Booking.com is always my first port of call, as it has an easy-to-use map view of the accommodation, allows free cancellation a lot of the time, and cancellations can even be made on their website without having to call the hostel (very helpful if you’re not yet in that country).
Sometimes Booking.com lacks on the hostel options in a particular location (you’ll know if this is the case if you can’t find anything with a dorm room when searching), so then I look on Hostelworld.com as they usually have the most hostels; the functionality of the site is just a lot less user friendly.
Airbnb is also a great way to find cheap accomodation, especially if you plan on staying in one place for a little while. Airbnb is a website on which houses or rooms are listed for rent by their owners at cheaper rates than you would usually find for hotels. Sometimes the listings are just to rent out a room in a house, and the owner will still be there too, and sometimes they're for whole houses. If you book your first stay by clicking here you'll get £36 in travel credit (full disclosure, so will I but hey we both benefit so seems like a pretty good deal to me!)
If you own a property Airbnb can also be used to earn money in the lead up to your travels, or while you're away, if you become a host and rent your place out. This is usually more financially rewarding than long term rentals. I've never been a host myself but the Laptop Landlord has a really comprehensive post on tips for airbnb hosts to check out if you're interested.
One of the best resources I’ve ever been introduced to for saving money on flights is the month view option on Skyscanner.
On Skyscanner you can put in your departure point and arrival point (the arrival point can be as broad as a whole country), and then select a whole month you want to see the prices for, or even select any time. This brings up a graph which you can scroll through to pick the cheapest day to travel, and if you’ve searched by country, the cheapest airport to fly into as well.
Momondo is another site that provides a similar graph view feature to check the cheapest dates to travel, and allows searches to be conducted using nearby airports as well as the ones you have specified.
If you’re heeding my advice and not planning too much in advance, these date-view search functions will be perfect for you. Since you don’t have plans already set, it doesn’t matter which exact day you travel, so just pick the cheapest option.
Trip Combi (formerly Trip Delta) is also a very handy site for planning flights if you have a specific destination and date you need to travel there. Trip Combi will search the exact route you’ve put in but then also bring up options of other routes that would be cheaper or faster to the same destination.
A lot of countries will require a visa for you to enter and some cannot be bought on arrival; you have to plan ahead and buy the visa before getting to that country.
Before you leave home, look up each of the countries you want to go to or think there is a chance you might visit and write a list of their visa requirements. I have a list like this that I emailed to myself before leaving home so that each time I move, I can double check if I need to do anything in advance in order to be able to enter the next country.
If you’re from the UK find out visa requirements here. The site also provides information on political situations to be aware of, the safest areas to visit, and a top line overview of health considerations.
I haven't traveled in central Asia, yet, but the visa situation can be hard for a lot of countries in that region. I've been told by friends who've traveled there that this website helped them a lot with working out their visas for that area.
Some countires require you to have a flight booked to leave their country in order to enter, which can be really annoying when you don't know your plans. With this new serivce from Fly Onward you can rent a ticket for 24 or 48 hours instead of having to buy one and potentially waste lots of money on actual tickets you don't want.
Even if you don’t think you have anything you’ll need looked after for you back home whilst away, it is a very good idea to give someone you know and trust power of attorney for you, just in case.
This is especially true if you own any sort of property.
You can get free templates online to create the document, then just print it out, sign, and leave it with a friend back home.
For some purposes the power of attorney document may need to be officially registered (although in a remarkably large number of cases it still suffices without this registration). Registering the document needs to be done with the Office of Public Guardian, if in the UK. The registration takes between 8 to 10 weeks and costs £110. For more information on what giving someone power of attorney means and how to go about it click here.
It’s a good idea to buy travel insurance for your trip, and if you’re going away for a long time it can cost a lot of money, so make sure you’re prepared for this. It’s possible to buy worldwide travel insurance so it doesn’t matter if the countries you visit change a bit, but you do need to know if it will include North America and the Caribbean in order to purchase the right type of coverage, if you’re from the UK, as they usually make the insurance cost extra.
Make sure you check not only how much is covered for valuable items but also that the medical costs that will be covered are high and medical repatriation is included (if you get injured in a country which doesn't have a high level of medical care you need to know your insurance will cover the cost to get you somewhere which can perform the treatment you need).
