As I said in a previous post, research is a big part of my travel experience. There are dozens of websites I use for planning and purchasing while on the road. This list contains the current ones that I use most frequently for a variety of purposes. Here they are, in no particular order.
Amazing discounts for travel in Southeast Asia on this app. Use the app to get the discount codes. There have been some glitches, but it’s worth the effort. Thanks to my student, Hoàng, who introduced me to this. For example, Vicky Ann and I decided to splurge on a nice hotel for her last two nights here. We booked a hotel with a gorgeous rooftop pool and the most comfortable beds of our trip for just $47 a night after a discount from Traveloka. Other sites had the same room listed for anywhere from $75-$150.
I always check the reviews here and at least one other place. Sometimes a hotel is rated excellent on one site and poor on another. I look for places that have been reviewed by many people. A five-star rating by one person is not very reliable, but a four-star rating by 100 people is excellent. Also, you can find reviews for anything, from restaurants and hotels to tours and attractions.
I continue to be amazed by Google (and worried about how dependent I am on it). Search for cafes or restaurants on Maps and you’ll get a list with lots of reviews for dozens of places in your neighborhood. Found some of our favorite restaurants this way. Of course, it’s also great for directions. You’d be amazed at how many tiny alleys that only motorbikes can fit down are labeled on Google Maps.
Amazing and easy to use. You don’t purchase through Google, but can see a variety of options and even “explore” the map to find which cities are cheapest to fly to from your starting point.
I’ve been using this site since it started in 2004. I don’t always book through them, but they are great for comparing prices of flights and hotels.
Similar to Kayak, but seems to be more in-use here in Southeast Asia. Booking.com and Hotels.com are also comparable.
The Man in Seat Sixty-One
This is the go-to site for train travel. It has excellent descriptions of trains around the world, including how to book tickets, conditions of cars and cabins, best routes to travel and even which side of the train to sit on for the best views.
This is a great way to see all of your travel options – bus, train, taxi, plane, ferry, metro – in one place. Just type in where you’re going and you’ll see all the options with estimated costs in one place.
The place to buy train, ferry and bus tickets for Southeast Asia.
Another Southeast-Asia-specific site. It includes a wealth of information about popular and unknown destinations. There are hotel and restaurant reviews, suggested itineraries, easy-to-read articles in a blog format, a complete travel site. I like to check it out to get an idea of what there is to see when I’m in a new place.
And a bonus site, just because.
I usually check this on my way to the airport or while sitting at the gate. Among other things, it shows reviews and rating other travelers have left for your specific seat on the plane you are about to board. If it looks like an uncomfortable seat, then go to the agent and ask to be moved. It’s saved me from some very uncomfortable long journeys. FlightAware is a similar site for easy real-time tracking of flights, including finding out where your aircraft has been and what time it will arrive at the airport.
I was not aware of at least half of these sites before I started this journey. Even though some of these are specific to Southeast Asia, the point is that there are similar sites for every destination in the world. Before you take a trip, even if you’ve been there before, search around for useful sites and you will discover things you never knew about the place you are traveling to. A little research can make a big difference.
In the future, I will share more specific lists relating to volunteering overseas, planning a year abroad, finding the best flight deals and more. I am always discovering new resources that make travel easier, more affordable and more enjoyable.