Blog # 4 (2 April 2017)
Practical Hints: How to Get the Necessary Information for your Travel?
Living at home is easy: You know where to return to from work in the evening; where to withdraw money; where to buy food;, where to drop your dirty laundry and you (most likely) have fast internet all the time ….
When travelling as an “overlander” situation is different: One is constantly on the search where to safely park the mobile home at night or where to pitch up the tent; where to find an ATM machine when running out of money, a shop to recharge the prepaid SIM card or a place with reasonable internet connections. Beyond that one wants to know what is worth seeing and which areas better to avoid in the region where you are travelling; which road to take; where to get fuel…. With other words, you are constantly on the search of essential information to base some relatively important decisions on.
The classical tools to plan your travel are travel guide books and they still are extremely useful - I traditionally use the Lonely Planet series. While these books are a great source re general planning of your travel, the key sights and which hotel to choose, they – naturally - are pretty useless to solve the everyday problems of somebody who is camping or caravanning. In addition, you more or less end up going there where everybody else goes.
The best sources of information for these kind of info is the local population. In addition, many of the not so well know places I visited were pointed out to me by local residents. Similar important is the information you get from other travellers, in particular those who travel the opposite direction. You meet them on the way or search their travel blogs. They have the same needs as you and the info you receive from them very often is only a few days old.
In the last two decades, the internet has become a key tool to address the day-to-day problems of travellers. I contacted some of the other travellers I meet during the past weeks and these are the key websites / applications they use (big thanks to all who responded!):
www.ioverlander.com (free of charge and also available as application for your smart phone) is THE key tool used. It is a platform where travellers upload information (campsites, restaurants, free WiFI, ATM machines, road conditions, sights, mechanics…) basically everything which is useful for your travel. ioverlander also works in areas where you have no phone signal (which unfortunately happens pretty often).
Maps.me is widely used in addition to paper maps. It is free of charge and the advantage compared with Google maps is that it also works offline. You just always need to download the respective map of your area and in combination with the GPS function of your smart phone it is a pretty useful tool for your navigation. You can also apply it in combination with ioverlander.
For road navigation TomTom and NAVIGATOR (Mapfactor with free of charge OSM maps) are widely used by overlanders.
In order to access these sources of information well-functioning communication tools are essential. I always buy a prepaid SIM of the country where I am travelling. Make sure you chosea provider which has good coverage in the areas you want to visit.
Having a mobile phone with dual SIM I can use my Austrian mobile number in parallel to the local SIM card which is cost affective and useful if you use WhatsApp . In addition I carry an extender (a little antenna) in order to be able to access WiFi also from a distance. In the countries I travelled in the past months city squares, restaurants, hostels, gas stations normally have free Wifi.
As an emergency-backup I also carry a satellite phone and a Spot 3-tracker (https://www.findmespot.eu/gm/index.php?cid=100) for areas where there is no phone coverage.
For communication most of us use Skype, FaceTime, Messenger, WhatsApp, Facebook or Instagram.
I hope that some of the info was useful. Please share with me in case you know other programs or devices which can make travelling easier.