Credit: Nina Chua
August 2017

While there is beauty in happenstance when it comes to travel, sometimes we do feel a little pinch when we realize we missed out on a certain place, or could have gotten a better rate for a specific tour or even worse, if only we could have gotten it for free! #keepcalm

Here’s 8 location-based travel hacks that will help you get the most out of your trip by saving on time and money, while gaining more on experience.

1. Search for unique locations via Instagram 

Instagram locations
Image credit: Life in Limbo


Instagram is probably one of the most underused trip planning tools. The platform has millions of people updating their feeds with interesting finds everyday - it’s a waste not to tap on it. We found quite a number of interesting spots just by poking around on Instagram.

You can type just about anything into the search function and you’ll be served up a virtual visual catalogue. While it still has its fair share of touristy images, you’ll also discover many new store/restaurant openings and local hotspots that have yet to be discovered by the mainstream crowd.


Searching Instagram Stories hashtags
Image credit: The Verge


Let’s say you’re looking for cool cafes in Sydney, apart from the usual BlackStar Pastry and Grounds of Alexandria, just type in “Sydneyfood” and there’ll be trending hashtags, food bloggers, and locations you can stalk. Just click on the location:

- Under the “Top” tab, you’ll find trending hashtags, profiles, and locations
- Under the “People” tab, you’ll find local food bloggers that you can and should stalk for the latest cafe grub
- Under the “Tags” you’ll find a myriad of photos which you can then click into what entices you, and find out where it is from the post’s location tag
- Under the “Places” tab, you’ll find the top food locations that have been tagged by others

Some also leave their reviews in captions, it is worth checking them out too to get a better gauge of the place.

2. For cheap accommodation in city centers/key areas, stay in a hostel

Sydney Harbour YHA
Image credit: Holiday Goddess Guide


Hostels are usually located in central parts of the city transport networks and key amenities and can cost as low as 20% of what you would pay for hotels within the same location. 


Generator Hostel, Venice, Italy
Image credit: Boutique Hotelier


These days, hostels are more than just a room of 12 tightly squeezed bunk beds, luxurious private rooms with en-suite toilets are also available. Many of these hostels even spot more modern designs and facilities compared to traditional hotels - think free bicycle rentals, DVD rentals, pool tables, computer and printing services. 


Generator Hostel, Paris
Image credit: The Culture Trip


If you’re looking at exploring the cities via tours, hostels tend to have cheaper rates for the same tours available by larger tour agencies. Certain hostels also organize their own activities such as pub crawls, rooftop barbeques, and game nights - for free.

With the increased popularity of hostels, large accommodation search engines such as,, and also have a select pool of hostels on their watch. But you’re better off searching on sites such as,, and as they tend to have cheaper rates.

If you’re under 35, sign up for a membership with Hostelling International and you can get further discounts on selected hostels.

3. Get the local scoop by couchsurfing or staying in an Airbnb

Shain with couchsurfing host Rito
Image credit: Susanshain


Couchsurfing is a worldwide community of “hosts” and “surfers” where locals open up their homes for travellers to stay (for free) and exchange cultures and travel experiences between the host and surfer. This is a great way to get to know the country from the eyes of a local who is also a frequent traveller. 

As part of the exchange, hosts give surfers a glimpse into their lives by bringing them around the city to their favourite hangout spots, introducing them to friends, and cultures that tourist attractions would not be able to.


An Airbnb in Oia, Greece
Image credit: Find Us Lost


You’ve probably seen one of those amazing houses with jaw-dropping scenic views that would probably cost a bomb. But Airbnb has made such luxuries available to many. The best thing is, unlike hotels, many of these Airbnbs are located in local neighbourhoods which brings you closer to the country’s culture and you have a go-to local guide in your host. 

The best way to get to know a place is through a local, so why not live with one?

4. Look out for free transport 

Melbourne Free City Tram
Image credit: Visit Victoria


Depending on where you’re at, certain cities offer free transport at different times, for different ages, to certain locations.

Instead of hopping straight into an uber from the airport to the city, look out for free shuttle services. Some even do multiple drop-offs on the way into the city which may be closer to your accommodation. 

Look out for free-ride zones. Places like Melbourne offer free rides within select zones, and if you’re travelling with kids, places like London offer free transport for children under 11. 

Don’t underestimate the amount you can save on transport. It could cover a few of your meals. 

5. Check out the local tourism board of the country you’re visiting before leaving home 

Freebies from Taiwan Tourism Board (metro card)
Image credit: Jewels That Dance


In order to promote their country, tourism boards tend to have freebies on hand such as discounted/free transport cards and city passes with free access to key attractions. 

When you head down to the tourism boards, all you have to bring along is your passport and proof of flight. On top of gaining freebies, they’ll also be able to give you the latest updates on attractions and tips that sometimes even the locals might not know.

6. Find WiFi passwords on Foursquare/Swarm

Swarm location logging app
Image credit: The Sweet Setup


Many might not have heard of Foursquare or Swarm, but the social media platform used to have a strong following even before Instagram was launched. While most Singaporeans choose to “check-in” to a location on Facebook instead of Foursquare/Swarm, the location logging app is still widely used in order countries, and offer a wealth of user-based travel information.


Foursquare review
Image credit: Appx 4 fun


Once you’re checked-in a location, the system pulls up recommendations from users who have been to the same area. These include reviews on the best things to check out in the area, and things not as worth your time, and of course, many users share where to get free wi-fi in the area. Like wInstagramgram, Foursquare is also a great way to search for the best places to visit.

7. Plot your locations - on offline maps

Google maps
Image credit: Search Engine Land


If you already have some key places in mind that you would like to visit, plot them in google maps. It will give you a better view of where everything is situated, and help you better plan your routes, so you can maximise your trip.


Downloading offline areas on google maps
Image credit: idownloadblog


Another plus side is the offline map feature. If you’re in a place where mobile data is expensive, you don’t want to be leaving your GPS constantly on. Plot the places you want to visit and download the full area of interest. This will allow you to navigate from place to place without a data connection. The most updated version even allows you to share and list of saved places - this makes trip planning with friends much easier.


Points to note: 
- Downloading the whole area might take up quite a bit of storage space, so make sure you have ample space for the offline maps and your trip photos. 
- The map expires after 30 days. For the planner-types out there, remember don’t download it more than 30 days in advance.

8. Know where your local embassy is

Singapore High Commission in New Delhi
Image credit: Harshan Thompson


This is more of a safety precaution than a hack. It is good to know where your local embassy is located in the event that you lose your passport, or need to report a case. 

Keep these tips in mind while planning your next trip and make the most out of it. Safe travels! 


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