These are some transportation tips that might be helpful for the non-expert traveler. Feel free to sift through the information to find whatever may be helpful for you.
I use two sites religiously when looking for flight deals. They both consistently offer a wide range of airline searches and always the best possible prices. I think Momondo has great international deals, but if i had to choose, Skyscanner would win. It allows you greater freedom in your searches. For example, you can select a whole month as your travel date and cherrypick the cheapest days to fly on. This has saved me a ton of money over the years. They have even greater flexibility by allowing you to pick the “cheapest month” as your travel date as well. For the adventurous, they have the “everywhere” destination that will allow you to view flight deals from your origin to destinations all over the world. Lastly, their multi-city feature has helped me tremendously while in Europe. Instead of buying individual flights to each country, Skyscanner will allow you to do it all at once.
Tip 1: Only search for your flights in Google Chrome’s incognito mode. I’ve seen prices increase based on how much you’re searching, so don’t let them take advantage of your eagerness.
Secretflying is another great source for flight deals. If you have a somewhat open itinerary, then this site will be useful. What it does is find outlier flight prices that are often a result of website errors. They organize the flight deals by region, then when you select a deal you can see which dates it applies to. Some list entire months, others list specific days. They even have itineraries involving multiple countries, so you could fly from LA – Copenhagen – Vienna – Tokyo – LA for a super affordable price.
Tip 2: Always check the cost of baggage or additional fees BEFORE booking a flight. Cheaper airlines like Ryanair may end up costing the same or more as higher quality airlines because of additional fees.
Hopper is another app that notifies you of deals when they arise. It uses special algorithms to predict the cheapest a flight will be. You can select your dates and destination, and once the ticket reaches it’s cheapest predicted price, the app will notify you to buy it that day.
Refund.me and Airhelp are [websites + apps] that work to get you compensated for delayed flights. These apps are sort of like a free, personal lawyer who’s fighting for your traveling rights. When an airline infringes upon those rights in the form of delayed flights, they are required to pay out in many instances. It’s never been so easy to do it.
Just input the information of your flight and see what you’re entitled to. Apparently you can receive as much as $600 back.
Tip 3: Be aware that many airlines will cancel the second leg of your flight if you miss the first. For example, I bought a trip to Florida through Spirit but was not able to make that first flight down. I bought another one-way ticket to FL through United, thinking that I could take Spirit’s return flight when my trip was over. However, since I missed the flight down, Spirit canceled my entire ticket. It was an expensive mistake!
2. Cars + Trains
Rent a car. Of all the traveling I’ve done, the best trips are often those involving the freedom of your own car. There is just nothing like the open road to get to know a country.
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While it can be frustrating to spend long hours of your short vacation in a car, there’s nothing else that can give you the ability to diverge from plans and be spontaneous. It really allows you to see the small areas of towns, get lost and meet people. If you’re under 25 it will cost a little extra a day (okay, a lot extra), but if you split it with a friend, it’s often doable. It’s important to know that you need a credit card in order to rent a car. I once rented from a sketchy little company in Italy and they held a 365 euro charge on my card months after our trip had ended. I called them many times, but the language barrier was not my friend. Eventually, the extra charge was dropped. Moral of the story is — you should rent from a reputable company. If you’re abroad, just make sure you read the reviews. If it’s a sketchy place, they may say you “damaged” the car and keep the extra charge. Cheaper at first is not always cheaper in the end!
Rent a Scooter. If you’re traveling around Southeast Asia or any island, you may want to rent a scooter. I would say go for it, but heed these two warnings. First, be careful what countries you are driving in. The rules for driving are often just suggestions, and tourists who aren’t experienced with the flow of traffic can find themselves involved in a crash. In SE Asia, many rental places don’t require a license and the cost is only a few dollars a day.
While this may seem appealing to many travelers, it’s important to also be realistic about safety. This is especially true for countries with more dangerous driving like Vietnam. A popular travel vlogger, Psychotraveller, talks about her experience with a serious crash in Vietnam here. The second warning goes hand in hand with crashing. Don’t leave your passport with the rental company. If you crash and come back with a few dents or scratches, you could be looking at the cost of an entirely new scooter. Since the rental prices are so reasonable, they have to get their money somewhere. This is a real danger, because if you can’t afford to poney up the cash, you may be stuck in that country.
