quandary. Some data can be downloaded offline in advance or completely offline.

Google Maps allows you to download sections of your map data for offline use . Regardless of whether you are a guest or a permanent resident, it is a good idea to at least download the part of the city you live in and any surrounding areas you frequent. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Open Google Maps on your phone.
  2. Find the area you want to download.
  3. Click on the card below with the name of the area.
  4. Click the menu button in the upper right corner. Select Save Offline Map.
  5. Drag the map and resize it to cover the entire area of ​​the map that you want to keep.
  6. Tap Save.

If you lose internet completely, apps like SMSmart can simulate certain apps via SMS . With it, you can use text messages to search Wikipedia, restaurants, and internet searches. SMSmart is really just a showcase for existing SMS services that have been around for a while , but it’s a much more convenient way to use them.

How to keep your gadgets charged

If you are away most of the day, especially if you use maps and GPS a lot, your phone is likely to die. Once you have a car, you can charge your gadgets while driving, which is usually the much-needed acceleration you need to get your work done from morning to night. However, since large cities are convenient for walking and public transport, you may not have this option. You may need to get creative to extend battery life.

The easiest option is to purchase an external battery . With one in your pocket ( or backpack ), you can top up your phone whenever you need it. The main disadvantage of a rechargeable battery is that it needs to be charged at night if you want to use it all the time.

Alternatively, you can use something that generates its own energy. If you carry a backpack or purse with you, this guide can show you how to attach solar panels to charge your devices via USB directly from the sun. Or, if you have your own bike to get around, this generator can charge your gadgets with the energy generated by your movement.

Stay safe with a little street savvy

If the 80s movies have taught us anything, it’s that a guy in a leather jacket and a switchblade knife is right around the corner, waiting to collect your money. While this may sound like an unnecessarily silly caricature, crime and fraud do happen in cities. Here are some tips on how to walk the streets without becoming a target.

How to avoid a robbery

Robbery may be a Hollywood model, but it does happen. If you want to reduce the likelihood of being attacked, do it like the Rock and go straight . Research into what burglars look for in a victim repeatedly points to a person’s gait as a key trait. If someone walks confidently, as if they are comfortable in their surroundings, they are less likely to become a target. As the International Science Times explains:

However, according to Johnston, the least vulnerable people walk in the following way: they take large strides in relation to their height, rotate their pelvis with each step, move their whole body, swing without raising their feet, demonstrate a range of hand movements, have high energy and low constriction. … Oh, and go quickly. It does not hurt to weigh a little more. Clear?

Of course, there are other factors as well. For example, robbers were more likely to target older women and men than younger people (because they appear to be an easier target). While you may not be able to walk confidently enough to suddenly become a young adult, it is best to travel in groups. Also, as the safety blog Circle 911 suggests, try not to wear too many flashy items. The more you look like you have money, the more likely you are to be targeted.

How to avoid pickpockets

Pickpocketing is a much more subtle threat to your personal belongings. The best pickpockets will come and go before you notice. And in crowded places like the subway, it can be difficult to tell when someone ran over you on purpose, or it was just an accident. Social norms do not allow us to blame anyone who offends us, so you need to find other ways to protect yourself.

Here are some tips for avoiding pickpockets:

  • Carry as few valuable items as possible: the less you have with you, the less you can lose if you get the mark. If you are traveling abroad, do not keep your passport in your pocket. Leave it in your hotel room. Don’t carry too much cash with you.
  • Use bags that are sealed and tied to you: if you need to carry a bag or wallet, make sure they are zipped. Wear the strap across your body, not just one side, and hold your bag in front of you. If you have a wallet, keep it in your front pocket.
  • Hold your valuables in crowded places: as you squeeze through a crowd of people, this bodily contact is a great opportunity to shake something off your coat. Whenever possible, keep an eye on (or keep your finger on the pulse) of these values ​​until you find yourself in a less crowded place.

In case you are attacked, report to the police immediately. The longer you wait, the less chance you have of returning anything. When a pickpocket robs you, you may not know about it for a while, but the sooner you figure it out, the better.

How to handle beggars

Strictly speaking, begging for change is not (usually) a crime, but big cities are often full of beggars. Just dealing with a lot of people asking for change can be daunting, not to mention the inner moral quarrel we all face when we first meet someone who needs money.

As Time Magazine explains – in an article that goes into far more detail than we could possibly have on the subject – sometimes offering money to beggars isn’t the best solution, even if the person you’re talking to is honest. And in some cases it may not be. Scammers often present complex stories in the hopes of gaining sympathy and, ultimately, money.

There is no single right solution, and ultimately you must decide what you want to do on your own. Even if you meet someone who is trying to deceive you, you will never know about it. And some rightly believe it is worth giving directly to those in need, while others choose to donate to charities in order to help in a more structured way. However, James Winans, head of development at New York’s Bowery Mission, offers some advice:

He says he would never discourage anyone from giving money on the street. “We all have to do what we think is right,” Winans says. “But I really tell people that, firstly, we can do a lot for someone separately; and secondly, we can only know so much about the other person’s situation. ” For those worried that their money might be misused, Bowery Mission offers business card-sized printouts on its website showing the organization’s location and range of services. Cards can be given in return for cash or with money wrapped inside. Vincent says, “It’s great to connect this person with a community that can help him.”

If you are uncomfortable giving money to beggars, consider finding the nearest convenience store and offering to buy food or water directly. If you don’t want to give in, just say “No” politely or keep walking. In most cases, even aggressive beggars will move on to the next person if you ignore him long enough. If this escalates into a harassment, head to the nearest well-lit public place.

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