The Web has revolutionised travel. You can book an entire holiday – flights, hotels, car hire, activities – in the middle of the night, without leaving your home. But as booking engines and travel forums evolve and multiply, it can be overwhelming. To help you, we’ve jotted down a few sites we like.
Online travel sites
These sites allow you to find, compare and book the best travel deals online:
www.travelstart.co.za is one of the few exclusively-online travel agents in SA. The site is clean, clear and easy to navigate around local and international flight bookings from the major and low-cost airlines. They also offer hotel and care hire bookings.
www.gotravel24.com touts itself as the virtual travel agent for South African travellers and offers a mix of travel information and packages that are all bookable online.
Visit www.expedia.co.uk to research, plan, and purchase a whole trip with loads of products and services available worldwide. Expect to pay in pounds (or dollars on the .com site).
At www.thompsons.co.za you can book flights, accommodation and car hire for local and international destinations but it is time-consuming and confusing. Use this site as a starting point but give the agents a call once you’ve seen a package you’re interested in.
Domestic:www.kulula.com; www.flymango.com; www.1time.co.za(also flies to Zanzibar); www.flysaa.com; www.ba.com
International: www.flysaa.com; www.ba.com; www.virginatlantic.com; www.malaysiaairlines.com; www.quantas.com.au; www.cathaypacific.com; www.lufthansa.com – Google “airline companies” to find them all.
Usually the accommodation establishments put themselves on these websites but many of the hotels and guesthouses have customer reviews and ratings which are always useful if you want to avoid a case of “Hey, that’s not what it looked in like the photo!”
www.roomsforafrica.com A South African accommodation directory and bookings site where you can search, find and book in an easy and secure way. Not all the establishments can take online bookings but at the very least, you can email a booking enquiry through and they will confirm availability.
www.lastminute.com offers good deals to those who can book late – the later you leave it, the cheaper it gets… but you risk losing the room altogether, of course. Expect to pay in foreign currency.
www.i-escape.com is a good source of accommodation inspiration – no bland chain hotels or large resorts here.
www.travelintelligence.net promises to find chic hotels at the lowest rates with independent reviews.
www.carhireforless.co.za These online car hire specialists provide discounted car rental in over 6000 locations in alliance with the likes of Avis, Hertz, Alamo, Budget and Europcar. Carhire4less.co.za does a price comparison between the big names so you don’t have to.
Other travel sites we like:
www.youtube.com/lonelyplanet Lonely Planet has launched its own travel channel on YouTube. They’ve got 27 videos online and more are being added all the time. Entertaining, short and fun, they’re a good addition to your travel research.
www.fabsearch.com These people trawl a mix of glossy mags, including Wallpaper, Vogue and Vanity Fair, and collate their reviews and recommendations of hip and happening hotels, restaurants and bars around the world.
www.gridskipper.com An urban travel blog frequently updated with information on cities that goes beyond the typical hotel and restaurant recommendations. Know where to find the best sandwich in New York…
www.seatguru.com The ultimate source for airplane seating and in-flight amenities. Find the seat with extra legroom and never get stuck next the toilet again!
www.xe.com 180 currencies updated every minute. Very efficient.
www.weather.com Save yourself from packing your entire wardrobe and check the weather forecast ahead of your trip. Click on ‘Metric’ to convert temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius.
What to watch out for
It won’t be a cheap holiday if it’s a scam Before you book online, check the company out. Is it registered with the Association of South African Travel Agents or the International Air Transport Association? Is the booking site secure and have you read the terms and conditions? Is there a contact telephone number that actually gets answered?
Watch out for fish bait holiday prices Make sure the price you see, is the price you’re going to pay. Find out about airport taxes, on-board meals, travel insurance.
Online travel can be seductive It’s chilly. You’re bored. You click on a promo urging you to “Soak up the sun”. Which you do with a click and your credit card details. You didn’t even shop around for better deals, never mind check out the legitimacy of the company or whether your leave will be approved for that time. Read the Terms and Conditions – it’s often more difficult to change your bookings online.
Spot a fake review Be suspicious of brochure-speak and industry jargon: My boyfriend and I enjoyed the relaxed elegance of the accommodations; and unnecessary name-dropping: We couldn’t believe the Jo Malone products in the designer bathroom.