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60 countries on a plump shoestring hacking global travel

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  • 1. 60 countries on a plump shoestring. @maheshmurthy
  • 2. 60 countries on a plump shoestring.How I hacked travel. And how you can, too. @maheshmurthy
  • 3. cameras et al when to buywhen to go accessories phone & SMS there buying air travelwhere to go passport, visas internet what starts me flexibility buying surface travel shopping packing what stops you buying stay my kind of travel why travel inspiration me Today’s travel plan.
  • 4. This is going to be fact-packed. And yet not comprehensive. I can talk all day about it.But will manage what I can in 40 minutes 
  • 5. me
  • 6. Antarctica, 2006Me
  • 7. When I wear a cape, I become…
  • 8. A million miles and counting• In India till 24.• Dad had a roaming job.• On my 6th passport book now.• Most travel is recreational, not work.• Or recreational, appended to work.• Not a backpacker any more.• Try live a 5-star life at 2-star prices.• Not because it’s unaffordable – though often it is.• But the near-sadistic joy in hacking it.• And the true joy in a mentally freer life.
  • 9. why travel me
  • 10. Ushuaia, 2006Why travel?
  • 11. What’s your reason?• To see the world. Literally.• To escape the world.• To bond with a loved one.• To do ‘the places that have to be done’• To party.• ________________________
  • 12. my kind of travelwhy travel me
  • 13. Iguazu, 2006My kind of travel.
  • 14. Everybody has their own style• This many not be yours.• Too old and lazy for extreme backpacking.• Been there, done that.• I like the luxurious life.• But I like to not pay luxurious prices for it.• Figured out a way that works for my wallet, back & heart• Happy to share!
  • 15. what stops you my kind of travelwhy travel me
  • 16. Rio de Janeiro, 2006What stops you?
  • 17. The things I’ve heard• ‚You’re so lucky!‛ – Not really. I’ve had average luck.• ‚I don’t have time off‛ – Yes you do. You just haven’t asked for it, or gotten it.• ‚If I ask for time off, I’ll get fired.‛ – No one of any value gets fired asking for LWOP – And if you don’t have value there, why need the job anyway?• ‚My passport’s expired.‛ – Go renew it. TCS handles it now.• ‚I need to save up lots of money‛ – Not really• ‚Maybe I’ll take one of those packaged tours‛ – Don’t, man! You’re missing out on the best part of travel!
  • 18. what starts me what stops you my kind of travelwhy travel me
  • 19. Aruba, 2002What starts me?
  • 20. My inspiration• Need to escape ~ once a month• Desire to see once-thought-inaccessible things – Antarctica – Northern Lights – Cherry Blossoms• Inexhaustible bucket list• Whenever there’s a cheap fare, jump on it• Whenever there’s a long weekend, escape• Negotiate more leave, not salary• Re-design life to working 4 days a week
  • 21. passport, visas what starts me what stops you my kind of travelwhy travel me
  • 22. Puerto Rico, 2002Passports and visas.
  • 23. http://oh.pn/visa shows 100+ easy ones
  • 24. Averaging 150 views a day
  • 25. What I keep ready• Passport with 1+ empty pages – always big book• 10-year US visa• 10-year UK visa• 2-year+ Schengen visa• 1-year+ Malaysian visa• Current Yellow fever etc certificates• YHAI membership• Every possible airline/hotel loyalty program membership – Including those I’ll never use again because – who knows?
  • 26. where to go passport, visas what starts me what stops you my kind of travel why travel me
  • 27. Oregon Coast, 1995Where to go.
  • 28. 3 days4 days5 - 7 days1 week2 weeks
  • 29. How much time do you have?• Weekend – 2 – 4 hour drive away• 3-day weekend – 2 - 3 hour flight + short drive away – Gulmarg, Pondicherry, Maldives, Dubai, Bangkok• 4 days – 3 – 5 hour flight – Istanbul, Kenya, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Kiruna• 1 week – E. Europe, South Africa, China, Myanmar, Russia, Japan• 2 weeks – W. Europe, N. Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Oceania• 2 ½ weeks+ – N America, S America, C America• Micro-holidays vs mega-holidays
  • 30. when to gowhere to go passport, visas what starts me what stops you my kind of travel why travel me
  • 31. Olympic National Park, 1996When to go.
