I have just done my first proper travelling since before the pandemic, visiting Singapore and Vietnam.
It was a great trip, and I was especially struck by how easy it was to make all the arrangements by mercilessly using apps on my smartphone.
To start with, I booked our long-haul flights on my phone, as the airline offered a small discount for using their app, which also checked us in at Heathrow (no queuing at the counter) and sent our boarding passes to our phones.
In Singapore, our COVID vaccinations were checked using the NHS app. We’d
booked our hotel using the Hotels.com app and our taxi came from the Grab. com app, the local Uber equivalent.
In the hotel, and many restaurants, the menu was visible only by our scanning a barcode app, which made it appear on our phones.
Next stop Vietnam. Sitting in our hotel room in Singapore, we used the Trip.com app to book flights, hotel and a car, to collect us from the airport. Trip.com
sent confirmations and boarding passes to our phones.
The owner of our Vietnamese hotel organised all our trips on his phone. I hope he got commission; he was very helpful, as was everyone there. To someone of my generation, with memories of the 1960s, it’s extraordinary that Vietnam is now a holiday destination. I shouldn’t be surprised – it is a very beautiful country. It’s also developing fast; my advice would be to see it sooner rather than later.
Back in Singapore, we had to change hotels mid-stay, which was again all arranged through the Hotels.com app.
Throughout our trip, all messaging and phone calls (worldwide) were done using WhatsApp (free, but smartphone required) and we read British newspapers every day, just as at home, on our phones. I also downloaded a book to read. The photos we took
with our phones were all stored online for later.
On the plane home (check-in and boarding passes all by phone, again), we could have used the onboard Wi-fi to
check our emails, but that seemed a step too far. We were on holiday, after all.
In short, apps ruled the roost. No paper was involved, no clipping tickets, no thick wadge of documents filling our wallets and no infuriating conversations with faraway call centres. It was all on the phone.
These clever digital developments come at a price. Smartphones are not cheap to own or run and if the battery goes flat, you are snookered. A portable power bank (a spare battery), with an appropriate lead, is important. I’d take two leads, as at least one will die or get left on a plane (both happened to me).
Please don’t make my other stupid mistake. I ran up a £75 bill on my phone in the first 12 hours before I discovered, buried deep in my provider’s website, that their charges in Singapore were ruinous. The answer is to buy a local SIM card for a few pounds and remove your British card.
That aside, it all went very smoothly – but then I am fairly adept at this sort of digital interaction. I worry that my experience may be a little disheartening for some Oldie-readers who have yet to get to grips with a smartphone in any depth, if at all, and may have no desire to.
I fear they will soon find themselves excluded from many opportunities, as the digital grip of modern life tightens around us.
Travel is already both more difficult and more costly for those without a smartphone and I’m afraid the situation will only get worse. Intrepid oldie travellers should master a smartphone.
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