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How to Urbex – A Beginner’s Guide

Are you someone who has seen photos or videos of abandoned buildings on the internet and wishes to witness them firsthand? Then welcome to the urbex community! This article can serve as a useful guide to those who want to start urbexing! Here we jump over the wall.

Urban exploration, commonly known as "urbex," is a thrilling yet controversial pastime centered around exploring abandoned or restricted buildings and areas. It's an activity that delves into the mystery of the unknown, uncovering hidden stories and overlooked spaces. For beginners eager to start an urbex journey, here are some basic tips to get you started.




I am exploring an abandoned culture house with wonderful frescoes

 

Research and Plan Your Exploration

Before embarking on your urbex journey, conduct thorough research on potential locations. Look through online forums, social media groups, and urbex websites where enthusiasts share information about accessible sites. Pay attention to the legal status of locations and any potential hazards. Create a plan detailing how to reach the site, which entry points to use, the site's history, and the best times to visit.

Next step: Google Earth!

Google Earth is an excellent tool for locating and exploring buildings. It requires time and careful research. For instance, if we know that Village X once housed top sanatoriums, we open Google Earth and begin searching through buildings. Compared to regular houses, large sanatoriums are easily spotted. Pay attention to nearby parked cars. No cars? It's likely abandoned! A rusty and damaged roof can also indicate the building's condition. Via Google Earth, you can determine if any windows are intact. Recently, I stumbled upon this building (see image below) situated high on a hill.



Exploring an abandoned building via Google Earth


No nearby cars, no windows! Though it appeared spacious, upon exploration, I found it looted, devoid of artworks, with only bare walls. Sometimes, things don't go as planned. At least the hilltop view was picturesque!

Via Google Earth, you can also identify entry points and plan your route. Simply copy the coordinates (I prefer researching on desktop), paste them into your preferred mapping application (like Yandex Maps or Mapsme), and you're ready to go!

 

2. Choose the right location

 

For beginners, it is advisable to start exploring easy and accessible locations. Common starting points include abandoned culture houses, hotels, or hospitals. Avoid high-security or dangerous areas initially. As you gain experience, you can gradually explore more challenging sites like abandoned factories or abandoned military bases. However, be cautious as these locations may still be guarded or off-limits. Prioritize safety and legality in your choices.

When approaching a building, conduct thorough research if you're unsure about how to enter. Drones can be helpful, providing a better view of the surroundings and ongoing activities. Only enter a building after careful consideration and assessing potential risks.


My Panasonic Lumix G7. It's not good for low light conditions but that's all I have for now

 

 

3. Safety First

Safety should be your top priority during urbex adventures. Be aware of potential hazards, especially unstable structures and treacherous stairs. Avoid stepping on stairs with a group. Always inform someone about your whereabouts and explore with a buddy when possible. Carry a charged phone for emergencies or better have a power bank with you!

 

4. Be Mindful of Legalities

Respect the law and private property. Urbex exists in a legal gray area, and trespassing can lead to fines or legal consequences. Seek permission whenever possible or explore sites where access is allowed. Remember that preserving the location's integrity is crucial for the urbex community's reputation.



The stun gun helps to scare off the dogs

 

5. Right Gear

Urbex requires some essential gear to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. These may include:

Flashlights: Flashlights are crucial as buildings often lack natural light. Consider using a headlamp or camera light for better shots.

Camera: Capture the beauty of abandoned places. Be respectful and avoid vandalism.

Comfortable Clothing: Wear comfortable clothing, including sturdy shoes and gloves. Avoid wearing colorful clothing to avoid drawing attention.

First Aid Kit: Accidents can happen, so it's wise to be prepared with a basic first aid kit.

Food: You never know how long your exploration will take. Take enough food and water with you.

Tools: Consider carrying a multitool and an electric shocker to scare off dogs.

 

 



My GoPro Hero 9 with a head strap


6. Follow the Urbex Code of Ethics

Respect for the places you explore is paramount. Follow the urbex code of ethics, which generally includes:

 

"Take only photos, leave only footprints."

Leave everything as you found it. Do not take or disturb items.

Avoid any form of graffiti or destruction.

Preserve the site's authenticity.

 

 

7. Develop Navigation Skills

Many urbex locations are vast and maze-like, and it's easy to get disoriented. Improve your navigation skills by marking key points, taking note of landmarks, and having a reliable map or GPS device. This will help you navigate through complex structures and ensure a safe return.

 

8. Stay Stealthy

While urbex is legal in some places, it's not universally accepted. Stay unnoticed to avoid unwanted attention. Avoid colorful clothing, park your vehicle away from the site, and enter and exit quietly. Whenever I see a local looking at me from afar, I always greet and initiate a friendly chat! This makes me approachable and avoids raising suspicions that I might be a thief or something else. I always keep my camera hanging from my neck to give the impression that I am a photographer and do not have bad intentions.

 


Greetings from an abandoned sanatorium built by German war prisoners



9. Document Your Experience Responsibly

Documenting your urbex adventures is part of the thrill. However, do so responsibly and without compromising the site's integrity. Share your experiences through photography or blogging, but avoid revealing specific locations to prevent unwanted visitors or vandals.

 

10. Learn from Experienced Urbexers

Connect with experienced urbexers to gain insights and tips. Join online forums, attend meet-ups, and learn from the community's collective knowledge. Experienced explorers can provide valuable advice on safety, locations, and ethical urbex practices.

 

Embarking on your urbex journey as a beginner is an exciting yet daunting step into the unknown. Remember, any initial anxiety will likely fade once you jump over the wall! With careful planning, safety measures, and respect for the locations you visit, you can revel in the excitement of urban exploration while also preserving the integrity of these abandoned treasures. Safe and memorable explorations await!

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