Here is Ania’s testimonial about relinquishing her passport. You can find the full story here:
Then he pulled out the document we’d signed and pointed that for scratching the bike there was a charge of $400! We couldn’t believe it but there it was. For breaking the mirrors it would have been $200 more but he was unable to prove it, so we ONLY had to pay the $400. For that amount of money we easily could have bought another bike but at that point there was absolutely nothing we could do, he had one of our passports and refused to give it back to us before we pay him. This is exactly how they make their money! Daily fees are just a small percentage of their income; they make much more on stupid foreigners like us, who try riding the bike for the first time in SE Asia or drive under the influence of alcohol/drugs and eventually crash it. We pulled out our hair but paid regardless, there was no other option.
Blabla car is another great resource for cheap travel. It is essentially a carpool service that exists in most of Europe, Mexico, India and the UK.
My experience with this service was wonderful, but I think it could be difficult to maneuver if you are completely unfamiliar with the language. Essentially how it works is: You type in your origin and destination into the site, then you can view people (usually locals) who are making the same trip as you and at what time they plan on leaving. If you feel that they are trustworthy after reading their profile and seeing old comments, then you can book your drive with them online. The next step is to message each other about where/when to meet. This is where the language barrier can become an issue. For some reason we had a hard time finding where our guy was parked, so we needed to call him on the phone and discuss it. You pay online but the person doesn’t receive the money until you get in the car and verify on your phone that you were, in fact, picked up. I think this is the best way to move about a country and practice another language. It’s relatively cheap and if you’re traveling to and from popular destinations, you should have lots of rides to choose from. The only downside is that you won’t necessarily be the only people in the car unless you reserve all of the open seats. If it’s a long car ride, being cramped in the middle-back seat can be anything but comfortable. Short destinations would be the ideal time to use this service.
Uber. If you live in the US then you’ve definitely heard of Uber (I hope!). This is an app that allows you to type in your destination and a driver that is nearby will pick you up. All money transactions are done through the app, so it’s just so simple and easy to use. It is also much cheaper than a taxi. However, there are risks involved. In the US, there is no fingerprint background check like there is with regular taxi drivers. For some people this may be an issue.
Also, in other countries Uber is not legal or isn’t supported by local drivers. For example, my friend Alba said it can be dangerous (using this word lightly here) to use Uber in Bali because other drivers will be aggressive towards them. In some places, they don’t outwardly show any Uber stickers because it would be a bit risky. If you plan on using Uber where you are, do a quick search or ask around to see how the locals feel about it if you’re worried.
Taxis in Europe and many other parts of the world are simple. You look for the green light on top of the car that let’s you know they’re free, you waive your hand, they pull over and the meter goes until you pay at your destination. In Asia, however, taxis may be a different story. There are a number of scams you should look out for. The most prevalent concern is being ripped off. Make sure your taxi driver puts the meter on when you enter the car (sometimes they won’t!). It would be helpful to look up how much your taxi ride should cost before you get in the car, so you are aware if you are being scammed. If you’d like to know about other scams, you can read this article.
Eurorail Pass. Back before I was even an inkling of a fetus, my mom was backpacking around Europe with her Eurorail pass. As you can probably derive from the name, this is a pass that lets you travel via train throughout Europe. There are different packages that you can use within a certain time period, but I often find them too restrictive for the price. In my humble opinion, I would not suggest a Eurorail pass unless you are doing a traditional backpacking trip through neighboring countries.
If you you want to go to Spain – Bulgaria – Denmark, then the pass will be pretty useless or inconvenient for you. On the upside, train rides can give you some of the most incredible views of the countryside, (especially Austria- wow!). If you’re interested in the recommended train routes, you can read about them here.
Hitchhiking is a really normal thing to see in the developed areas of Europe. I picked up a German couple hitchhiking around Iceland (because you definitely need a car to get around there). This saved them a ton of money and they made friends along the way. Just be smart about where/when you’re doing this. Other than that, have a blast!
This is not an exhausted list of transportation tips. If you’d like to know more about anything in particular, feel free to leave a comment below.