International Travel Tips

This blog post will enumerate general travel tips that we’ve used or discovered. Use the comments section to provide some of your own. We’d love to hear from fellow travellers. This post has a lot of data so we have tried our best to categorize topics into Flying, Staying, Eating & Spending.

Summary Table:

Topic Link(s)
Finding & booking flights SkyScanner, Kayak
Airline Alliance Breakdown Airline Alliance Wiki
AirBnb (new users) AirBnb with Promo Code Discount
AirBnb (existing users) AirBnb
What to Eat? TripAdvisor
Food markets / Supermarkets Our Recommendations
Buy Foreign Exchange (UK) No. 1 Currency

Sections:

  1. Flying
  2. Staying
  3. Eating
  4. Spending
1. Flying:
  • Booking Flight Tickets: Our go to website for buying international flights is SkyScanner.
  • SkyScanner Tip: If you do not have a fixed destination in mind for a short notice holiday, put in “Everywhere” in the To field to see what flights can be booked on the cheap. An extension to this tip is to put in your country in the From field to see from where the cheapest flights from your country are from.
  • SkyScanner Tip: It’s good for domestic flights too but it does not have all airlines that it searches for (read does not include SouthWest airlines in the US)

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    BA Flight at the unique Gibraltar Airport

  • Choosing a Loyalty Program: The world’s largest airlines are split into 3 main “alliances” (GoT?). The table below illustrates the major airline alliances split per region. You should prefer an alliance based on where you favourite airline belongs (ours is SkyTeam). Sign up for the airline specific loyalty program for no more than 1 airline per alliance. Full list can be found on this wiki.
    Star Alliance SkyTeam One World
    North America United Airlines, Air Canada Delta Airlines, Aeromexico American Airlines
    Europe Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines Air France, KLM British Airlines
    Middle East & Africa EgyptAir Saudi Arabian Airlines Qatar, Royal Jordanian
    Asia Singapore Airlines, Asiana Airlines Korean Air, China Southern Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines
  • Airline Loyalty Tip: Once you have signed up for the specific loyalty program of an airline in an alliance, flying other airlines belonging to the same alliance gives you miles credit for flying with them. For example: we flew Delta a lot but took Korean Air for long haul once a year, we got Delta SkyMiles out of the long haul that we redeemed on US domestic flights eventually.
  • International Connections: In our initial days of casual traveling, we found making international connections at new airports daunting (as there are some form of immigration + security checks based on the airport). That’s why we are thankful for the amazing standards of some fantastic international airports that make connections easy. As a rule, we try to keep a connection time of around 3 hours so we make our connections comfortably.
  • International Connections Tip*: Best international airports for connections we’ve been to : ICN (Seoul), CDG (Paris), AMS (Amsterdam)
  • International Connections TipDo not connect in the USA if it’s not your final destination. The reason for this is that you need a transit US visa even to just connect to a different flight & that sucks as USA gives easy access to many Carribean & South American destinations. Fly through Canda instead. Read more here.
2. Staying:
  • Like many travelers, we used to live in hotels while traveling. Then we discovered the magic of AirBnb. We have used our referral code in the AirBnb link so if you sign up for the service via this, we both get a discount (if you are a new user). This is the regular AirBnb link.
  • What is AirBnb: This is a service that links travelers with property owners across the world so you can live in an entire flat / house, a private room within a house or a shared room. AirBnb can be much cheaper than conventional lodging. We’ve found entire flats to be cheaper than hotel rooms & private rooms to be cheaper than hostels.
  • Why AirBnb:
    1. Live like / with a Local: We met so many amazing people who were our AirBnb hosts. A lot of them have amazing tips about the neighbourhood. This is a far cry from the generic hotel concierge service & overpriced restaurant suggestions.
    2. Space: We’ve rented out entire flats around Europe so many times & the amount of space is so much more than any hotel room. Having a kitchen is another massive advantage as we can always raid local supermarkets at a whim (see Live like a Local above). Excellent for traveling families. Examples coming up.
    3. Flexibility: Unlike hotels, check-in & check-out rules may be relaxed based on circumstances.
    4. The major disadvantage can possibly be communication on the day of arrival so we always hope that we’ll be able to make phone calls after we land.
    5. Try AirBnb if you haven’t yet. We think you will not regret it.
  • Our Top AirBnB Picks: We’ve stayed in a number of flats & these are our top picks (in alphabetical order) where we had a blast staying & traveling (with a 1 line summary). Price point was awesome for all our stays below. These listings may be removed at any time (a few of our fav listings do not exist now, welp).
    1. Bath (England)https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/2136745 (Entire Flat, Best sleep ever on the best bed ever).
    2. Istanbul (Turkey)https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/1549443 (Entire Flat, next to Taksim square but so quiet, brown 3 legged stray cat is the best).
    3. Palma de Mallorca (Spain)https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/721635 (Private Room, great location & bathroom of kings, uber cheap, fantastic hosts)
    4. Paris, Canal St Martin (France)https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/3260521 (Entire Studio, Parisian romance next to good restaurants & transport links)
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      Romantic Paris studio

