One thing you’ll notice if you’re on the road a lot is the scene changes and develops very quickly. Sometimes you’re telling a fellow traveller how you “Wish there was a way to do so-and-so” and a month later there’s a site to do exactly that.
Every year I try out as many of these sites as possible, sometimes for research, sometimes just out of simple curiosity. A lot of newcomers make it onto my bookmarks list and this past year has been no exception. Below I’ve listed ten of the more interesting ones. Enjoy!
Missed the last roundup? Check it out here.
This is the new flight search engine that everybody has been talking about. They have all the frills of the regular favourites like Skyscanner and Kayak, but their search algorithm is a little different to most. You might remember in my cheap flights guide I suggest breaking up long-haul flights into individual legs and searching them manually, as many sites only search connections within alliances or codeshares. The cool thing is, Kiwi does this for you. The result: CHEAP FLIGHTS.
The risk is it’s much more likely to miss a connecting flight as you need to self transfer. What makes Kiwi even cooler is they have guarantees to cover you for this. Here are a few of them:
- Overnight accommodation if your flight is missed/delayed more than 8 hours.
- Food and drinks for any delays over 4 hours.
- A refund if your connection is missed due to delay or cancellation.
- A new ticket if your flight is missed due to delay or cancellation.
While I’ve noticed some other sites are including self-transfer flights in their results, none that I know of offer the guarantees that Kiwi does. Definitely one to keep in your bookmarks.
2. Travelers Box
You know when you’re at the airport and you have a few dollars in change that you need to spend before you leave? Then you go around all the stores looking for packs of Skittles or breath mints before you need to board your flight. And even when you do find something, you’re still left with fifty cents in change that you can’t buy anything with.
Travelers Box is here to solve that. I heard about them a few years back and had the chance to try them in Turkey. What they do is plant kiosks in airports where you can deposit your leftover change. Just drop your coins in and enter a Paypal address to send it to. I threw some old change in there last time I saw one and it showed up without any problems:
You can also redeem Amazon or iTunes credit if you prefer. Pretty cool!
If you travel long term, you are probably familiar with the onward ticket rule: When you must have a return flight or proof of onward travel before you can board the plane.
The problem is there’s a good chance you haven’t yet decided how long you will stay in the country (because how do you know until you actually get there?) but they will still make you guess and buy a ticket anyway. To get around it I would just buy a cheap Air Asia ticket and take the hit.
Other loopholes some of us have used is to buy a first class refundable ticket (and wait months for your refund), or just forge a booking confirmation in Photoshop (and risk an eye-stabbingly long rendezvous with airport mall cops if you’re ever caught).
FlyOnward has come up with a solution. For a ten dollar fee they will book a fully refundable ticket in your name – long enough for you to flash it at the check-in lady for 2 seconds – then they will cancel it once you land. All the hoo-ha that goes on with getting your ticket refunded will be dealt with by them. Because it’s actually a real ticket, with a real booking number in the airline’s system, you are not forging anything and it’s completely legal. Ten bucks and you’re done. Check-in lady gets to tick her box, FlyOnward makes some money, you get on the plane. Win win win.
If you’ve ever backpacked through Europe, you’ll know what it’s like having a bunch of tabs open searching through all the different buses, trains and flights to get between cities. Which one is fastest? Cheapest? Most reliable? Should I take a ten dollar bus or a fifty euro flight?
Omio is a free app designed to make this side of Euro travel super fast and simple. They’re partnered with most of the major rail, bus and airline companies in Europe, meaning you can compare all of these with one simple click. It’s a huge time saver, the app is lightning quick and you can even book your tickets within the app as well! If you’re backpacking Europe any time soon keep this one handy on your phone, especially if you’re hopping countries.
You can grab it here for both Android and iOS.
5. Secret Flying
There are quite a few flight deals websites out there, but I’ve never used any of them as most are geared towards the North American market. Secret Flying has changed that.
