Arriving In New Cities After Dark

Posted: September 29, 2011    Categories: Travel

I like cities at night, but I don't like to arrive in cities at night

I just arrived in Quito, Ecuador. My flight landed at 11:15pm and by the time I got out of the airport through what was perhaps the least efficient passport/customs control I’ve ever seen, I finally took a cab and arrived at my destination.

All things being equal, I don’t like arriving in a city at night, especially if I have never been there before. You can’t see anything and you don’t have a good feel for the city if your first impressions are after dark. Also, when you arrive late at night you have to worry a bit more about thieves, scam artists, muggers and every manner of lowlife which comes out at night. Moreover, you have to do it while carrying your bag which just screams that you are ripe for picking.

Then there is a good chance when you arrived at your hotel that it might not be open. Higher end hotels usually have staff there 24/7, but smaller hotels or guesthouses might not. I’ve had times where I sat outside the place I was supposed to stay knocking on a door hoping someone would wake up.

In some places like Samoa there are so few incoming flights that everyone is prepared and accustom to the light night arrival. When you land at Faleolo International, you’ll find taxis waiting and when you arrive at your hotel, everyone will know you are coming.

The next worst time to arrive in a new city is early in the morning. When I arrived in Istanbul last June we pulled into the bus station at about 5am. At that hour you wont find many places open if you want to get something to eat, and you certainly are not going to have your room ready for you at the hotel. Most of my group left their luggage at the hotel and went to a Turkish Bath. I slept in the lobby of the hotel where my snoring made me a high priority for the first room which was available.

The early morning arrival is a common part of many transoceanic flights and you are always stuck with the “How do I kill time with my luggage before I can get in my hotel room” dilema. I have sat a many a McDonald’s using free wifi and nursing a drink waiting for 12pm to show up.

My favorite time to arrive in a new city is around noon. The sun is out so you can see everything when you land, businesses are open and by the time you get through the airport to your hotel you will probably be able to check in immediately.

What is your favorite “arriving in a city at a weird hour” story?

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