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      Bedroom view from another Paris flat

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      Sheep grazing bedroom view in rural Scotland

  • Hotel Loyalty Programs: Similar to Airlines, many hotel chains are owned by the same parent company making earning points easy. Example: Starwood Hotels includes Westin, Sheraton, etc & IHG includes Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza & Intercontinental.
  • Hotel Loyalty Programs Tip: Some hotel rewards can reward you air miles directly instead of their own miles so you can choose to get paid in one virtual currency.
3. Eating:
  • Food & Drink is a big part of our traveling. Everyone has their own food preferences & in some cases allergies so it’s best to be flexible about food. We find that flexibility by buying food items from local supermarkets / food markets & cooking once in a while in our flat.
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    Mercat de L’Oliva in Palma, Spain

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    Breakfast in La Boquiera in Barcelona, Spain

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    Breakfast at La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

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    Drunk cheese at Borough market, London

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    Spice market at Istanbul, Turkey

  • Finding Food Markets: We use TripAdvisor heavily in our search for where to buy food from as well as restaurants. Food markets are generally in the top attractions of a city. Spain has amazing food markets no matter where you go. Here is out list of food markets we’ve been to along with supermarket names for that country/region. All supermarket links are Store Locators (preferably in English).
    City Country Food Market Supermarkets
    Barcelona Spain La Boqueria Eroski, Carrefour
    Palma de Mallorca Spain Mercat de L’Olivar Eroski, Carrefour
    Paris France Marche Bastille Carrefour, Dia
    London United Kingdom Borough Market Sainsbury, Tesco
    Portland United States (West Coast) Downtown Portland Food Trucks Safeway
    Key West United States (Florida) Eaton Street Seafood Market Publix
    Zurich/Geneva Switzerland Migros, Coop
    Istanbul Turkey Spice Market, Kadinlar Pazari meat market Corner shop markets
  • Switzerland has incredibly expensive restaurants compared to most other places & by far the best value for money meals are from the Migros Hot Food bar.
  • If you walk past something where you see a bunch of locals eating & the food looks good, try it. We’ve been in situations where we cannot speak a word of the local language but get food ordered by using Google Translate / pointing. It’s worked well for us.
4. Spending:
  • Do not exchange currency at the airport, they are the worst rates imaginable.
  • Try to get a 0% foreign exchange rate credit card from your local bank before traveling. We use a HSBC USA provided credit card. The amount charged in USD is exactly what Google tells us based on current exchange rates.
  • For Cash forex, compare rates for local providers & get money changed before flying out.
  • We highly recommended No. 1 Currency for their great Click & Collect rates which are followed closely by Sainsbury Travel money Nectar card rates for Click & Collect. Click & Collect offers better rates than walking into the store (does not make much sense).

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2 thoughts on “International Travel Tips

  1. Utsav Mamoria says:

    Super useful list!

    For Airticketing, I would add Kayak and Momondo to the list! Also, cheaper flights can be booked on qua.com (Chinese website with English interface).

    Additionally, useful to check WikiTravel for low cost airlines flying out of a destination. Most search engines (Sky Scanner included) do not track all low cost airlines, means we could be missing out on a deal!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yodandalek says:

      We’ve never used Momondo or qua.com till now, gonna give it a shot. You are right about wikitravel, we typically go to the wiki of the airport we want to get to and work backwards. Thanks for the tips Utsav!

      Liked by 1 person

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