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Top 10 Websites We Find Most Useful As We Travel

Guest blog post by Chele Norrie who is an amazing writer and has a blog, check her out at – www.chelenorrie.com

We travel to explore what we can, on a minimal budget, so we can keep traveling. We travel to enhance our worldly perspectives, meet new people, make new friends, taste new foods, smell new smells, and dip into unique cultures. We travel to push our comfort levels, test our limits and visit places that majority of the world will never see. We are not traveling to break the bank and we know that we are not able to see everything. With that being said, resources and tools are more important than ever and we’d like to share our top 10 websites we find most useful as we travel.

10. Twitter, a quick way to share our adventures, stories and photos with people all around the world. Also, a great way to find helpful information on certain destinations and monitoring cheap flight deals.

9. Facebook, how could we not? I must admit, I’ve deactivated my Facebook account in the past because it tends to act as a substitute for real, face-to-face social interaction. But now that we’re traveling, away from all our friends and families, Facebook acts as a life source. It is the best way, second to Skype, for us to share, communicate and keep in touch with our loved ones. Facebook is also a great way to network with fellow travelers and a great way to keep in touch with the ones you’ve met on the road.

8. Couchsurfing.org is a direct way of emerging yourself into a foreign place. The organization allows you to set up a profile and, view and contact profiles of others all around the world. It is more than a free place to stay; it’s a way of getting to know a place on a more intimate level—socializing directly with locals. We have not stayed with a Couchsurfer yet on this trip but we have met up with several friendly Couchsurfers for coffee and drinks and received valuable insight on where to go and what to do.

7. Travel Blogs. There are hundreds of them. And, they are extremely helpful–full of raw and truly experienced content by like-minded travelers. We have our favorites but we’re always searching for more. Random travel blogs have assisted us in specific requests such as how to get from a certain International airport to a hostel, or directions for riding a motorbike up north in Bali to the volcano and crater lake.

6. Google Maps is spot-on in America… in other countries, such as Bali… not so much. Although, Google Maps is a very helpful in giving you an idea of where you are and how to get around. In remote places, names of business are usually found a few streets over from what Google Maps says and when Google says, yes there is a road to get there but you’re there and staring directly at a field, well, the decision is yours. Downloading maps and uploading them to our iPods has proved very useful when exploring new ground. If internet access if available, using the Google Maps apps is very useful on your iPod or iPhone, as well.

5. Hostelbookers.com has been our favorite booking site for accommodation. There is no service or booking fee. It’s simple, it contains several backpacker reviews on each and every hostel and accurate prices. Booking is easy and confirmation emails are sent to you right away, with more than enough information on the hostel you’re about to stay at. We often look for a hostel that has a solid rating, free breakfast, free WIFI, relevant location for what we want to do, secure bag storage if need be and of course a cheap dorm room rate, which we have found are generally cheaper than the rates offered at the front desk.

4. XE.com/ucc/ is an online and accurate Universal Currency Converter. As you travel, you will find that every country has a different currency. Surprisingly, I’ve read inquiries/comments on travel blogs that ask if it’s okay that they use their American dollars in Malaysia since they will only be there for a few days…No. Each country has its own currency. Would we accept Indonesian Rupiahs in America? No. Also, if you think you can get away with just using your Visa or Mastercard (which is accepted practically everywhere around the world) – think again. We’ve run into plenty of situations where our hostel only accepted cash. Be aware of transaction fees and service fees when using your credit card abroad. I personally, only have a 1% fee when using my credit card. Currency can get very confusing, take your time when exchanging money and be aware of the exchange rate. I don’t know how many times we second guessed ourselves in Bali as we easily confused the 10000 dollar rupee (=$1USD) with the 100000 rupee (=$10USD) because commas are not used on their currency.

3. Google Docs. Money on the road can get complicated. If you’re a budget traveler like us then tracking when, where and how much of your money is leaving your account is essential. Logging into your bank account is a great way of staying aware of international service fees and ATM fees. We keep track our expenses with a very detailed excel spreadsheet stored in Google Docs. Both of us can access it online and it’s stored online—perfect for a computer-less traveler, too.

2. Lonely Planet is just, well, great. The people who write the books are adventurous, witty and some, downright crazy. You can find some serious sarcasm if you read closely and although we appreciate all the info LP has to offer, we are aware that many great places are not found in LP and prices listed generally change. For light-weight or multiple country travelers, a better option than buying the bulky books is to download PDF chapters through LP’s website, upload them to your iPod and store them in iBooks. Once you decide where you’re going you can hit the classroom by visiting other useful websites such as wwwand Qwiki. These two resources provide accurate tidbits, such as what time of year to go, what you should expect to pay, how to respectfully dress, where the best budget restaurants are and what they’re serving.

1. AirAsia.comKayak.com, Grabaseat.co.nz, Tigerairways.com and other low-budget airline sites for last-minute deals, and/or monitoring the cost of specific flights we want to board in the future. We’ve looked into trains and buses but as we are mainly Island hopping at the moment, airfare is most useful. With cheap airfare, companies like AirAsia.com have opened up several destination options (some we didn’t know exist) at very affordable prices. Their motto doesn’t lie, Now everyone can fly. For example, we’ve book flights for under $25USD each and have found flights for even cheaper, as low as $7USD.

There are several websites we did not list, such as Travel.state.gov for country specific information on visa requirements, Amazon for the Kindle App (eBooks), writers, travelers, and photographers we follow; we still listen to our favorite NPR podcasts and we’re always surfing the web for inspiration and motivation from sites like Creativity-Online, Vimeo, and The Cool Hunter. Amazon web services are also the most useful for backing up documents, photos and video.

-C