Travel Resources and Sites, You Need to Know About
Here are my favourite travel companies to help you get started with your trip preparations and to aid you on your travels. I recommend these companies because they are popular with travellers in Southeast Asia, which is where I have most of my travel experience. I have tried, tested and loved every website, service or product listed here and I hope you will too 💙
Planning a trip requires a lot of work. You need to research visas, choose a foreign data package for your phones, get your documents in order, and plan how to spend, access, and withdraw your money abroad. You also need to search and book flight tickets, choose and pack a bag, get insured, get vaccinated, arrange your transport for when you arrive, and book a hotel. There are many preparations to make, and that doesn’t even include planning an itinerary yet!
1️⃣ Spending Money Abroad
Always bring multiple cards with you when you travel abroad. Your card could get lost, stolen, or eaten by an ATM. It could also be cancelled or blocked by your bank. Having a backup card will save you a lot of trouble in these situations.
I personally like to use my Wise Card. I have two cards linked to one account: a main card and a backup. I also have a virtual card on my phone linked to Google Pay. Additionally, I keep a bunch of other credit and debit cards from various banks as an extra backup. If you have been caught out, you can ‘Western Union‘ cash, to yourself. Use their website to pay yourself, and collect the money in a branch.
Wise is a great way to manage your money when you travel. You can store money in multiple currencies and accounts, and use your Wise Card to make contactless payments, QR payments, and withdrawals at ATMs with low fees.
2. Trading 212
Entrepreneurs can earn money while travelling by investing in the stock market. You can open an account with Trading 212 and keep your savings there. You will earn monthly payments on your investments, which is one of the ways I’m able to make money while I travel.
Open a transferwise account here and earn 75 USD when you invite three friends to join you.
Wise is a game-changer for spending money while travelling. It has become an essential part of how I pay for things abroad.
With Wise, you can open an account in any currency and then top up that account with your local currency. You’ll get the best exchange rate, which is great for saving money on your travels.
I find that Wise is also a great way to budget for a trip. I can see my balance right from the app, so I know exactly how much money I have left to spend. Wise also offers a debit card that you can use for free cash withdrawals and to pay in the local currency abroad. This is incredibly convenient, as you don’t have to worry about exchanging your money at a high rate at the airport.
In addition, Wise supports QR payments in some countries. This means that you can simply scan a QR code to pay for your purchase, without having to enter your card details. This is a great way to pay quickly and easily when you’re travelling.
Sign up for a Wise Card, BEFORE you Travel.
2️⃣ Preparing For a Trip
Make sure your trip runs as smoothly as possible with these top picks. Check if there are any visa requirements using the free tool on iVisa. Prepare your proof of onward travel (if required) using Onward Ticket. And get set up with data ready to use when you arrive with an Airlo International SIM Card.
Most countries have a visa-free entry option, but it all depends on which passport you hold, and which country you are visiting. You can enter this information on the iVisa website to get find out for free. In some cases, you can have a longer stay by applying for a tourist visa in advance. iVisa can help with these applications.
Some countries, like Thailand, require you to have a return ticket to enter the country. Backpackers, nomads and indefinite travellers might not be able to produce a return ticket, this is where Onward Ticket is useful. You can make a legitimate flight reservation, which is valid for 48 hours, for less than 20 dollars.
With Airalo you can download an ESIM Card (virtual SIM) to your phone before you arrive. You’ll be connected with a local data plan the moment you land. Useful for when you need data to call a ride or download a map.
- Check Visa requirements
- Apply for a tourist visa
- ‘Rent’ a flight ticket
- Allow you to travel to more countries
- Peace of mind when flying one-way
- Download a new ESIM Card
- Have data as soon as you arrive
- Avoid expensive roaming charges
3️⃣Finding a Place to Stay
If you’ve ever travelled, you’ve probably used one of the major hotel booking sites, like Booking.com or Agoda. These websites and apps are great for finding a place to stay, but it’s important to compare prices before you book. I recommend checking the cost of your hotel on all the sites, including Booking, Agoda, Hostelworld, and Trip.com, to find the lowest price.