  • 32. There is no ‘wrong’ time for a place• The ‚off‛ season is often the best season – Winter in Scandinavia or N. America – Monsoon in Goa – Our summer in New Zealand winter• Look for opportunities around Indian holidays globally – Jan 26: Aurora Borealis? – April: Sakura / Cherry Blossom viewing? – July: Running of the bulls, Pamplona? – Aug 15: Serengeti migration? – Diwali: Yi Peng in Chiang Mai? – Xmas: Frozen Yellowstone? Gulmarg / Auli? – New Yr: Times Square? London?• Don’t be afraid of the cold / the heat – Welcome it. It brings out a different side to a place. And people – Offers are rife, hotels are cheap.
  • 33. Alternatively, do it the other way• Decide you want to be somewhere at a particular time• Plan a set of micro-holidays• Or maybe combine them for a mega-trip – EDM and other concerts in Europe’s summer • 28 bands in 18 days • Add features around it: Bilbao / Pamplona / Oxford / Stonehenge – Meetings on the East Coast • Add musicals in New York • Add stay at Culinary Institute of America – Winter in the US • Add 5 national parks • Add East Coast cities – Do stuff close-by. Don’t spread far and wide.• Don’t try ‚do five unconnected countries‛ in one trip – Go deeper into one or two. – You’ll always come back for more.
  • 34. when to buywhen to gowhere to go passport, visas what starts me what stops you my kind of travel why travel me
  • 35. Nether Wallop, 2009When to buy.
  • 36. Tuesday 3 pm & other myths• FareCompare says Wednesday is the cheapest day to fly – And Tue @3 is the best time to buy – These are self-defeating prophesies  – And it assumes directed travel• Beat it: be ready to go anywhere, any time at all – At the drop of a hat – Dropping 1 or 2 days’ work at the last moment never hurt anyone.• Personal experience: – Intl: Buy between 7 days and 3 days before a trip – Domestic: Buy between 5 days and 1 day before trip• If there’s a sale, jump on it – Buy the ticket, then figure out a way – Flights are the biggest cost. Once that’s discounted, rest a steal.
  • 37. Personal experience of air prices. Unscientific. Reward for extreme planners, last minuters T-60 T-28 T-21 T-14 T-7 T-3 T-2 T-1 0
  • 38. when to buywhen to go buying air travelwhere to go passport, visas what starts me what stops you my kind of travel why travel me
  • 39. Andorra, 2012Buying air travel.
  • 40. Ixigo:Almostalways thebest fareswithin India:better thanthe OTAs
  • 41. And tryAkbartoo.BeatsOTAsmost ofthe time.DiscounterEsp. on intl
  • 42. SkyScanner: The drop-of-a-hat travel planner
  • 43. SkyScanner: Always good, occasionally unbelievable faresOn your mobile phone too.
  • 44. SkyScanner also tells you all airlines who fly to anairport. As does WikiTravel. Check separately.
  • 45. Many LCCs are not on OTAs, meta-searches.• Go look them up separately.• I’ve found better prices often direct on them than elsewhere.
  • 46. AirAsia: Go subscribe, visit often.Ridiculous fares: especially Cochin out.
  • 47. AirAsia screws you on everything else.• Luggage – If carry-on >7kg, you’re screwed – Pay for it online, not at counter – Check-in luggage = charged• Seating – The right to pick a seat = charged – Leave it to randomness – short flight, no big deal• Water, food, everything charged – RyanAir proposes to charge for loo use in air• Still worth it – If you travel super-light – much better lifestyle• Extraordinary flexibility – The Myanmar story
  • 48. On seats.• Take the less popular airline – One with low load factor• Go late to the airport – Ask for last / second last row to be blocked for you• Sleep the entire journey• Or if they’re two of you – Book aisles across the middle – Rarely do centers get allocated then• Failing which emergency exit reclining aisle• Or bulkhead reclining aisle• SeatGuru.com can help
  • 49. On children.• Till the age of 7, pointless to take them along – They won’t remember a damn thing – Especially Disneyland etc (which I personally detest)• Unless YOU want to spend time with them• You can be severe cause for irritation – If your kid hollers the entire way – Shut him / her up – it’s your job• Use as rationale to get row of 4• Take a leash, seriously.• Let kid carry own luggage – a little strolley/backpack• Buy diapers locally. Milk locally.• But a great ice breaker socially overseas.• Everyone loves kids, except often their parents 
  • 50. HipMunk – great simplifier
  • 51. Global meta-search
  • 52. And one of many sites owned by IAC
  • 53. The zen of booking air travel• This is the make-or-break part of travel• It doesn’t happen first shot.• It is the flow over days, even weeks.• Till you ‘sense’ flow of prices. What will give, what won’t.• The flow – You do the meta-searches – You do the standard OTAs – You check out the LCCs – You see if there are any airline deals – You pounce• Don’t have buyer’s remorse. The process is fun.• And, even if you’re not up for anything, always be looking
  • 54. Some air travel wins• BOM – JFK – BOM for Rs. 27,000 roundtrip – Over Christmas and New Year• BOM – MLE – BOM for Rs. 12,000 roundtrip• BOM – BKK – BOM for Rs. 12,700 roundtrip• BOM – GAU – BOM for Rs. 8,000 roundtrip• KUL – LGK – KUL for Rs. 3,400 roundtrip• IBZ – LON for Rs. 2,800 one-way…• Some is luck, some is skill – Work hard, you get luckier!• Numerous comp upgrades to business / first – Just get your frequent flyer membership everywhere
  • 55. when to buywhen to go buying air travelwhere to go passport, visas what starts me buying surface travel what stops you my kind of travel why travel me
  • 56. Congo, 2009Buying surface travel.
