Posted by: David Stewart | June 2, 2011

How to Run in a Foreign Country

Yokohama 5AM recovery run, 5.5 miles north from my hotel in MM21 up to Mitsuzawa Park and back


I am often surprised when I hear about runners who won’t run in a strange city. Whether there on business or pleasure, some people don’t even bother packing their running shoes with them.

I make it a habit to run on every trip if I can. Some people wonder if I am scared of getting lost or hit by crime. I’ll admit I might have been at first, but I have learned a few tips about running in a new place, particularly a foreign country.

  • Take your keys with you. This sounds stupid, but always remember your hotel, rental flat or B&B keys.
  • Remember to take something with the name and address of the place you are staying. Modern hotel keys are usually imprinted with this information.
  • Taxi fare – take enough to get you back in case you get lost. Of the many times I have run on trips, I have not gotten lost, but it increases my confidence level that even if lost I can still make it back.
  • An out-and-back course is certainly the safest option, and perhaps the most boring.
  • If you do need to make a turn, memorize landmarks. I also try to make sure I look at the landmark from the opposite direction, since that’s the way I will see if when I return.
  • Sometimes I run to a famous city landmark and back. So much more fun to approach it on street level.
  • Don’t be afraid to explore something that looks interesting. I never feel like I know a neighborhood or city so well as when I run through it. So make the most of it. There are often little surprises hidden in the nooks and crannies around you.
  • Keep your head up and your eyes open. Sometimes the unwritten rules of driver/pedestrian etiquette is quite different, as in China where the cars have the right of way before people. But you will also catch interesting and sometimes incredibly hilarious things if you keep your eyes open.
  • And, take enough taxi fare. Sometimes I use the technique of running in a straight line for the distance I want and then take a taxi back. This is especially fun when I have run 12 or 13 miles and see the look on the driver’s face. But in these cases, just make sure you bring enough money to pay the full fare back. I have goofed on this before and needed to borrow money from the hotel door man.
  • It’s also fun to run point-to-point and end your run at a coffee shop or Starbucks. You can end your run with snack and taxi back to your hotel. This of course works best in countries where the taxis are cheap. Just bring enough money for the coffee and the taxi.
  • I will usually wash out my running stuff in the hotel sink using some shampoo, then roll stuff up in a towel to get the water out, then hang the stuff up to dry. Takes five minutes and it’s nicer to wear cleaner-smelling stuff the next dat.
  • Optional, bring your camera phone with you. Someone back home might want to call your phone, you can make an emergency call if you have to, and the camera is great for taking snaps of the surprising  and funny views you get.
  • And finally, keep yourself open to scrapping your plans totally. Roads disappear, festivals spring up, you never know what might happen. But you might be in this place only once.


  1. My favourite tip: Look for high points. The last time I was in San Francisco, I had a nice run up to the Coit Tower through the Filbert Steps area – which I would never have found if (a) I wasn’t looking to get up to the tower and (b) I wasn’t prepared to go down what looked like a dead end to see if there were steps at the end of it.


  2. That’s a great tip – head for the hills, don’t fear them!

    I think I know those steps you are talking about, and you are a brave man to run up them!

  3. […] There are a few other tips I have for running in a foreign country, these are givens for me. […]

  4. […] how to run in a foreign country […]

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