|Travelling 2.0: How your smartphone can assist you travelling easier and cheaper
After more than 6 months travelling in Southeast Asia we’re back in Switzerland. In this blog post i’m not going to tell you about our adventurous trips, phantastic scuba diving or beautiful beaches If you’re interested in our story, you’re more than welcome to read it at www.indira-und-frederic.ch. In this blog post i want to share my experience using my smartphone and internet data, which made our traveller’s life much easier.
My wife and me are each using an iPhone 5S. Luckily at some point our smartphone service providers had stopped handing them out sim-locked, so we were able to use a sim card of foreign countries. If your smartphone is sim-locked, there are dozens of street stalls selling “UNLOCK SIM – IN 10 MINUTES”, although i don’t know if you’re boss is happy when you’re do that using a company smartphone:-) When buying sim cards, the sellers cut the sim cards according to your model with a whatever-tool available..
Internet Data and Call Credit Packages
Many service providers offer packages with sim card, internet data and included call credit. Often there are 3.5 Gigabyte of data, which have to be used up within 30 days. The default call credit won’t last long, so loading them up is a good idea. Oversea calls are not that expensive and voice quality is good. Times are gone when your phone partner had to wait a few seconds till hear your word because of delays. Just remember to dial a prefix number (which is usually mentioned in the brochure that comes with your sim card). Many international airports have vendor stores right at the arrival hall and buying and register your sim card is usually done within 10 minutes.
AIS offer good value packages, for around 10$. We’ve been in Bangkok, Koh Samet, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and Prachuap Khiri Khan, the coverage was always excellent: 3G sometimes even 4G. You can refill your internet data packages or call minutes in every 7/11.
Our weapon of choice is SimPATI. It has very good coverage in every province of this large country. Don’t expect to have always 3G tough, but E should always be available. You can refill the sim card in every Indomart, Alphamart, or on nearly every street stall. You can get 3.5GB (30 days) for 100’000Rp, or 1.5GB(30 Days) for 50’000Rp.
Globe a major provider in the Philippines. At the Airport arrival there is a Globe stall in which you can obtain the sim card including internet data package. I recommend using the 4G/LTE 5GB package, which is 1’000 Pesos, about 22$.. Plus unlimited Data when using a Globe Wifi access point, which are often available in big cities and shopping malls. Do not take the traveller sim, although it sounds tempting (unlimited data for 30 days)! It does not work and after visiting a Globe store in a shopping mall, they replaced the sim with the 4G/LTE data plan mentioned above. They mentioned also that this unlimited data offer should not be sold by these little stores anymore..interesting spread of information in that company:-) btw, the Globe Stores look super futuristic! I have to say that the internet in the Philippines was the fastest, but also the most unreliable..
We’ve spent only 2 weeks in Malaysia (Sabah part), nevertheless i stumbled into a Maxis store in the arrival hall of the Kuala Lumpur airport and opted for the Hotlink offer. Network coverage was great, although some other web resources tell that Celcom is little better. I bought a 30 days 3GB package, which also costs about 10$.
There are hundreds of applications in the travel category, only a few are really useful, but that depends on your travel style and destination.
Hotel / Room Booking
Most of the time we used Agoda in order to make reservations. The iOs App was completely redesigned somewhen August/September 2015. It now has a very intuitive user interface, great range of accommodation. One feature which i like most is the fact that you can pay with your credit card in your currency, so that can save you some bucks avoiding currency exchange fees (with an excellent exchange rate too). Normally cancellation are not possible with Agoda. We had to cancel a room once and i phoned customer support. They answered quick, were friendly and cancelled the room for free. recommended…
Some time ago i used to prefer booking.com over Agoda, but now i rarely use it. It has still a very nice user interface and a good selection of rooms, but when it comes to budget accommodation, the variety on Agoda is simply better.
I never used AirBnb but i heard it’s very nice to rent whole appartements and some other travellers we’ve met use it for couch surfing. Definitely i will have a look on the offers when i’ll have a weekend on a mountain resort in Switzerland, it seems there are a lot sweet offers around.
Transport – on land
I heard a lot from uber and it controversy opinions. A fellow traveller recommended it to us and we used it when we landed the second time at the Bali Denpasar airport, which is an airport infamous for their taxi mafia at the arrival terminal. They charge ridiculously high prices.. So we decided to decide Uber and were really amazed by this app. In Bali alone we used it dozen of time. In indonesia there is also Uber in bigger Cities on Java (we used it also in Jakarta). Apparently it’s also very popular in the Manila, Philipines. Although we got picked up there at the airport, but the driver told us that actually Uber is not allowed to pick up customers at the airport area (police will check their smartphone if caught). There is also a rating system, where you can rate your driver and vice-versa.
Transport – on Air
Nearly every major airline in Southeast Asia has an app in the app store. The quality ranges from very good (AirAsia and Cebu Pacific) to unusable (Indonesia: Lion Air / Garuda). In Indonesia there are many other companies where you can use to book flights. One of them is nusatrip.co.id, actually a mobile website, but one of very good quality and it feels nearly like a native app. They have also a good selection of flights and very good prices. There is also en.tiket.com, ticketindonesia and ticket2, which sometimes have a broader flight selection. I used all of them and had also good experiences, although the process until you have the tickets in your inbox can be little difficult. Once you entered your credit card details, you have to wait a couple of minutes until you have the payment confirmation. The payment is not done automatically but manually by person! Ticket2 even phoned me once for security reasons.
Once you have your ticket it’s a wise choice to store it locally on your phone, since you have to show it when accessing any airport (especially in Indonesia) and when flying into Philippines you have to show an onward ticket. Be sure to have enough of battery life left..
Google Maps is your friend when it comes to map services. Especially when you travel overland by bus or shared taxi it’s very handy to know your position. A nifty feature is also that when you’ve booked a hotel you see the location and dates immediately in the map. We once travelled with a local bus, where you shout to the driver when you wanted to go off. Thanks to google maps we knew when we were near our hotel and told the driver to stop. easy. It’s also handy when you’re using a metered taxi and the drivers goes cheeky and drives a 10km route instead of the direct 3km route..
We’ve met travellers who used maps.me. In maps.me you download all the information of a country while you have an internet connection (e.g. your hotels wifi). Once you have your data you are ready to locate hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and much more. Remote areas are not so good covered.
IBM did a very good job with the connections app and while i was working for some projects, it’s was perfect to exchange informations over communities, forums, etc. I definitely prefered using connections than using email!! Connections is more than just a platform for being social, it can be used to get work done much quicker, with better quality, on mobile or desktop…
We all know facebook.. Very good to stay in contact with your beloved once back home and also to exchange contact details with fellow travelers.
This is a very neat app where you can compare several currencies. This is very handy when you travel more than 1 country.
is a very nice camera app and i wished i discovered that earlier.
Jan 15, 2016