Studying abroad, whether for a summer or a semester, will most likely involve a variety of weekend trips. Some of these trips may allow three days to explore a city, and some may span only an afternoon. Here are some resources to find what you need to know in order to have the best time during your visits!
1. The New York Times’ 36-Hours-In Series
The New York Times has a “36-Hours-In” column series that has become so popular, it’s hard to find a city it doesn’t cover. The articles are concise and varied, generally representing cultural experiences, such as famous museums or historical sites, great restaurants for varying budgets, and local bars and music scenes. In addition to reading about cities you already plan to visit, this is a great resource to see what lesser-known cities could offer, or for aiding you in deciding between cities to visit. If you enjoy it as much as I do, you can also invest in its charming hardcover editions.
Timeout’s online city guides cover fewer cities than The New York Times’ series, but offer a more in-depth look at the ones they do cover. Timeout is also a published magazine, and its writing style is geared toward the young and the fun. Its website features “Top 10″-type lists, ranging from museums to bars to vintage shops, coverage of exciting events happening in the near future, restaurant reviews and summaries of different areas of many cities. Once you’ve decided on a city and perused the short overview offered by the NYT, Timeout is the place to go for a more comprehensive review. Timeout also has free apps for many of its cities, which can be extremely helpful during your visit!
3. Lonely Planet
Lonely Planet is the go-to travel book for most experienced travelers. Its website is great, but can be overwhelming if you’re just learning about a city. Once you’ve decided on a city and have done a bit of research, Lonely Planet is a good resource for reading about hotels, hostels, tours and trip offers, in addition to the standard “best of” lists. Buying a Lonely Planet guide to whatever region of the world you’re in would also be a smart move, though the website naturally tends to be more up-to-date. Lonely Planet has a free app as well.
4. Trip Advisor
This is a great resource for the logistics of your trip. The Trip Advisor community reviews hotels, restaurants and destinations, so you can get a feel for how well liked a place is from its visitors. Trip Advisor has a free general app and offline city guide apps, which are great because you won’t always have Wifi when you need tips.
5. The Secret Guides
If you’re looking to go off the beaten track, this is the way to go. This tends to be best for a city you’ve visited before, or the city where you’re studying for the summer or semester. Secret guides have become increasingly popular as local bloggers who know the best underground events and locations have taken to the web. Some good examples can be found here and here. Simple trick – just Google “secret example city,” and see what you find. If not a blog dedicated entirely to the secrets of the city in question, you should at least get a list or two of great hidden places.