The new kid on the block. Trip.com is a spin-off brand by Skyscanner. I’ve consistently found this site to have the lowest prices for hotel rooms (and short-haul flights too).
Booking.com is a giant in the hotel industry. More than 90% of hotels worldwide list their rooms on the site. You can book a hotel without a credit card and pay in cash when you arrive. You can also earn discounts with the Genius rewards program after booking five stays.
I use Hostelworld when I travel solo. This platform has the most active community of solo travellers in the world. You can make a reservation for £1, or the equivalent in your currency, and pay the rest when you arrive. The reviews are written by like-minded people with similar expectations, so you can be sure to find a hostel that’s a good fit for you.
Agoda is a big player in the hotel space and is one of my go-to platforms for finding accommodation. You can earn cash back on your reservations, but be careful because the final price (with tax) is not shown until you reach the checkout page.
VRBO, or Vacation Rentals by Owner, is a platform similar to Airbnb. I use it to reserve condominiums in Bangkok. You can find rooftop infinity pools for as low as 20 USD per night.
- Often has the lowest rates for hotel rooms
- Owned by Skyscanner, a long-trusted travel brand
- Flights, hotels and tours can be bundled and booked together
- Has good cancellation policies
- Simple to use booking platform with good customer support
- Discounts and cash-back rewards can be earned when you become a Genius rewards member
- You can book a room without a credit card, and pay directly at the property
- The best platform for solo travellers
- Great for connecting with others using the social booking feature
- Has the best selection of hostels and budget accommodation
- Has the biggest selection of hotels.
- Bookings can be paid in advance with a credit card, (depending on hotel policy)
- Great for booking apartments and condominiums
- Good for booking places for a larger group
- Often cheaper than Airbnb
4️⃣ Getting Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is essential for any trip. I wouldn’t even consider setting foot on a plane without it. I have lived in Thailand for over 10 years, and I have seen firsthand how important travel insurance is. Many tourists have been denied medical treatment or left with unaffordable medical bills because they didn’t have insurance. Don’t be that person. Travel insurance is not expensive, and it can save you a lot of money in the event of an emergency. Here are my go-to travel insurance companies:
1. World Nomads
World Nomads is a great company to buy travel insurance from. I recommend them for long trips that last longer than three months. You can buy a one-year policy that covers almost every country in the world for one price.
SafetyWing is a travel insurance company founded by digital nomads from Norway. I use them for shorter trips, up to three months. You can customize the policy for the length of your trip and add or remove activities, so it’s tailored to your needs. I found that SafetyWing offers the highest level of coverage for the lowest price. They also cover things like electronic damage, theft, and missed travel connections by default.
- Great for longer trips (3-12 months
- Valid in almost all countries on one policy
- Can be extended or purchased when already travelling
- Low-cost and simple travel insurance
- Perfect for shorter trips (under 3 months)
- Policies can be customised to your needs
Make sure your travel insurance covers all the activities you plan to take part in. Riding a motorcycle is a common activity that people forget to add to their policies. If you do plan on riding a motorcycle, make sure to apply for an International Drivers Permit (IDP) before you travel.
5️⃣ Booking Tours and Activities
Tours are a great way to learn about a new destination, see the sights, and meet other travellers. There are many different types of tours available, from city tours to day trips to island tours, private tours and multi-day excursions. I encourage you to take as many tours and excursions as you can when you travel. I regret not taking enough tours when I first started travelling. These are some of my favourite tour companies.
Five Star Thailand Tours, run bespoke private excursions and boat tours in all of the Andaman Islands in Thailand, including the famous Phi Phi Island Tour. They have a private tour guide on every trip, so you can learn more about the area you are in. I loved taking tours with these guys because they are knowledgeable and passionate about Thailand.
