Want to know what the locals use to get their latest buzz, activities and restaurant recommendations? Here are useful links for travelling (not your usual TripAdvisor and LonelyPlanet websites).

Jump to:

Canadians Travelling Abroad:

  • Government of Canada’s Registration of Canadians Abroad Service
    • Register your name with the Government and stay up-to-date on advisories – threats, weather warnings and other travel advice regarding your destination country. They can contact you via your choice of text message or email.
    • This was first recommended to me by BañoCheng back when we went on our trip to Perú. I have since used it for Australia and Japan and have been informed of the 1) Sydney siege (I was in Melbourne at the time), and 2) typhoon warnings (while in Tokyo). The website provides other useful information as well. Thank you Government of Canada!

Visitors to Melbourne:

  • WeekendNotes [EVENT/FOOD]
    • Find out what to do on your weekends – events, festivals, activities, places, and free things to do. The locals use this site, travellers use this site, and I use this site. Highly recommended. Posts are written by the community and users can like articles.
  • TimeOut Melbourne [EVENT/FOOD]
    • Magazine news site on what to do in Melbourne. They are especially known for their restaurant recommendations.
  • HalfTixMelbourne  [EVENT]
    • Want a deal on the latest musical or cabaret show? HalfTixMelbourne lists discounts for on the day (or upcoming few days) shows. I’ve used this to watch Les Mis. Totally worth it! It also has a sister website LastTix.
  • Public Transport of Victoria [TRANSPORT]
    • Need to know what train or tram to take? Use PTV’s website to find timetables, schedules, and routes, and to top up your myki card.
    • Note: in Sydney, you can use Google maps quite reliably. It’s just not available in Melbourne (at least the time I was using it)
  • Zomato (formerly Urbanspoon) [FOOD]
    • Restaurants, cafés, etc. This one is more popular than Yelp

Visitors to Japan:

  • Google Maps [TRANSPORT]
    • In general, Google Maps have served me well. They now even tell you which cart to go in for fastest transfers!
    • If you are using the JR Rail Pass, you’ll want to make sure the suggested trains on Google Maps are included with your pass. The Nozomi and Mizuho services on the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen lines are NOT covered but because they are faster routes they show up at the top of the list. See Jorudan for alternative way to search.
    • Some trains (and carts) are Reserved Only, so you’ll want to make sure you reserve for those.
  • Jorudan [TRANSPORT]
    • Use Jorudan to find a route that works using local trains. To search (without an account), do not select your preferred trains. Leave it at default (“Prefer to Use Nozomi”).
  • HyperDia [TRANSPORT] – Update: I found Jorudan easier to use
    • Using the JR pass or some variant? Unable to take the Shinkansen and Google Maps won’t let you remove that option? Not to worry. HyperDia has the timetables and allows you to use advanced search to filter out options such as the Shinkansen (bullet train). It also breaks down the fares so you know how much each leg of the trip costs. (Available in English, Japanese and Chinese.)
  • Tabelog [FOOD]
    • Japanese Restaurant Guide. Multiple times, I have searched for restaurants and this site shows up. Even when a friend recommends a restaurant, she would send me a link to this website. So I’m guessing Japanese locals use this quite often. (Available in English, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean.)
  • Airalo [eSIM PHONE CARD]
    • Reliable data service. For my 2023 trip, I bought the 30 Days 5GB eSIM option for US $11.50. I used 3GB data in the 13 days I was there, taking advantage of WiFi when I was at hotels.
    • Use my referral code for US $3 off: TIFFAN9492 (new users only)

Driving in Japan

  • Mapion [TRANSPORT]
    • If you are renting a car, it’s best to search for all the GPS map codes for your destinations ahead of time.
    • Instructions in English by BumbleBeeMum

Visitors to Vancouver:

  • Translink [TRANSPORT]
    • Use Translink’s website to find timetables, schedules and routes using Greater Vancouver’s public transportation system. They also have a Twitter handle for interruptions, etc.
    • Bonus: if you have text messaging and are waiting at a bus stop, look for the bus stop number and bus number, message to 33333 to get the schedule for the next bus. It’s so useful when you’re at an intersection and need to determine which bus (east or south) is going to come sooner!
  • DailyHive (formerly VancityBuzz) [EVENT/FOOD]
    • similar to TimeOut for Australia, this website gives you news, events and activities happening around Vancouver. I read this from time to time, but I always feel I’ve missed out on things. If you know of any other websites that you use, let me know!
  • Yelp  [FOOD/MISC]
    • Reviews of everything – from restaurants, to hair salons, to dentists. Collaborated by the community, but reviews could be fake and written by competitors. Take it with a grain of salt.
  • OpenTable [FOOD]
    • Restaurant reservations. Great for couples/foodies who eat out a lot, you can book through OpenTable and earn points for gift cards to dinners.

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