World Nomads isn't the cheapest travel insurance out there but it has one of the best reputations. Just fill in your details below to get a quote.
I didn’t even know this existed when I left England and just assumed I could drive with my license in other countries, but that is not the case everywhere. If you want to drive a scooter or car in a lot of countries you will need an international driving license as well as your standard one, or you’ll have to pay a lot of fines.
There are two types of international driving licenses that cover different countries, so check which one you need or just get both to be on the safe side, in case your plans change.
If you’re from England, you can get these from The Post Office, and they only cost £5.50. Do bear in mind though that they're only valid for 12 months. Given the popularity of scooters as a method of transport in a lot of countries I’d also suggest learning how to drive one in the familiar setting of your home town before leaving. To drive a scooter in the UK you will need to complete a Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) course. The courses are usually one day long. It is also worth noting that traffic laws are different in most countries, as are driving customs. For example, in the US drivers can directly turn right at a red traffic light (the equivalent of a left-hand turn in the UK) but in the UK for the equivalent turn the driver would not be allowed to go through the red light. In some countries there is little to no traffic control at big intersections, therefore local customs have been adopted to ensure everyone knows what they’re doing, such as, in many countries hazard lights are put on to indicate that you will be continuing straight across a junction. Given this, it is worthwhile researching the traffic laws in any country you plan to drive in and then observing what others do when out on the road.
There are some apps that can make travelling around much easier and remove a lot of difficulties that otherwise might be faced. Here’s a round up of a few that are particularly useful:
I quite enjoy not having a clue what things say and having to figure it out via gestures and pantomime to the person I'm trying to communicate with. However, you don’t actually need to do this now days.
The Google Translate app now includes a word lens so you can hold it over any writing and it will automatically translate the text. Kind of spoils the fun of trying to order a vegetarian meal when you understand nothing on the menu for me, but it can make life a lot easier. Languages can be downloaded in the app so that it will work offline.
XE Currency Conversion
I work out a rough multiple for the exchange rate in each place I go to so that it’s easy to convert costs, but if you move from country to country quickly this can become hard. This is where an app from a company like XE can come in handy. I always use XE.com when checking exchange rates anyway, as it is known to be one of the most accurate. If you have a phone that will allow you to download the app, this could save a lot of time.
The Google Maps app can be so helpful as if you load the map of the location you’re in whilst you have connection to the internet, then when you leave that internet connection the map will still continue to work on your device, and even track where you are with a blue dot.
You’re likely to be taking a lot of photos whilst travelling around. In case any of your electronic items are stolen, it’s sensible to back up photos as quickly as possible. Flickr offers a terabyte of storage, which is huge, absolutely free, and it’s easy to upload photos and keep them all private.
There are lot of other sites that offer this service too, however it’s very hard to find this much storage for free elsewhere.
Uber exists in a surprisingly large number of countries, and when located in places where it’s hard or expensive to get taxis, Uber can be extremely useful. Do bear in mind, though, if you’re using Uber that they don’t screen their drivers therefore safety should be considered.
In most places there will be a local version of Uber as well, so ask around and see what app most others are using in that location to get taxis (or even in some places motorbike taxis).
Depending on what you're looking for different travel blogs can be extremely helpful for your travel planning process and for once on the road. Some of my favourites are:
Nomadic Samuel - Photo Journals
Want to see what a place, and the people, are like before you get there? Check out the photo essays on Nomadic Samuel's site. I particuarly like the ones where he features the smiles of certain areas. I love being able to see what an area looks like in advance of going there as much as the next person but it's rare for there to be such a focus on the people in travel photography and it makes his photo essays captivating.
Nomadic Matt - Budget Travel
I travel on a budget, there's no way I'd have managed to be away for 2 years if I didn't, but if you want to get really into the nitty gritty of budget travel, like finding info on how much a place is going to cost before you get there or how to use travel hacks to get cheap flights, Nomadic Matt is the man for you.
Be My Travel Muse - Solo Female Travel
For a wealth of resources on solo female travel check out Be My Travel Muse. If you've read any of my posts you'll realise that I am a solo female traveler too but since I've just started this blog it'll take time before I get to the level of content regarding solo female travel that you can find on Be My Travel Muse