  • 57. This works everywhere.
  • 58. Please, rent a car. See the difference.• If you can drive in India, you can drive anywhere else.• Yes, you need a credit card. Get one.• Pay $5 or $10 more a day, rent a GPS• Trust automatics. Plug your music into the system.• Cars cost $20 to $50 a day – Say no to all insurance except CDW. – Great experience. See the landside you never otherwise would – Take random detours. Buy an atlas for $5 – You can easily do 500km a day. Or 1500 km a day in a pinch. – Rent a convertible if the weather’s good. Worth the extra $20 – Use OTAs & Priceline. And go beyond, to local renting houses – Take a one-way. Pay $50 extra for the pleasure.• Take a road trip – Plan ~300 – 500 km a day. Stay at $40 motels. – Drive the US West Coast in a week. Route 66 in two. – Lake District or Bilbao – Biarritz – Andorra - Barcelona in 3 days.
  • 59. Bus: I haven’t done this. But seems a steal.€12 to €15 per day for any bus, anywhere.
  • 60. There is almost nobad Rail Pass:Get the bible.
  • 61. You be on rails!• Eurail can be a steal – Especially if you spend nights on the train – And jump from platform to platform. – Learn to read the timetable.• Amtrak is extraordinarily under-estimated – Coast to coast in 3 days – Stopovers at will, a month for $300 – A side of America no one else sees. – First-class airline-level comfort in economy – Now free wi-fi• JR makes a lot of sense – Get the Shinkansen. And lovely stops in the mountains too – Hiroshima for tea, Kyoto for dinner• Eurail also works on ferries, ships
  • 62. when to buywhen to go buying air travelwhere to go passport, visas what starts me buying surface travel what stops you buying stay my kind of travel why travel me
  • 63. Serengeti, 2008Buying stay.
  • 64. Begin with TripAdvisorBut go further, deeper.• Go by ratings, not recommendations.• Go beyond hotels to B&Bs. To ‚Specialty lodging‛• Read through to see if they’re gamed. (>15 reviews)• Create a mental shortlist.• Then visit their websites.• Call the owner.• Remember – all hotels look the same when you’re asleep
  • 65. Learn to bid.
  • 66. Hack the blind bid.
  • 67. Go to coupon sites. Look for promo codes.
  • 68. Look wider, look deeper, be shameless.• Doesn’t have to be a chain hotel.• Though chains use yield management, so they’re eager• Infest ThornTree on Lonely Planet• Do a bid-off between travel agents – Saved Rs. 5,00,000 on luxury African holiday. – Googled to shortlist. – $800-a-night places for $150 – Do research, then use local agent• Ask for the price you want. – They can always say no.• If all fails, youth hostels – €10 a night – HostelWorld, HostelBookers• And Airbnb – With HomeStayDOS / TripVillas
  • 69. Some lodging wins.• Morjim hotel penthouse for Rs. 1,250 a day• Langkawi cottage for $25 a day• JW Marriott London for £55 a day.• JW Marriott Singapore for £50 a day.• Hyatt SFO for $40 a day.• Various ryokan in Japan for $80 a day• Best Western Times Square NYC for $70 a day• Russian scientific vessel to Antarctica for $1,000/5 days• All these are rates for 2 or more• Not just the money saved. The thrill of hacking it 
  • 70. when to buywhen to go buying air travelwhere to go passport, visas what starts me buying surface travel packing what stops you buying stay my kind of travel why travel me
  • 71. Seychelles, 2010Packing.
