By Warwick Hattingh
Through our travels around Europe we have discovered that there are so many ways to make organising trips really easy! The following applications and travel sites have really made a difference for us when trying to plan a holiday. They have made getting from A to B — even if the points are thousands of miles apart — much more simple. These sites and apps are designed to help plan your trip, book your travels and then help you get around once you are there. There are plenty of apps to choose from, these are merely guidelines we choose to use, all of them are free to download and they can make your experience much smoother, cheaper and easier. Give them a try, some of the links are tagged. Safe travels!
Rome2rio is our go-to app for planning transport or accommodation, it prices all routes from buses to trains to planes to car rentals and then works out what your average cost will be on each mode of transport. Underneath the offered options, there are sections on accommodation, car hire and what to do while you are there. We rarely make our bookings through Rome2rio but it’s a great way to start getting an estimate of your costs for the trip, which route to take and what to do when you get there.
We use GoEuro to see what the actual price for the trip will be over our dates of travel, usually in the summer the tend to go up or around public holidays. GoEuro is also great for checking the travel time and whether to take a plane, train or bus as it offers all of the options ranking them from fastest to cheapest and what they recommend. Of all the websites for cheap flights around Europe GoEuro usually provides us with the cheapest options that are available.
This has been one of our favourite modes of transport around Europe. We have gone to London, Paris, Belgium, Berlin and back all on Flixbus for as little as €50 return! As with all modes of transport the earlier you book, the cheaper the cost! Flixbus has a simple booking procedure, they recommend you arrive 30 minutes before your departure time, you can download the app and save your tickets on your phone instead of having to print them out. All buses are equipped with wifi, they have clean bathrooms (in our experiences) and there are plug points on board. Make the trip overnight and wake up the next morning at your destination — what a way to travel!
As students, we have found Airbnb to be a great alternative to hotels. There are hundreds of thousands of listing available and most of the hosts we have dealt with have made the experience all the more enjoyable by sharing secret locations that the locals like to visit and making sure we had the best stay. You can rate your visit and give reviews on your hosts and they can do they same for you so its important that both parties are polite and respectful. Other hosts on Airbnb are more likely to accept you if you have good recommendations. Reviews are also a great way to get an idea of where you will be staying.
There are times when Airbnb has been a bit pricey, this a likely because of the dates we chose to travel or because the service fees in some places are higher, which means that a place advertised at €50 is sometimes actually around €70 after the cleaning costs. Booking.com often has very good deals for the most beautiful hotels. Unfortunately, with these deals, it is usually not possible to cancel your reservation and get your money back. However, if you are sure of your dates then we highly recommend having a look on Booking.com. Many hotels offer a breakfast buffet included in the price of your stay!
Tripadvisor really is one of the most helpful apps you can download or use when traveling. It gives you loads of options on where to stay, eat or visit as well as what to do close by! The app has multiple filters allowing you to narrow down your choices so you can find exactly what you are looking for. If it’s a nice meal you can choose the location, price, atmosphere and menu, along with multiple reviews that will be sure to provide you with the ideal restaurant. As mentioned it also provides hotels, vacation rentals, flights and things to do in certain areas. It really is “the worlds largest travel site”.
If you are ever having difficulty getting around a new city, Uber is a cheap alternative to public transport. It is quick and drivers often arrive to collect you within a few minutes. The different versions allow for alternate modes of travel with the standard Uber being relatively common vehicles and the black edition being suitable for customers who want to travel in luxury. The drivers are usually friendly and the rating system lets you avoid those that are not. All you need to do is to set up an account with your credit card and the app is relatively straight forward and easy to use, order a driver, accept their response and track their journey right to your front door. No money exchanges hands as it is all done online. However, Uber is not in every country you visit so be sure to check beforehand if you decide to rely on it as your main mode of transportation.
Google maps has been a life saver for many a lost soul. The use of maps can not only help you get your bearings but also provides loads of travel options on how to get there, ranging from buses to trains to trams. Google maps also find you the best route away from traffic if you are driving or walking or even cycling! Google maps will tell you what time to leave in order to get to your destination in time or what time you will get there via alternate routes. Google maps will get you where you need to go provided that you enter in the right coordinates (address)! This along with the next google app work hand in hand to help you feel better when feeling a lost in a new country.
Being in a new country with a different language to ones that you are used to can be fairly daunting as you really do not know what’s going on at times. Google translate is definitely developed to make life easier for the confused traveler. You can use it to translate in different ways, the first is by simply typing in what you want to say and selecting the language you want it said in and then converting it using the app which will do the whole thing in no time. The way it works is by taking a photo of the text you need translated, highlighting it and allowing the app to once again do all the work by putting it into your selected vernacular. Easy to use and definitely a big help when surrounded by a new language or a place where locals are unable to communicate in your mother tongue.
XE currency is an app that allows you to convert certain currencies in order to identify what things might cost relative to the prices you are used to. This app is helpful when trying to determine how much you lose or gain on the exchange rate and it very useful when deciding on a budget for your trip! The app lets you to convert one currency into several of your choice at the same time. We have found it to be pretty useful when looking at what place we should exchange money as some places have better exchange rates than others — from what we have seen, train stations and airports are the very worst places to change money!