When you leave for a trip, your friends or family might need to locate you quickly if an emergency arises. You might need to determine where you are when wandering an unfamiliar city or trying to navigate a subway system or winding streets. Here are some tips that can help you avoid that sinking "Uh-oh, where am I?" feeling. It's actually harder to get lost than you think.

Make Sure Friends or Family Can Find You

An emergency can come up at any time. Here's how to make sure your friends or family can find you while you're traveling.

  • Leave an itinerary at home: Not matter how vague your itinerary is, leave at least an outline of your schedule with someone at home. Include flight information and hotels if you know those details. If you're a free-wheeling traveler, at least leave a list of countries you plan on visiting and the approximate dates of your travels.
  • Send updates: Once a week or twice a month, send a postcard or e-mail home to update the person who is monitoring your itinerary. Include your location and anticipated destinations for the weeks ahead. It can be difficult to make phone calls home due to time differences and cost.
  • In an emergency: If someone from home needs to track you down in an extreme emergency, they should contact the embassy and ask for assistance from local police.

Making Sure You Don't Get Lost

Even if you don't think you have any sense of direction, don't despair! These few tricks can help prevent you from getting lost when traveling.

Transportation Tips

  • Ask the ticket agent: Not sure about train schedules or subway maps? Ask someone at the ticket booth. If they don't write down instructions for you, write them down yourself and confirm that what you've written is correct.
  • Talk to passengers: If you're not sure about your departure point on a train or subway, ask other passengers.
  • Talk to bus drivers: On buses, tell the driver your destination. Most are very friendly and will make sure you get off at the right stop.

General Tips

  • Pack a compass: You probably will never need it, but if you ever arrive in town after dark and discover your guidebook says to walk west from the station to the nearest hostel, you'll be thankful you have a compass.
  • Look behind you: This is a good habit to develop. Look behind you before leaving a hotel, bus or train to make sure you've got all your stuff. When you're on foot, look behind you and note landmarks so you can find your way back.
  • Always bring a map: Even if you're just headed out for a quick morning jog, tuck a small map in your pocket. You can often get small, basic maps for free at many hotels, hostels or tourist offices. To help you navigate, mark your hotel on the map, as well as all the sites you're planning to visit.
  • Take the hotel's business card: You could forget the name of your hotel or hostel. Or you could forget how to get back, and mispronounce the hotel's name so badly no one understands where you're trying to go. Either way, that business card will save you. With the address you can find your way back with a map. Or, with the name written down, others can understand where you want to go and give you directions.
  • Ask for help: If you're unsure that you're traveling in the right direction, ask for help. Having a map and place names written down can make things a lot easier. Avoid asking yes or no questions such as, "Am I going the right way to the museum?" Someone who doesn't understand English well might reply yes or no without knowing what you asked. Instead, ask open-ended questions such as, "Which way is the museum?"