Internet has indeed replaced travel guidebooks. While before you had to carry with you as many guidebooks as the number of countries you were planning to visit, now you can replace that weight with quality books, and access more up to date and more varied travel info with a laptop or just finding an internet cafe.
Here are the top 10 Online resources currently available to Flashpackers.
Wikipedia little sister specialised in Travel info.
If I had to decide in two minutes whether to go to a certain location or not, and could use only one website, I would just go to Wikitravel. Compiled by fellow travellers it might not have exhaustive info if you’re searching for a tiny location, but still you can find enough info on many off the beaten path destinations. The focus is definitely on how it is to travel to a certain place, and it’s easy to get the info you need as every article uses the same topics (Understand, Get in, Get Around, Do, See, Buy, Eat, Drink, Sleep, Stay Safe, etc). Being a wiki you can replace some info yourself, in case in the meanwhile that nice restaurant has shut down.
Reviews and info about hotels AND hostels. From big chains to boutique ones, to small family run ones if you want to be a and support local communities. Plus if it’s a popular place on the destination Forum you might get info on things to do or to avoid. Great tool to read reviews and judge from the profile if the reviewer would have similar tastes to yours. When it comes to booking though you can simply search for the hotel/hostel website and contact them directly, so you dot pay commission to the referrals sites or sponsor on Tripadvisor. But on this see below point 8).
Like Tripadvisor, but specialised in hostels. Great place to find a jewel hostel at a very decent price. Hostels.com is pretty good and similar, but doesn’t allow you to see who the reviewer are (apart from name and where they’re from). Hostelworld instead rates its reviewers based on how “well travelled they are”, which is basically how many reviews they’ve written. You have then Novice Nomad (1-10 reviews), Avid Traveller (10-20) and Globetrotter (20+). Plus you can see their profile, and decide if they’re usually too easily pleased or never happy about accommodations.
Learn from other fellow travellers’ experiences. If they had a very good or very bad experience you can be sure they will mention it in their blog. The beauty of TravelPod is that you can search by destination, with the latest blog posts coming up first, so the info you get is always up to date. And you can read other posts from the same blogger to find out if his/her tastes are similar to yours. Or you could even open your own blog. The interface is easy to use and specifically designed for travel blogs, so you have maps with a spot for every post, and you could also have some of them private and other public.
When you need info on a new destination I would first consults the websites above mentioned, as the first Google (or any search engine’s) results for a destination name are usually that destination tourist board or private tourism organizations, and they tend to tell you only the good news about the place. When it comes to accommodations and places to eat, search engines’ results will first show you of course the most popular ones, which quite often are not the flashpacker’s choice. Nonetheless Google search features and its services are irreplaceable when travelling, and you can discover here .
Probably the most popular VoIP service out there. Popularity due to the fact that for what you pay you get a good call quality. Whether your friends and family have it installed, or whether they haven’t and you have to call them on a normal phone, it’ll save you some good money anyway. And you don’t have to queue anymore in those “call abroad for cheap” phone boots. With 3, the mobile provider offering Skype on its handset in many countries to replace mobile line with internet connection and VoIP you can clearly see where we’re heading when it comes to phone lines.
There’s quite a lot of info available on Wikipedia only, and although not strictly travel related like Wikitravel, a lot of that info is good to know if you’re going to a certain destination. What you find here will give you more insight on a place, will help you to better understand the culture, and sometime even strike a conversation with a resident. Some example are info on History, Religion, Language, and sometime even info more useful to someone visiting the place, like markets, festivals and fairs. Complements beautifully the content on the little sister Wikitravel.
There are many airline companies out there, the majority of the new ones being low cost ones. Difficult to know them all, especially if you’re in a part of the world you’re not too familiar with. Flight comparison sites come in handy. Expedia, Orbitz,Tripadvisor, and similar can all give you some idea of the best rates, but what’s different about eDreams is that it has (fast) access to a huge number of airlines, including the low-cost ones. If you really want to find out the cheapest way to fly from A to B then eDreams is the one. The result will be often a few hundred bucks difference. The trick is then to book directly with the airline to avoid paying commissions. Unless you want to thank them for finding you such a great deal and saving you so much money, which makes sense if you want any comparison or review site to survive. After all if you saved so much on that flight or accommodation a few dollars is not much for you, and will ensure that next time that site is still there for you.
The great thing about VirtualTourist is that the contributors are really passionate about the topic they write about. Sometimes the contributor is not even a tourist, but an expat or a resident simply in love with the place and with a great will to share, which makes the info there even more valuable. It depends on the destination, but particularly good are the “Off the Beat Path” and “Tourist Traps” sections. The only little downside is the way the ads are displayed. They tend to interrupt a bit the flow on some pages. But apart from that VirtualTourist is chock full of interesting info.
10) Your Online Resource
As usual we would like to hear from you. What’s your online travel bible? What’s the first website you consult as soon as you know you’re going somewhere? Would you replace any or the ones above with a better one? Something to move up, down or out of the top ten?
Looking forward to hear from Flashpackers (and not) around the world in the comments below.