How to Survive When You’re Lost in a City


Being lost is one of the most uncalled mishaps to take place in everyday human life. The amount of anxiety you experience when you get lost in a city is immense. The busy roads and tall buildings towering over your head strike a tingly feeling in your stomach. Surviving in a city is not a difficult task, but it is easy to mess up if you do not follow the basics. 

One may argue that the availability of GPS, trackers, and maps on your mobile phone makes it near impossible to get lost anywhere at all. Talking about urban areas with overpopulated streets and a lively lifestyle makes it even harder to get lost. 

But imagine you are out exploring an unfamiliar city, and you do not have access to your mobile phone or other sources of navigation. If such a scenario arises, it is inevitable to get lost sooner or later. So how do you survive in an unfamiliar city? 

No panicking

The first and foremost step to follow in such a situation is to maintain your calm. You are in a city, and there is absolutely no way there will be harm coming your way due to getting lost. Food, shelter, first aid, and other essential human needs are readily available in any city in this world. So sit down, drink some water, take a short break and ease yourself out before making any decisions at all. Once your nerves have cooled down a bit and you are thinking with a relaxed mind, it is time for the next step. 

Seek help from the locals

Woman pointing out the way to a tourist holding a map.

Seeking help from the locals might be your best plan of action. The very first human instinct when someone is in trouble is to ask for help. It is almost likely that a local will be more than willing to help you with your problem. 

A city is best known to the person born and raised in it. Asking a local for the nearest train station, bus station, or landmark is a primary tip for surviving in a city. Not only does asking for help get rid of your problems, but it can also help you polish your foreign language speaking skills. Interacting with the local community might even lead to other benefits such as exploring the city more.


Couple leaving footprints in the sand, which are easily retractable.

Remembering where you came from can come in clutch in such situations. Take mental notes as you are exploring an unfamiliar city. Look out for unique infrastructures or tourist attractions. If the native language of the city you are in is unknown to you, try keeping an eye out for large signboards. In the unfortunate situation in which you get lost, backtracking to the last recognizable place is the way to go. 

Move towards a landmark

The Statue of liberty.

Try looking out for prominent landmarks and orientate yourself towards them. Landmarks are tourist attractions and are usually the most crowded areas of a city. Therefore, the traffic flow and the availability of everyday needs around landmarks are always a plus in such situations.

Landmarks have restaurants, cafes, hotels, restrooms, and more facilities near them. If you have a good direction sense, orienting yourself to one direction will help.

Look for Information desks or offices

You can find these information desks or offices in airports, train stations or bus stations in almost all the cities worldwide. Their primary purpose is to help tourists not get lost in the city. If you manage to get to an information desk or office, they will make sure you can navigate the city without facing any complications. Even if you are not lost, going to an information desk and getting your hand on the city map is a good security measure. 

Let business cards help you

A guy holding out a blank business card in front of him.

Chances are you have already checked into a hotel. Or you had food at a restaurant in the city before getting lost. You may have your business cards for the hotel or the restaurants. Most business cards have addresses written on them. Find your way back to your hotel using the business card. Are you unable to understand the business card because it is in a foreign language? Hand it to a local and ask him to point you in the right direction. Even if you do not have a business card, remembering the name of a hotel or a restaurant you visited is beneficial. 

Get in touch with the police

3 police officers walking in the rain.

If everything else fails, this step is guaranteed to work. A situation in which you need to get help from the police is unlikely to be brought to the surface. A last case scenario fail-proof backup plan is a good security measure to keep up your sleeve. The police departments of all cities around the globe are present at any time and location to help you with your problems. An essential tip would be to get in touch with the traffic police. The traffic police know the city’s layout better than anyone and guide you accordingly. 

Embrace the unexpected

A woman taking a photo of the Eiffel tower from a distance.

Exploring and surviving in a city is meant to be fun and adventurous. Got lost? Do not stress it, and you will eventually find your way back. Live in the moment, enjoy and embrace the scenario. After all, you get lost in a city, not a desert, surrounded by civilization, and you are bound to get back on track eventually. Get involved with the local community, embrace their culture and spend your time with them. Getting lost in an unfamiliar city can turn out to be an adventure if you take it in with an optimistic approach. 

If you find yourself lost in a city during extreme weather conditions, it’s crucial to know how to stay safe. Don’t miss our essential guide, How to Survive in Extreme Cold or Heat Conditions?, where we offer vital tips and strategies for navigating and enduring harsh temperature challenges in urban environments.

The Takeaway

Learning and using the ins and outs of an unfamiliar city can be stressful and exhausting. Traveling to an entirely new city will have you make a list of your new firsts. Getting lost does not necessarily mean you will end up having a rough time. It can be the best time of your life if you take it in the right way. Going out exploring in an unfamiliar city can teach you new things about the city’s local culture. You can do anything in, and even if the outcome is not as expected, it will become an adventure. Learning about a new city can make you fall in love with the city and its people, making you visit the city again and again. What if one day you are the one guiding people lost in that city?  

Enough about cities, what if you want to survive outside an urban area and do not know how to? We have you covered. Please go through our guide on how to survive in the woods for your answer!

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