Unfortunately, traveling is not a low-priced activity but we can take a couple of measures to cut the costs to a minimum taking into account simple rules of thumb.
If we follow the rules we present here, we will make sure that we are not overpaying or paying an unfair price for the travel services we are looking for. And I use WE here because this is exactly what we here at ZAbroad do when booking flights.
Flights tickets are the most important aspect of traveling as it is usually the biggest expense. Here are a few tips that will help you to find cheaper flights to Asia or any other part of the world from South Africa:
1. FIRST THINGS, FIRST: CHECK ONLINE!
Do not waste your time or energy going anywhere or to anyone to find the cheapest fares. The Internet is the way to go! If you do not have access to the net or you do not know how to get around, get somebody to give you a hand. You can do it at any coffee house or restaurant, you do not need the fastest internet to book your flights. You only need time. Shop around and compare prices.
2. SEARCH MACHINES
If you are thinking of just googling it, you will get a long list with multiple websites and search machines. It will be pretty difficult to decide which one to go for. There are important differences in prices; ranging from 100s-1000s of Rands for the exact same flight.
Our first choice is skyscanner.net (note that we do not get any sponsorship or incentive from them. If we did, we would tell you about it). In our opinion, skyscanner.net is the best flight search machine; one of the most important aspects is that it gives you the possibility to scan the cheapest fares of the year at the time of searching, so you can organise your trip around those dates.
Another search machine we like is momondo.com.
Once you have a particular flight in mind, go to the airline's website and compare it with their price directly. More often than not, you will see that the search engine's flight is cheaper, but every now and again, you get lucky. You cannot go wrong with any of this websites as they link you with cheap ticket website providers and cover airlines all over the world, including the Low Cost ones.
3. BE FLEXIBLE!
When flying to Asia or any other part of the world you have to make sure that the demand for certain flights is low. The higher the demand, the higher the price. If you are not flexible with your dates and have to fly when the demand is high, you will pay a pretty penny just to get there, not to talk about accommodation.
Keep in mind that other variables such as the the actual day and flight time affect the price of your tickets. Consider the following before booking and try to look for flights; from Tuesdays to Thursdays and in the early morning or late afternoon/night tickets are usually slightly cheaper - particularly shorter distance flights. As you can imagine, people want to arrive on Thursday/Friday to enjoy a weekend in their destination. We usually prepare to fly on a Tuesday. The shorter the flight time, the more expensive - convenience is going to cost you.
Find out when demand is lowest using the skyscanner.net option for the cheapest month of the year or cheapest day in the month and start planning your trip saving thousands of Rands.
4. SEARCH FOR FLIGHTS IN INCOGNITO OR PRIVATE BROWSING
In order to avoid this situation, each time you are looking for a new flight, you can open a new incognito browser window where no information will be tracked and no pumped up prices will appear in your search results.
Look at the pictures to find out how to get a new incognito window in the most popular broswers:
5. USE LOW COST AIRLINES!
Low cost airlines have become a reality and a very valid option to traditional more expensive airlines even for long-haul flights. It is obvious that there are a couple of compromises we have to live with but, if you are ready to rough it up a little bit, certainly an excellent value for money. The common issue with low cost airlines is that they give you the absolute basic service - a seat on a plane. No luggage, no food, not even water. Everything is available at a small extra price. Book your luggage well in advance. The closer to the time, the more expensive. They are usually also extremely precise with luggage restrictions with penalties well over what you initially would have paid for the few kgs of luggage extra.
Just a word of advice: do not forget to read the fine print before finalising your booking and always check the following:
1. On-board baggage allowance and extra fees for checked-in baggage
2. Credit/debit card fees and other money transfer fees
3. Airport location & terminal location - in Asia the low cost terminals are often located far away or it might be a different airport altogether (for example Airasia and Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2). This is also the case in Italy (Fiumicino and Champino) & Paris (De Gaulle & Paris Orly). You often fly into one airport and out of another.
4. Do not forget to print your own ticket at home, most of the Low Cost Airlines charge extra fees for printing your ticket directly at the check-in desk. Airasia have their own printing machines at the airport, do not forget to take your reservation number or reservation barcode with you.
The absolute king of the castle in Asia is airasia.com. The website is pretty neat and user friendly. The leg room is “fair” for flights between two or three hours, food and drinks are cheaply priced and emergency exits, if you need more leg room, can be booked for less that $15 depending on the route. Furthermore, if you want to fly in style, you can check their specials on Premium Flatbed; it is possible to fly from Thailand to Korea for less that $250 on a flatbed seat including all goodies that come with the fare.
Definitely the best value for money! You cannot go wrong booking with them.
Other Low Cost airlines in Asia you should know about are:
· Jeju Air
· Nok Air
6. WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO BOOK?
Most people will tell you that you should book “as early as possible” but it depends on how “early” we are talking about. If you already know what you are going to do in 12 moths, it is not intelligent to book too early as airlines do not know the real demand of the flight at that time. It is true that tickets, in general, do not get cheaper as your departure date comes closer but nine to six months prior departure will give you a clear picture of your flight's demand and will help to make and intelligent decision. You can start monitoring flight prices earlier and sign for alerts in any of the suggested flight search machines on section 2.
7. CHECK STUDENT DISCOUNTS!
If you are a student or under 26 look for student discounts or head to STA travel for interesting offers.
8. CHECK WITH A TRAVEL AGENT TOO!
Do your homework online first, as we indicated above point 1, and try to find the cheapest flight available. With this fare in hand go to a reputable travel agent and check, if they can get a better deal for you. Sometimes, travel agents are able to match or even beat (not very often though) online prices due to sales volume and reduced rates. Remember that they need to earn their wages too, so there might be extra service fees/costs involved. As a general rule of thumb, we avoid any sort of "package" deals - no matter how good they are, money has to pass through several hands here and at the destination which means you could do the same itinerary for less money by cutting out the middleman or -men! However, if you are not an independent traveler, the safety of an agent might save you a lot of stress; yet another thing money can buy!
9. LET'S US KNOW!
Feel free to add any other tips/tricks or share your experiences booking flights (especially to Asia).