Today’s Challenge: What travel tools and services are most important to you when taking your business abroad?
One of the first things people ask me when they hear we’re going to Thailand for 5 months is: ‘Do they have stable Internet?’
Actually you’d be surprised! Not only do they have stable Internet but you can find it almost everywhere. Even in a small northern town like Chiang Mai, we could easily find Internet in local cafes, restaurants, roadside stops, quaint local shops and even the dives!
Not only is Internet easily accessible in Thailand, it’s cheap! I brought my iPad and iPod with me but figured I’d mainly be using it at our guest house or at the cafe but Nathan found a company called True Move that had incredible plans.
For 350baht (which is equivalent to roughly $11 CAD) we were able to purchase a month’s worth of data or 1GB and there’s no contractual obligation. If we tried to do that here we’d easily be paying at least 2-3x the price on a contract.
I guess I’m stating the obvious but Internet is the most important service for us. It’s generally the first amenity we look for when we’re searching for accommodations.
Travel Tip: Always check reader reviews for comments on Internet service (especially on Airbnb) and ask your host or hotel service rep about the quality. No use getting excited about a place only to find they have shoddy Internet. It’s saved us a ton of headaches on our trips.
Oh! In addition to that, find out where the Internet is specifically located. We stayed at one resort in Jamaica (beautiful place!) but we could only get Internet from the main lobby (not the most convenient if you have a late night/early morning emergency).
Other tools and services I use are Hipmunk and Googleflights to check availability and pricing before I book my flight. I love that Hipmunk has an agony factor so I can quickly see which flights have the most stops and lengthiest layovers. Sometimes you can use this to your advantage to make for a more interesting trip. When we were on our way to Thailand, we specifically chose a long layover so were able to stay a full day in South Korea and explore the sights without increasing the price of our flight.
Speaking of flight increases, did I mention that I love Korean Airlines when flying to Thailand? On our first trip to Chiang Mai, we fell in love and were able to easily extend our trip from 3 weeks to 2 months at no extra cost (yet another advantage of having your location independent business – try telling your boss, you want to extend your vacation – not very likely ;).
seat 61 is also a great site I like to check out for all our train traveling adventures. It provides really precise, detailed information on best routes, prices, things to avoid, what to watch out for which is great when you’re in a foreign country.
One of my favourite sites is TripAdvisor – it’s quite popular so I imagine you’re probably already familiar with it. But I think it’s still worth a mention. When we were in Thailand, one of the things on our bucket list was to attend a Thai cooking class. And choosing one is no small feat – there are dozens upon dozens.
Although the ratings on TripAdvisor are helpful, the details in each review is where the real benefit is. I mean what use is a 5 star review if the reviewer has different tastes and interests than you? I remember reading this one review that mentioned that the instructor was the same chef featured in Gordon Ramsay’s Great Escapes. My chin hit the floor, ‘Holy Crap! Yui’s the same chef that taught Gordon Ramsay Thai Cuisine on that show?! I’m in! Now that’s the kind of word of mouth I can listen to.
The interesting part is, that information is not really highlighted on her site so I never would’ve known that if I didn’t see the review. This juicy little tidbit of information meant that her cooking school won by a landslide!
Tripadvisor has also saved us from getting ripped off at the Cambodian border. One reviewer cautioned readers that sometimes taxi drivers would try to drop you off at a white building right beside the border where official looking workers would try to get you to pay their fees. However not to be fooled because this was not the ‘real border’. Thankfully when it happened to us, I just kept saying ‘Border!’ to the driver and refused to get out. That small tip saved us an extra 70 bucks and some shame and embarrassment too!