  • 72. No check-in bags. Ever.• Am a bit of a Hitler about it.• Check-in slows you down. Need to go earlier, get out later• And baggage gets lost / held/stolen etc. Or charged for.• Only do it post-shopping on way back. – With your carry-on bag.• Never on way out.• You really need much less than you think.
  • 73. One carry-on per person. Plus one minibag.• 55 x 40 x 20 (22‛ x 16‛ x 8‛) – Smaller than allowed by regular carrier. – Get used to this everywhere. – Choose one with 4 wheels that spin. Light, rectangular. Not curved.• Travel light – not more than 10 kg (many want 7 but) – Cheat by getting an expandable one.• 1 pair of denim jeans = 0.5 kg! – Don’t wear/carry denim. Light material. – Travel pants / zipoffs with lots of pockets = # of days of travel / 3 – T-shirts/tops = # of days of travel – Underthings = # of days of travel +1 – Shorts / Swimwear. Light cap. – Flipflops. If shoes needed, wear those, pack light ones – If warmwear needed, wear it don’t pack it. Non-bulky light tech wear.• Minibag for the rest – Laptop, Camera, Chargers, Toiletry kit, tickets, phone – Don’t bother with books etc. – All WILL comfortably fit, if you take the effort. – Big backpacks are passe.
  • 74. Toiletries: thriving with the 100ml ruleIn one hang-able kit. Maybe keep a set aside.Guys Gals• Toothpaste • Toothpaste• Shaving cream • Shampoo• Shampoo • Toothbrush• Toothbrush • Moisturizer• Razor • Inexplicable cream 1• Insect cream • Inexplicable cream 2• Sunscreen (50+) • Inexplicable cream 3• Earbuds • Insect cream• Comb • Sunscreen (50+) • Earbuds • Tissue kit • Comb 1, Comb 2, hairbands • Pads, Tampons
  • 75. when to buywhen to go accessories buying air travelwhere to go passport, visas what starts me buying surface travel packing what stops you buying stay my kind of travel why travel me
  • 76. Auschwitz, 2012Accessories.
  • 77. Some of the things I like.Your mileage may vary.
  • 78. cameras et al when to buywhen to go accessories buying air travelwhere to go passport, visas what starts me buying surface travel packing what stops you buying stay my kind of travel why travel me
  • 79. Abisko, 2012Cameras et al.
  • 80. My journey as an amateur photographer• Invested early-on in Canon• Bought the lenses. Wides, Zoom. Macro. Fixed.• The tripod. Camera bag. The works.• Went all over Europe, US, S. America, Antarctica• Figured it was way way too much.• Cut down to a 18-270 optical zoom on small Sony body – Adventure getting remote control via eBay for aurora shots• Took a gamble on Samsung Galaxy Cam – Quite positively surprised. Especially by on-deck image editing – Huge screen it itself a display platform.• Recently tried the ‚sphere‛ mode on stock Nexus 4. – Blown away.• Things are getting smaller, more integrated – Welcome the trend – Just need the extra battery power!
  • 81. My gadget recommendations• Take an ultra-light laptop with long battery life• Take a 4.2+ Android phone with 32+ GB• If you will do zooms/closeups, take Galaxy Cam• Ditch the Kindle, Tab, iPad, iPad mini: not useful• Load your music on the phone. Ditto maps. – Take 2 pairs of headphones, splitter• Switch on GPS now and then. Else do network nav• Look for free wi-fi everywhere. – Just ask for the password – many oblige• Take a 3g dongle around India• Take a second phone – more on that in a bit.
  • 82. cameras et al when to buywhen to go accessories phone & SMS buying air travelwhere to go passport, visas what starts me buying surface travel packing what stops you buying stay my kind of travel why travel me
  • 83. Gulmarg, 2007Phones & SMS.