You might be wondering exactly what a flight deals website does. It’s like this; airfares are changing all the time. Specials come and go in hours, airlines post error fares offering business class fares for just a few hundred bucks, things like that. Secret Flying collates all these and brings them to you, meaning you get crazy flight deals delivered right to your inbox. The cool thing about Secret Flying is it covers ports worldwide, meaning even down in New Zealand they have flight deals regularly (I’ve never seen that before). Best of all, the site is 100% free. Awesome.
For the aspiring hitch-hiker Hitchwiki is the best resource available on the web.
Enter the name of a country and Hitchwiki will give you a background of hitch-hiking in that country (legality, social acceptance, frequency) and what to expect when trying to hitch-hike today. If there are certain customs or unwritten rules you should observe, you’ll find it there.
Enter the name of the city you’re in and it will give you all the options for hitching out to the surrounding cities. If there are things you should know, such as visa issues or checkpoints, it will likely be written there too. It will also have directions (and sometimes GPS coordinates and photos) for the best places to hitch your ride.
An awesome free resource, one I used religiously during my Baltic hitch last year.
7. Too many adapters
Too Many Adapters is a travel tech website run by fellow travel blogger and supergeek Dave Dean. Dave constantly keeps us at the forefront of travel tech and the blog is always filled with interesting updates, whether it’s about using data overseas, new travel gadgets, co-working spaces or whatever else people are nerding out on. He’s also my go-to guy for getting advice on a new purchase – whether it’s a new laptop or just a software I’m looking for, I don’t even bother reading reviews anymore. I just tweet Dave and ask what’s on his hot list. If you’re interested in grass-roots tech advice, rather than big company press releases and product placements, Too Many Adapters is your spot.
Prey is awesome. If you’re heading overseas with your phone or laptop, download Prey and install it on both. It’s a tracking software that will protect your devices in the event of loss or theft.
Just recently I hit the road again and turned off my laptop as I packed it away. Prey emailed me while I was at the airport and told me my laptop had gone “off the radar”. When I arrived and booted up again, it emailed me and told me my laptop had reappeared in Tanzania (my destination). Pretty nifty!
The basic account is free, and you can geo-locate, lock your phone, use the camera to take screenshots and more. A premium upgrade with even more features is available too. Essential for any long term traveller.
I love sites that allow me to circumvent big corps like banks and telcos, and Transferwise is one of them. What they offer is a super fast and simple way to transfer funds between countries, using a fair exchange rate and super low fees. If you’re an expat or have bank accounts in different countries, Transferwise is going to save you a fortune.
Not sure about you, but New Zealand banks charge me around $15 to both send and receive an international payment. Plus the exchange rate is loaded with a spread of around 3 points. Transferwise gives you a neutral rate, and a fee of 0.7%. Plus since you’re not making an international payment (it’s all done through Transferwise’s domestic accounts) you don’t get charged any international payment fees by your bank.
I recently used it to transfer about $2,000 NZD to AUD, and saved about $16 NZD on fees and $21 NZD on the exchange rate (that’s about $27 USD in total). Do that a few times and you’ll be able to buy yourself a new pair of shoes. You can get your first transfer free using this link!
On a side note, I recently upgraded to N26, which is amazing. Check out my review here.
10. Couchsurfing Hangouts
“Hangouts” is a new addition to the Couchsurfing app that helps you meet locals and travellers in whichever city you’re visiting. Simply mark yourself as “Available to hangout” and you’ll get shown all the other Couchsurfers in the area looking for people to meet. It’s a good way to get involved in the community if you’re not yet ready to stay with a stranger or host travellers in your home. I tried it out a few times on my last trips through Europe and Thailand and while you get your regular mix of weird and crazy I met some pretty cool people. Just use the same precautions I go through in my beginners Couchsurfing guide and you should be fine.
If you want to try it out, just log in to the Couchsurfing app and you’re good to go. If you don’t have an account yet, sign up! You can register for a free account here.
That’s ten! Any other cool travel websites you’ve been using recently? Let me know in the comments.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. Omio compensated me for their review. I have used their service and recommend it honestly. For more information, please check out my Disclosure Policy.