Say you’ve decided to go on a holiday, where would you first start looking for information? Most of us have three resources to turn to:

1. A well-travelled acquaintance (who may also pass you their trusty lonely planet guide)
2. Travel focused television channels
3. The internet: travel blogs, online travel guides and travel forums

Much has changed since our ancestors first started sharing their travel experiences, from cave markings of hunter gatherers to the daily travel journals of Christopher Columbus; every generation inspiring the next to push their boundaries and explore the world. As travellers ourselves, we’re unwitting participants of this ancient tradition that is as old as language itself.

Thai Bus

Thai Tourist Bus groundzero02

Among the resources at our disposal today, I feel that travel forums perhaps hold the most value and is massively underutilized by travellers. I say so because the information gleaned from travel forums are dynamic, in that, you can tailor your questions to your individual needs and the community will respond within a matter of hours. In addition, you will already have access to wealth of information through the thousands of conversations already had in the past. What’s even better? Members in most of the travel forums are active and seasoned travellers whose primary incentive is too pass on their experiences and knowledge to fellow travellers. Also, moderators on the popular platforms are super-efficient and will ensure that discussions stay relevant and civil.

As such, I’ve put some of the popular travel forums through a simple test to see which one’s provide most value to the user.

Premise of the Test

1. Post a question that I genuinely wanted information to, so as not to waste the valuable time afforded to me by the forum members;
2. Post the same question on the same destination thread of all forums
3. Select a question that had not been discussed in detail in previous threads

Metrics Used for the Test

1. Speed of first response
2. Number of responses in the first 24 hours
3. Relevancy and tone of the responses (on a scale of 1-10)

The question posted was:

Is it possible to do the Southeast Asian mainland on a bus? I intend to take a 5 month break from work and I was wondering if it was possible to do the Southeast Asian mainland only through buses? Has anyone done it?

The thread selected to post the question was under Thailand, and for forums without Thailand the question was posted under Asia. Here are the results:

1. Tripadvisor (Thailand forum)

1st Reply within: 1 hour 13 minutes
Relevance (1-10): 8
# replies in 24 hours: 4

tripad pic

2. Lonely planet (Thailand Forum)

1st Reply: 2 hours 34 minutes
Relevance (1-10): 8
# replies in 24 hours: 3

3. Virtual Tourist (General forum)

1st Reply: 1 hour
Relevance (1-10): 9
# replies in 24 hours: 7

Virtual tourist

4. Travellerspoint (Asia forum)

1st Reply: 2 hrs 30mins
Relevance (1-10): 9
# replies in 24 hours: 3

travellerspoint

5. Travelfish (Thailand forum)

1st Reply: 2 hrs 18 minutes
Relevance (1-10): 10
# replies in 24 hours: 2

cambodia bus

Bus in Cambodia shankar s

6. Fodors (General Asia forum with Thailand tag)

1st Reply: 4 hours 7 minutes
Relevance (1-10): 9
# replies in 24 hours: 5

7. Rough guides (Thailand forum)

1st Reply: 1 response after 24 hours
Relevance (1-10): 7
# replies in 24 hours: 0

Here is the information gleaned from the responses in the first 24 hours after posting the question:

1. Yes, it is possible

2. Myanmar has certain restrictions in terms of getting in via land unless on a quick visa run

3. Thailand and Malaysia have good and reliable bus systems and roads

4. It is unsafe in general to take buses in Southeast Asia, particularly for night journeys

5. Laos and Cambodia is where the buses will mostly likely be uncomfortable and rickety

6. The weather dictates which routes are uncertain or unsafe

7. A combination of buses, minivans, trains and boats is the most efficient way to get around on land

8. There are certain places where you can only get access through a local bus

So there you have it, 7 of the best travel forums where your questions will get answered the fastest. This of course doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do additional research as travel forums primarily function to point you in the correct direction to get the information you seek.


 

 

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Anil likes devouring copious amounts of Pho Cuon in Hanoi, Momos in Kathmandu and Kachoris in Udaipur. When not eating, you will find him bungy jumping off bridges or listening to talks by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Alan Watts.