Many moons ago, I promised a number of people that I would write them a list of apps, tips and websites which I've found useful whilst travelling.
I've taken so long to get round to it, that there's every chance that at least some of those people have already been on and returned from their trips. (Sorry!)
Nevertheless, a promise is a promise, so here are some tips and stuff. (I'm likely to update this further when I have a little more free time!)
I've talked about Workaway in a previous blog post, but it's well worth mentioning again! If you've not heard of it before, Workaway is a cultural exchange programme where you get the opportunity to volunteer ALL over the world, in exchange for free food and accommodation. It costs a measly £25 to sign up for one year, and membership givers you the opportunity to contact the hosts on the host list. (Which is available for anybody to look at, free of charge on the website!)
There are some absolutely crazy good opportunities on Workaway, including jobs on the Husky sleds in Finland, a position available for someone to act as the caretaker of a private island in Cambodia, vacancies aboard a travelling theatre ship in the USA and endless listings for horse ranches, orphanages, dog sitters, language exchange, artists, yoga instructors and countless other opportunities.
Whilst I was in India, I had many great Workaway experiences, the highlights of which were working on a desert camel safari, leading groups of people into the desert in Jaisalmer to sleep under the stars; living with a family in the mountains of Kodaikanal, and moving into a hippy commune in Goa, where we lived in tipis and rescued street animals. There really are some incredible opportunities on there - check it out!
Couchsurfing is another fantastic website/app which I've used a fair amount on my trip. Would you believe, there are hundreds of thousands of people, all across the world who are willing to let you have a bed/sofa/room for a night or two, for FREE!?
The whole point of Couchsurfing isn't the free accommodation, but rather to the chance to have the help and experience of a local, to give you some insider knowledge and tips and to show you around. A lot of the hosts on Couchsurfing are backpackers or ex backpackers themselves, and they are always interesting!
Each host (and surfer) gets a profile page, and after each stay, you get to rate each other, so it's easy to see which hosts have had lots of people stay with them, and which have had good or bad reviews - making it easy to pick a host to visit. It's a fantastic way to see hidden parts of the city or town you're staying in, as well as save on a night's accommodation!
Rome 2 Rio
A super handy website/app, Rome 2 Rio helps you find a number of different transport options if you need to get from one destination to another. Simply fill in the 'From' and 'To' boxes and hit 'Search' and you will be presented with transport options, travel durations, and the cost of each.
You aren't limited to searching for a city to a city. It's possible to search for a landmark to a city, for example, 'Big Ben, UK' to 'Delhi, India' will bring up step by step directions to get you from Big Ben to Delhi!
Maps.Me is especially handy for all the (hundreds) of times that you're lost, have no phone service and/or you've run out of data. A completely free and offline navigation service, you simply download the app, download the maps of the locations you're visiting, and next time you get stuck in an area with no signal, it won't even matter, because you just tap open your app and the maps will load faster than if you were on 4G!
I feel like most people will already know about Hostelworld, but I believe it deserves a mention anyway, just incase.
A simple hostel search engine, which shows a rating and reviews for each hostel listed. It's SO quick and easy to type in the name of a town, set the filters in favour of price or rating or location etc and compare listings with other listings. You can book on the spot, paying only a small deposit, and then pay the rest of the balance on arrival. I probably booked at least 90% of my accommodation through Hostelworld!
Revolut and Monzo. (Formerly Mondo.)
Two great digital banking alternatives, which allow you to spend and transfer money abroad, fee free. When you download each app, you get the option of being sent a MasterCard. Simply top up your card via the app, and you can instantly use the card online, in store or at an ATM.
I NEVER change up currency before I head to a new location, I always use my Revolut card or my Monzo card to withdraw the currency I need from an ATM once I arrive. They both have slightly different rates, but in my own experience, they both seem to be a lot better than the rates you find elsewhere. Both cards have a monthly free withdrawal limit of around £200. Once you've withdrawn £200 then you get charged a small percentage on withdrawals, but it's still a cheap deal.
Spending with your cards online or in stores is always fee free. I ALWAYS book my hostels etc using either my Revolut or Monzo card as it means I avoid the international transaction charge which would occur should I use my UK or Australian bank cards to book.
Touchnote is a cute little app which allows you to turn your travel photos into postcards. You pick a photo, write a message, add the address, pay using a credit which you can purchase within the app, and Touchnote will print out your postcard and post it to the address. It's a fairly cheap way to let your loved ones know that you're still thinking of them whilst you're off gallivanting, and it involves minimal effort too. Go on, send your mum a postcard!
Skyscanner 'Everywhere' Feature.
This is one of my favourites. When you're searching for flights on Skyscanner, set your destination to 'Everywhere' to see if you can nab yourself a cheaper flight (and an extra holiday!) For some reason, flights to certain destinations are heaps more expensive than a flight to a destination that's next door to your intended one.
For example, when I wanted to fly from Australia to India, the cheapest flight I could find was $900. I used the Skyscanner 'Everywhere' feature to check out the cheapest places I could fly to from Melbourne and found a flight to Thailand for $98. Knowing that Thailand is reasonably close to India, I then searched for flights from Thailand to India and found a flight for $58! That's a saving of $744, AND I got to visit two countries instead of one. This tip is especially good if you're flexible, as you can also use the Skyscanner 'Whole Month' feature on the search engine, and pick the cheapest dates to fly on, potentially saving you even more money!
If your geography isn't the best then you can search for a world map on Google to help you out!
Something so simple, yet something so, so life changing. I'm uncertain how I ever managed without them before. Packing Cubes do exactly what's written on the box. They're cubes that you use for packing - it's basically like having drawers in your bag. I use one for t-shirts, tops and dresses, one for shorts, leggings and trousers, and one for underwear. There is absolutely no rummaging though my bag to try and find something, I simply unzip my bag, pick which cube I need, unzip it and take out the required item. I actually manage to fit a lot more in my bag since using these!
I use different coloured packing cubes so I can quickly and easily work out which one is which, but there are plenty of different ones available online to suit your needs!
This is a bit of a random one, but I felt as though I couldn't leave it out, because like the Packing Cubes, it changed my life!
Lush Cosmetics make a range of shampoo bars. They're about £6.50 each, they last for what seems like forever, they make your hair smell and feel nice and most importantly, they're not a liquid so you don't have to put them in a silly little plastic bag to go through the airport security.
You only need to rub it on your head gently and it creates a huge amount of lather. I started using these in April 2017, and with practically daily use, I'm getting close to the end of my third bar. So they really do last a long time!
As I mentioned earlier, I'm likely to update this page with a few more tips when I remember a few more. Hopefully at least some of them have been helpful to some of you!x