2. Contiki Tour
I always suggest travelling on your own. You can book a flight and a hostel, and you will meet people and find things to do. But if you want to eliminate some of the anxiety of solo travel, or if you would rather someone else make the plans for you, then Contiki Tours is a good option. You pay a one-off price to book a multi-country tour package. On these tours, you will meet like-minded people, and all your transport, accommodation, activities, meals, and entertainment will be taken care of for you.
GetYourGuide has a huge focus towards connecting travellers with local tour guides all over the world. It is a great way to explore popular tourist destinations, go on adventure activities, learn about local history and culture, and sample local cuisine. They have over 60,000 activities listed, so you’re sure to find something that interests you.
Klook is a great website for booking activities in Southeast Asia. It is most popular in Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. The platform is best for booking admission and entrance tickets to attractions.
Viator is a TripAdvisor spin-off company. The prices on Viator can be a bit higher, but the listings are thoroughly vetted. This platform is best for booking more expensive excursions, or multi-day local trips such as the Ha Giang Loop.
Five Star Thailand
- Book private tours in southern Thailand
- Private guides on every tour
- A locally run tour company operating from Phi Phi Island
- Book 18-30 style multi-country package trips in Asia
- Meet like-minded others
- Pay one fixed price for all your accommodation, transport and activities
Get Your Guide
- Connect with local tour guides
- Over 60,000 listed tours to choose from
- Tours at all price points
- Reserve Tickets for top attractions
- Book low-cost tours and events
- Find activities to do in new destinations
6️⃣ Finding The Best Flight Deals
I list my favourite tools, websites, and airlines for finding, booking and taking flights. For long-haul flights, I always book directly with the airline. However, I use price comparison sites to find available routes, carriers, and prices. Depending on my travel destination, two of my favourite airlines are Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways. I have included links to some of my favourite sites to help you compare prices and book flights like a pro.
1. Singapore Airlines (Airline)
Book direct tickets with Singapore Airlines, the best airline for long-haul flights to or from Southeast Asia.
2. Qatar Airways (Airline)
Qatar Airways, my all-time favourite airline, has a fleet of sleek, quiet, and comfortable A380 aircraft. All flights connect at Qatar’s Hamad International Airport.
3. Emirates (Airline)
Emirates, a world leader in airlines, often offers tickets that are less expensive than people might expect. The airline serves a vast network of routes via Dubai, making it possible to connect almost anywhere on Earth with a single airline.
4. Skyscanner (Price Comparison)
Skyscanner is the best price comparison tool out there for finding the cheapest flights. I’ve used it for every single flight I’ve booked since I first heard of it back in 2014, on my first solo trip. You can use Skyscanner to find the cheapest dates to fly and even the cheapest places to fly to.
5. CheapOair (Price Comparison)
CheapOair often has exclusive low-cost flight deals, but book your short-haul flights here not long-haul routes.
6. Kiwi (Price Comparison)
Kiwi is a similar price comparison tool for flights but it can be used to find deals on other travel services to, like hotels, tours or car rentals.
7. Google Flights (Price Comparison)
Although Skyscanner is my go-to tool for flying flights, I know that many of you like to use Google Flights to search for routes. So, I’ve included it here as well.
8. Seat Guru
Use SeatGuru to find the best place to sit on a plane by looking up the seating plan of airlines and aircraft. Do you prefer a window seat or an aisle seat? Find out what amenities an airline includes, and look up if your seat has a power outlet or wifi.
9. ITA SOFTWARE
If you want to book a flight like a professional, use ITA software to track flight routes and prices. Travel agents use this software, so you should check it out. (it’s free)! Learn how to maximise your flight searches with Matrix.
10. Flight Radar 24
I recommend downloading Flight Radar, a completely free-to-use app. Here’s why: When our flight was delayed, the airport staff couldn’t (or wouldn’t) tell us how long we’d be waiting. I was able to look up our aircraft on the map and track it in real-time. I saw that it was inbound and would be arriving in almost 3 hours! I had more information than the airport staff, so I was able to relax (and snooze) for a few hours while everyone else stood around waiting. Did I mention it’s free?
