Girls, listen up! It’s about time you transform your hapless tourist selves into a kickass travel ninjas. Sole Sister Julienne shares her 100% tried and tested travel hacks - from meeting cool local guides to avoiding financial awkwardness with your travel buddies.

1 Use Facebook to Find Friends in Any Given City

Did you know that you can find all your friends who live in any given city through Facebook? On the search bar, type: “friends who live in <<London>>” and voila! Facebook will display all your friends who have listed themselves as “currently living” in that city.

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I stumbled upon this feature last year when I booked a trip to Berlin barely knowing anyone there. Lo and behold, I found a couple of high school and college acquaintances in the city and got in touch with them. They were happy to meet up and show me around from the perspective of a local. I would never have experienced Berlin the way I did had it not been for them - my eyes were opened to what is now one of my favourite places in the world!

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Enjoying the Christmas markets with Tracy, who gave me an insight into her life in Berlin working for one of the world’s biggest internet companies

2 Underpack

Travel light and don’t make the mistake of filling up your suitcase (although this can prove to be quite the challenge in winter). Make sure you leave room for souvenirs, presents, and the inevitable purchases you will make! I have had to either leave or throw away things one too many a time to have learned this lesson well. I still need to return to Madrid at some point to retrieve my coat… and my heart… haha!

Pack Light - by Sole Sis Adi

3 Invest in a Local SIM Card

You think you can survive without turning on your roaming - we all do (after all, people survived without data once upon a time, didn’t they!) - but you’re wrong. At some point you’re going to be in an emergency situation wherein you can’t contact someone you need to meet, can’t find a place, the list goes on… and you will (in a panic) switch on your roaming or mobile data, triggering your bill to skyrocket to the moon. Still think that 10 euros for 1 gig wasn’t worth it? Think again. Plus, you can use your apps on the road, which leads me to...

4 Make the Most of Travel Apps

But of course don’t overdo it, we don’t want you with your eyes glued to your phone for the duration of your trip. Aside from the ubiquitous Couchsurfing or Airbnb, I’m talking about carpool/ridesharing apps like BlaBlaCar that can save you loads of money in lieu of taking the train or plane (especially during last minute trips).

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Inbox by Gmail automatically detects reservations sent to your e-mail 
and presents it in a visually clear manner

Other useful apps include currency converters, Google Translate (this has salvaged a few desperate situations), or food finders like FourSquare and Yelp (I mainly consult for restaurants). Even default apps like Calendar I find handy, not to mention Inbox by Gmail which automatically detects reservations sent to your e-mail and presents it in a visually clear manner.

5 Eat Local

If you're going to dine at a restaurant for every meal while traveling, you're sure to spend a fortune. Check if breakfast comes with your hotel/hostel booking. Even if it's just bread, jam, fruits and coffee, it's still one expense that you won't pay for, for every day of your trip. Lunch is usually cheaper than dinner in most restaurants, so take the opportunity to try out a local and well-recommended place. If you want to eat food with the freshest ingredients, stay close to the markets.

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Our due diligence rewarded in Lisbon - this was the only (absolutely fantastic) dish 
they served in the homey hole-in-the-wall

6 Calculate Shared Expenses via SettleUp

If you’re like me, and hate broaching the dreaded topic of money with your travel buddies, bite the bullet just once - at the beginning - and let that be the end of it. It would be best to download this app among your companions when travelling in groups.

My flatmate in Madrid introduced SettleUp to me as soon as I moved in, so that we could split our expenses fairly. The app conveniently eliminates the element of human error such as forgetting who paid for what, and when. You can even upload photos of your receipts if you want to be anal about it.

During nights out, my flatmate and I just kept all our receipts and logged it all in the next morning over hungover brunch!

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Two things we never fought about: money, and boys!

7 Give your Itinerary Breathing Room

Unless you’re an incurable OC, itineraries planned meticulously tend to stress you out when travelling. Rather than enable your trip to run smoothly, they pressure you to follow the schedule to a tee.

I would avoid this and instead make flexible lists of things to see and do, places to eat, etc., mapped out according to location. That way you can choose an area to focus on per day, and explore efficiently and leisurely without wasting too much time getting to and from different districts.

Spanish Class
Learning Spanish is fun!

8 Learn the Language

Even if you only learn a few basic phrases in the local language, it sure makes your trip easier and a lot more fun. Not only can you easily find your way around, you may find the locals friendlier and a lot more open to giving you their recommendations. 

If you're going to spend a long time in one country, consider learning the language with a group. Language study immediately puts you in a social classroom setting full of internationals in similar situations (I went to AIL Madrid and loved it).

9 Get the Best Deals on Accommodations

You're going to spend a big chunk of your budget on hotel bookings so it's best to get the full value for your hard-earned money. Try to book your trips during off-season when the demand is low and there are also fewer tourists to compete with. Make use of online travel agencies to compare prices such as Traveloka Philippines.

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Joining beach football with Catalans in Castelldefels

10 Meet the Locals

Everywhere I go, I make friends with locals. I would even suggest apps like Meetup (for activity-based interaction; read: yoga classes, hiking groups, language exchanges) or the infamous Tinder if you’re single! There’s a whole strategy to the latter, and you learn fast and create your own approach after a certain point of using the app. I never use this in Manila or Hong Kong where I’ve lived for a long time, but traveling I thought - I don’t know anyone here, why not?! 

Depending on the way you use it (and on the city as well), Tinder is not necessarily a hookup app.
And if you have time, are open-minded, and don’t mind learning via trial and error (and think the potential of meeting cool new people is worth the task of weeding out the bad ones) then I say **what's the harm in exploring what's out there?

Sole Sister Julienne - Malaga Spain13

Sole Sister Julienne of Morena Travels is a 27 year old Manila-but-not-so-Manila girl who's lived in Hong Kong for five years as an editor of a tourism magazine. She loves board games, adventures, getting lost in the great outdoors, karaoke, trying new things, dancing, good food, meeting amazing people and having intelligent conversations. Currently based between Manila and Hong Kong (but earlier this year between Madrid and Berlin, her two favourite cities in the world), Julienne is getting ready to hustle in the corporate world once again after over a year of travelling. Stay tuned for her latest at IG @morenatravels.

3 Responses so far.

  1. Same here, I use Tinder more as a travel app. I just used it in Myanmar and was able to meet a few locals and expats based there who showed me around.

  2. Fun diba! :) Wow Myanmar haven't been yet. How was it?!

  3. Lailanie says:

    Awesomeness overload! This post is both fascinating and helpful! I'll keep your travel tips for the next sojourn. Thanks!:D

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