  • 84. Phones and SIM cards• Get a 2nd phone.• Buy a local SIM card after you land and pop it in – Or study the difference with Matrix / Airtel / other solutions – If you can get data as part of the deal, even better! – Use it as an audio guide etc. – Use the data monitoring in Android 4.0+• Forward all your calls to voicemail – Get SMSes, missed call alerts on your main number – Call back from local number• Or try Roamfree.ly or other solutions• Or even better, stay out of touch• Log in once a day from a cyber café – Tell folks you’re okay. – Go forget the connection with the world you left behind
  • 85. cameras et al when to buywhen to go accessories phone & SMS buying air travelwhere to go passport, visas internet what starts me buying surface travel packing what stops you buying stay my kind of travel why travel me
  • 86. Kaziranga, 2013Internet.
  • 87. Wi-fi where you can. Local data elsewhere.• Don’t ever switch on your Indian phone’s data overseas.• The cost alone would be more than your air ticket. – Favourite telco ripoff. – And 3G makes it worse• See if you can get a local SIM with local high speed data• Else, wait for whenever you get wi-fi• Or go the cyber-café route.• Want to access files & docs while traveling? – Put them on Google Docs – or email them to yourself on Gmail – Put them on a microSD card – fits in yr phone & desktop USB• Remember some places block Facebook and Twitter – Learn to use VPNs.
  • 88. cameras et al when to buywhen to go accessories phone & SMS buying air travelwhere to go passport, visas internet what starts me flexibility buying surface travel packing what stops you buying stay my kind of travel why travel me
  • 89. Myanmar, 2012Flexibility.
  • 90. Accept it. It’ll never go as planned.And that’s good.• Don’t plan things down to the minute.• Give some breathing room.• Flights are late, cars break down, traffic jams happen• Deliberately leave room for ‚unplanned things to happen‛• If flights have to be changed on the fly – Penalties can be high – try to sweet-talk people. – Or junk the sector and buy another one• You will have some safety or theft issue – Understand the world is even more criminal than India – Don’t carry much cash. Live light, use cards. – Get Prey or similar to remotely track / lock / wipe / phone & comp• Welcome the chaos. It’s why you’re holidaying, really. – Surprise yourself by seeing your own mettle.
  • 91. cameras et al when to buywhen to go accessories phone & SMS there buying air travelwhere to go passport, visas internet what starts me flexibility buying surface travel packing what stops you buying stay my kind of travel why travel me
  • 92. Kyoto, 2011What to do there.
  • 93. Eat like a local.
  • 94. Drink like a local
  • 95. Work like a local.
  • 96. Party like a local.
  • 97. Live like a local.
  • 98. Don’ts• Eat Indian food.• Settle for McD’s or KFC or some global chain• Talk only to other Indians while traveling• Take only packaged tours• Be afraid to ask questions• Forget to smile• Stay in at night
  • 99. cameras et al when to buywhen to go accessories phone & SMS there buying air travelwhere to go passport, visas internet what starts me flexibility buying surface travel shopping packing what stops you buying stay my kind of travel why travel me
  • 100. Langkawi, 2013Shopping.
  • 101. You get virtually everything here itself And whatever I cant, I VPN + Borderlinx to get seamless delivery in India.
  • 102. Not worthwhile shopping for:• Electronics• Books• Anything from Amazon• Foods
  • 103. Maybe worthwhile shopping for:• Obscure booze• Clothes, to check fit• Magazines• Fridge magnets, souvenirs
  • 104. cameras et al when to buywhen to go accessories phone & SMS there buying air travelwhere to go passport, visas internet what starts me flexibility buying surface travel shopping packing what stops you buying stay my kind of travel why travel inspiration me
  • 105. Margaret River, 2006Inspiration.
  • 106. So what’s your inspiration?• Lifestyle change? – Osmosis – Reading – The slew of magazines around you – Movies• Destination choice? – Your own trigger – Don’t follow the crowd – If you DO want to start: try South East Asia – Especially Thailand, Laos, Malaysia• When? How much – Now. Rs. 30,000 per head for a week? All included• Just go!
  • 107. cameras et al when to buywhen to go accessories phone & SMS there buying air travelwhere to go passport, visas internet what starts me flexibility buying surface travel shopping packing what stops you buying stay my kind of travel why travel inspiration me
  • 108. packingpassport, visas what to see photography planning air travel roadwhen to go where to go I hope that was somewhat useful  internet savings Thank you! what starts you stay safety what stops you @maheshmurthy rail +91 98922 49969 food kinds of travel why travel inspiration me