Essential Travel Tools & Resources

After years of travel I've tried tons of gear, websites, and travel services. Here are the ones I recommend.

My always-work-in-progress list of useful links and resources that any budget traveller should know about…

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Flights & Transportation

Momondo

My favorite and most easy-to-use flight search engine. To get the most of it, learn how to use Flight Insight and other advanced features. I talk about this in my post, How To Find The Cheapest Flights.

Skyscanner

My other favorite flight search engine. If you’re not sure where you’re going yet, type in your starting destination in one field and “everywhere” in the other and it will list every destination ranked by price. You can also select ‘any airport’ within a country.

Kayak

Momondo and Skyscanner are better, but one feature I like about Kayak in particular is Kayak Explore, which gives you a world map showing the lowest prices for every country.

Rome2Rio

Easily find out how to get from point A to point B. The best site for finding transport connections and price estimates on flights, buses, trains, taxis, and more.

Secret Flying

Not so secret anymore — this is the place to find crazy airline deals and so-called error fares. These ultra cheap flights usually do involve multiple stops or departures from obscure airports, but there are some amazing opportunities here for the patient travel hacker.

 


Travel Guides & Research

The Base Trip

Gives you all country info at a glance, including weather, timezone, electricity plugs, currency, internet & vaccination requirements.

TravelIndependent.info

A superb resource for any world traveller. The ‘where to go’ page has some excellent itinerary ideas. I consulted this site often in my early travels, and still go back to it every once in a while.

WikiVoyage

A free, community-authored travel guide; in essence, it’s the Wikipedia of travel. I mainly use this site to do basic ‘where to go and how to get there’ research, and less so for restaurants or places to stay (as this information is often out of date).

Wiki Overland

An amazing resource if you are planning a road trip. Detailed information on 50+ countries.

Lonely Planet PDF Travel Guides

Still some of the best travel guides around. These days they’re available both in paper and digital versions, and even offered piecemeal as individual chapters in PDF format.

Rough Guides

Their layout takes a bit of getting used to and they can be a bit wordier and history-focused, but unlike Lonely Planet they’ve kept their focus squarely on budget / mid-range travel, usually not bothering to mention luxury resorts.

Atlas Obscura

‘Things to do in…’ lists, but very different from Tripadvisor. Often tries to showcase smaller quirky sights, like some hidden old library or a shop that sells only time travel equipment. Very fun to browse.

Nomadlist

Originally created for remote workers, but the search functionality on Nomad List serves just as well for finding your next travel destination. Every country also has its own forum and Slack-style chatroom, where you can get first-hand information from travellers who are currently staying there.

SeatGuru

Has seating layouts for every imaginable flight, helping you find the best available seats.

 


Finding Accommodation

Hostelworld

The place to look for hostels, but also cheap B&Bs and budget hotels. User ratings are typically very accurate and reliable. Always look for ones with a high atmosphere rating!

Airbnb

While in some parts of the world Airbnb has become increasingly commercialised by companies (instead of individuals), Airbnb remains a goldmine for charming local places to stay. Psst – you can use this link and get $25 free Airbnb credit.

Agoda and Booking.com

Perfect for finding smaller-scale or family-run hotels, because hotel owners can submit themselves for listing on Booking.com or Agoda, instead of having to sell their beds in bulk to a player like Expedia. Agoda is specialised in Asia, while Booking is great to use anywhere.

Couchsurfing

This hospitality exchange platform allows you to stay for free on people’s couches around the world. It may seem weird until you have actually done it! While ‘free’, cultural exchange is very much the goal here, and you are usually expected to be generous to your host in return for their hospitality (e.g. maybe buy them some drinks or cook them dinner). It can be a great way to meet locals.

Trampolinn

A kind of mix between Airbnb and Couchsurfing. You host people as a kind of homestay, through which you can accrue points that you can spend on accommodation for yourself.

WWOOF

One of the biggest volunteer placement organizations around. The classic WWOOF experience is to get free accommodation on a farm in exchange for doing some chores, though there are all sorts of other placements available.


Travel Insurance

World Nomads

Officially endorsed by Lonely Planet, these are the most established player when it comes to flexible, worldwide, broad coverage insurance. Some of the best service and coverage around and they’re a favourite among adventurous travellers. My current insurer.

Columbus Direct

Great insurer with backpacker and globetrotter packages that are specifically tailored for bigger trips, with lots of coverage for sports and adventure activities as well. I used Columbus for two years and was very satisfied with them.

 


Budgeting

Priceoftravel and Budget Your Trip

Both are great for finding estimated daily budgets and concrete information on the cost of food, accommodation, and other expenses around the world.

I Hate Taxis

Great site for finding information on fair taxi fares around the world, as well as how to avoid touts, scammers, and so on.

 


 

Finding Local Guides

VayableGetYourGuide and WithLocals

These platforms connect travellers with individual local guides, in much the same way Airbnb does for rooms and apartments.


Visas

Visa HQ

Depending on your nationality and destination, you can often get a visa-on-arrival. In cases where this is not possible, or when you want to get a proper visa that allows you to stay longer, the only site you need to check is Visa HQ. For a fee, they can sort out everything for you, so that you don’t have to actually go to an embassy and do all the paperwork yourself.

 


Essential Travel Gear

Lightweight travel towel

These take up much less space and dry fast. I wouldn’t leave home without it.

Combination lock

This is one of those items you don’t know you’ll need until you go backpacking and you use it every day. You constantly need these in hostels and cheap guesthouses for locking up your stuff. Get one with a combination lock so you don’t risk losing the key.

LED Headlamp

Essential for navigating hostel dorms, walking at night, or when going to countries with frequent power cuts (e.g. Vietnam or Burma)

Compression stuff sacks

Great for efficiently organising your bag contents, as well as for keeping dirty laundry away from your fresh clothes.

Universal travel adaptor

You’ll never have to worry about plug types again. I have this exact model. I love that it also has two USB ports on it. This means I can charge my laptop, camera, and phone at the same time.

 

 


 

My Digital Gear

Here’s what I travel with:

Macbook Air

Excellent battery life and low weight. I went with a 13″ as it has a slightly bigger screen, and an integrated SD card reader, which makes it a great companion for my camera.

Panasonic GX8 with 12-35mm lens

I used to shoot with a Canon DSLR, but I recently switched to this mirrorless micro four-thirds system. I love shooting with this as it’s lightweight and fast. I wrote a full review of the Panasonic GX8.

Motorola Moto G

I use this as my travel phone because it’s cheap (and less theft sensitive) while capable of doing all the basic stuff I need it to do. The model I have allows you to use two SIM cards at once, letting me keep my home SIM active while also using a cheap local data SIM from the country I’m travelling in.

GoPro 4 HERO Silver

I do all my action photography and video with this camera, which I reviewed after testing it on a 2-month trip to Indonesia.

For further reading, check out my posts on best travel laptops and best travel cameras.

 

This page contains some affiliate links, which allow me to earn commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products or services I have used myself or am comfortable recommending to anyone.

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