- Direct Singapore to London Flights
- Long Haul Routes to South East Asia
- Skytrax World’s Best Airline Award 2023
- Luxurious economy class
- Complimentary meals, and alcoholic drinks
- Convenient flight routes
- World Class Business Class
- Affordable economy tickets
- Fly globally via DXB Airport
- The #1 Flight Booking Site
- Search prices for an entire month to find the cheapest date
- Flight tracking software for a lower ticket fare.
- Exclusive flight deals
- Save money on short-haul flights
- Search and find flight deals
- Exclusive offers with low-cost carriers in Asia
- Book Hotels and Flights in one place
- Check the layout of an aeroplane
- Find the best seat for you
- Find out if your flight has power outlets, and more
- Search flights like a pro
- Access information others don’t know exists
- Find the best flight route and schedule
- Get travel information others don’t have access to
- Track your flight in real-time
- Learn more about how the airline industry operates
Quick note: I have included a few airline comparison sites, otherwise known as ticketing agents. Do not book long-haul or expensive flights with these sites. Instead, use them to find the cheapest/best carrier, then book directly with the carrier.
For short-haul, and inexpensive flights, it is advisable to use an agent or comparison site to book, as this can save you money. However, when you book with an agent, you will have zero protections or communication. This means that you cannot book a meal, change your seat, or change the date of your flight. If your flight is cancelled due to COVID, bad weather, or a missed connection, you will have to speak to your agent for a refund. This can be difficult and time-consuming. I learned this the hard way when I booked with an agent to save $10. It resulted in me being detained in China for two days due to an airline mishap!
7️⃣ Packing Your Bags
Packing for a trip can be stressful, but my advice is to go as lightweight as possible. I recommend the 30-litre Osprey Porter or the 28-litre Cotopaxi Alpa travel packs. You’ll need essentials like clothes (I like The North Face and Patagonia). My best tip for packing light is to buy one USB-C charging brick and use it for all your devices. Here is what I pack for an indefinite trip.
A brand, I love. Osprey produces the highest-quality travel backpacks. I’ve owned my Osprey Porter 30 for almost ten years now, and it’s still going strong. The zippers are huge and high quality, the stitching is impeccable, and the material is durable. It’s as good as the day I bought it.
Cotopaxi is the new kid on the block in the travel packing space. I love their 28-litre backpack, and I’ve been wanting to buy a new one for years. Unfortunately, they don’t ship to Thailand, but I guess that’s an excuse to visit Japan!
Anker power bricks and cables are a great way to reduce the size and weight of your backpack. A single wall outlet can charge all of your devices, including your laptop, GoPro, drone, phone, camera, and power bank. Anker is a trusted manufacturer of high-quality cables and power bricks, and their products are perfect for travel.
You’ll be surprised how much battery you’ll use checking maps, taking photos, and arranging activities. Make sure to bring a power bank with you too, and stick to a maximum size of 20,000mAh, which is the maximum size you can take onboard most airlines.
I love Patagonia’s lightweight cotton t-shirts, which are perfect for travelling to hot climates.
I fell in love with this brand when I visited Vietnam. I originally bought some knock-off gear in the markets as last-minute prep for riding the Ha Giang Loop, but I’ve since replaced my wardrobe with the real deal. The convertible pants (trousers that zip into shorts) are one of my favourite pieces to take travelling.
- Reputable and long-established travel brand
- Popular backpacks like Farpoint 40 and Porter 30
- High-quality materials and products
- Unique style of backpacks
- Lifetime guarantee for their products
- Small packs for minimalistic travellers
- Travel lighter with one power brick
- Keep all your devices powered up when travelling
- High-quality products made to last
- Durable and high-quality products: Patagonia gear is built to last.
- Environmentally friendly practices: Patagonia is committed to sustainability.
