With the tanking dollar and rising fuel costs, it’s getting harder and harder to find cheap fares out of the US these days. But not all markets are created equal. Airlines and travel agents base their prices on supply and demand; if they decide to cater to a particular country or region, often times the prices from that area will reflect it. As the New York Times recently reported, it can therefore be useful to try querying an off-shore search engine in addition to your favorite domestic website.
I’ve been doing this for a few years with mixed luck. What I’ve found is that with a little bit of patience and clever planning, one can frequently find competitive fares by searching on foreign sites. The difficulty is in finding the best engine and method suiting your needs; not all sites accept US-based credit cards nor are they in English. Occasionally, you’ll also have to deal with paper tickets and will need to find a foreign address to send them to. But these are small hurdles on your quest to dirt-cheap fares. A little research and patience and you’ll be well on your way to secret low-cost tickets from abroad.
Luckily, you have me to give you a head start. I’ve compiled a list of my top five favorite tools for finding good deals from foreign sites. Don’t forget to convert your currency!
As I reported earlier this week on Gadling, Zuji is a powerful tool built off the Travelocity engine, with the added benefit of broad flex searches. I’ve booked several mainland China flights through Zuji with no problem — just watch out for their added taxes at the end.
The British analog of kayak.com, kayak.co.uk (or kayak.fr or de.kayak.com) provides a similar fare search from a European perspective. As the NYT article mentioned, Paris-Nice flights researched on kayak.fr were generally cheaper than those found domestically.
There is a faint stench of Oribtz on the Opodo website, but when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of the operation, you can’t go wrong with the solid architecture on the site. I subscribe to the weekly fare deals coming from Opodo, and occasionally they come up with some competitive prices.
Travelprice only comes in two flavors, French and Dutch, but that just adds to the authenticity of the site. Pawing around the reservations page you’ll find a lot of the same options as in any other search engine (airport codes are always the same) and you should be able to find your itinerary after tinkering around for a few minutes.
If you’re traveling solely in Europe its also always handy to check the low cost carriers to see if any of them serve your route; most of their itineraries don’t show up on legacy travel search engines. Flylc has a comprehensive list of city pairs and the airlines that serve them, just click your departure and destination and you’ll see what carriers are available. I always cross reference flylc flights to the legacy carrier itineraries to see if there is a huge fare difference.