- A sense of adventure: Patagonia products are all about adventure.
- The convertible pants are amazing.
- North Face have unique and durable product lines
- Lightweight cotton clothing is great for travel in hot climates
8️⃣ Getting Around
No matter where you’re going, you’ll need to figure out how to get around. Whether you’re taking a long-distance bus across Asia, an intercontinental train, a speedboat to an island, or just need a cab from the airport to your hotel, you’ll find everything you need in this section.
1. 12Go Asia
A pioneer of travel booking in Asia. 12Go helped Thailand make the switch to the digital era. They are the number one booking site for getting from A to B. Train, Bus, Boat and Flight tickets. Speedboats to Phi Phi Island, buses across borders, you can book it all for low prices here.
A popular website for booking bus tickets in Asia. Easybook often has prices that are cheaper than those offered by the operators themselves.
This website is great for booking train tickets in South East Asia and boat tickets.
Download Grab, an e-hailing app that is popular throughout East, Central, and Southeast Asia. When using Grab you won’t get ripped off by the all too common ‘taxi scam’, it is an essential travel app.
5. Maxim / Bolt / Food Panda
Maxim is an e-hailing App similar to Grab (use the code SDK for $15 free credit). Rides are cheaper than Grab but the app is only used in Malaysia. Bolt is another e-hailing app with lower costs than Grab, but it’s only used in Thailand. Gojek is Indonesia’s answer to e-hailing.
Food Panda deserves an honorary mention too, it is used throughout South East Asia and you can use the app to have cheap but delicious meals delivered to you, anywhere.
6. Google Maps
You don’t need another maps app 👏. Did you know you can download Google Maps and use it offline? This means you can still get directions, see your real-time location, and explore new places even when you don’t have a data connection. To get started, download the Google Maps app and tap on your profile picture. Then, tap Offline Maps and follow the instructions to download the regions you travelling in. It’s free to download and use, (you probably have it installed already), so there’s no reason not to try it.
In Thailand, it is best to book train tickets directly with the operator. Use Thailand’s ‘dTicket’ platform to search rail journeys.
Renting a car can be a convenient way to get around when you’re travelling. It depends on where you’re going, as public transportation or a scooter may be a better option in some cases. However, Get Rent a Car is my go-to company for renting cars, as they provide full insurance and work with local rental companies around the globe.
GoAbroad.com lists thousands of international programs (with reviews!) in 11 directories from studying and interning to working and adventuring abroad. Not sure where to start? Fill out the free GoAbroad Online Advisor form with a little bit about yourself and what you’re looking for, and ideal programs that meet your requests will surf right into your inbox!
- Book low-cost taxis in South East Asia
- Avoid taxi scams and get a fixed, fair, price
- Quick, affordable and convenient
- Book bus tickets in South East Asia
- Book long-distance travel tickets
- Book bus, boat and train tickets
- Search travel routes online
- Book with the lowest prices
- Download Maps for free
- Use Google Maps offline with no data
- Never get lost in a new city again
- Book train tickets direct
- Travel internationally on sleeper trains
- View up-to-date info about availability
Get Rent a Car
- Rent a car globally
- Get Rent a Car works with local rental companies
- Full insurance is included as standard
Reddit Links 🔗
Don’t forget to check out some of these links too. Reddit has numerous subreddits dedicated to travel which can help spark inspiration for a trip.
- r/backpackbobcomunity – My subreddit for all questions and answers. Come and join me.
- r/travel (general travel forum)
- r/onebag (travel packing tips)
- r/backpacking (budget travel backpacking)
- r/askacountry (questions related to a specific country)
- r/shoestring (minimalist budget travel)
- r/longtermtravel (indefinite travel advice)
- r/thailandtourism (semi-hostile community, nice enough if you catch em’ at the right time)
- r/vietnam (find information about travelling in Vietnam)
- r/malaysia (An active community dedicated to all things Malay)