Anywhr Review: Is Surprise Travel For Everyone?

By Owen / July 17, 2018

Would you ever pack your bags and head to the airport without knowing where you’re flying to?

Would you be fine letting go of control and let someone else plan your trip for you?

Could you handle that excitement, tension and surprise?

I recently got to try out Anywhr after hearing (and talking) so much about it. Disclaimer: I’ve spoken to the owners and have some insider knowledge, but I paid full price for my trip and this piece is entirely my own opinion.

anywhr review

Anywhr Surprise Travel 

Anywhr is a surprise travel company that plans your trip according to your preferences, without letting you know the destination. You can choose to know it either one week before or at the airport. It is the first such company in Asia and the under-2-year-old startup proudly operates in Singapore.

According to the company, Anywhr “was started with a mission to send travellers to explore less-visited destinations, and make new discoveries on your personalized journey”.

The three elements that Anywhr promises are: surprise, less-visited destinations and personalization.

Booking a trip is simple; the website (www.anywhr.co) is pretty and user-friendly. Illustrations of cute llamas, customer reviews and a FAQ help to make the whole experience seamless.

Anywhr Booking Process

First, you choose the airport you’re flying out from. Presently, Anywhr serves internationally but the menu only shows Asian airports. I’m guessing you could send them a message via the live-chat if you’re flying from other continents.

Then, it comes the fun part. There are 3 themes you can choose from:

  • Adventure – For the trekkers and adrenaline-seekers, the mountain and waterfall lovers, the explorers who enjoy getting lost.
  • Experience – For the travellers who want to meet locals and experience the culture, perhaps try a homestay or eat some local delicacies.
  • Getaway – For the ones who just want to relax on the beach, soak in a hotspring or just anything that brings them away from the city life.

It’s like choosing your first Pokemon when you’re younger. It’s tough! If you can’t decide which theme you’d like, or you want a mixture of themes, there’s the wildcard option. If only there’s such an option back in the Pokemon games…

anywhr-themes

There are 3 budget tiers too: budget, regular and luxurious. The differences are the type of accommodations (hostel or hotel), check-in luggage allowances, and airport transfers. These are not set in stone though, as you’ll see later.

The final price depends on the number of days, any add-ons and special requests. All Anywhr trips are insured by PolicyPal, but you can buy more coverage.

After submitting payment, you’ll receive an email to fill in your preferences. This is where you can type in any special requests or sob stories so that the Anywhr team can cater the trip to your situation (you wouldn’t want to go to a romantic destination if you just broke up, right?)

The more important details to let the team know are:

  • Places you’ve visited recently
  • Places you don’t want to visit
  • Upcoming trips
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    Dietary preferences
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    Single or multi-city
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    Rural areas or not
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    Other preferences (for example, I told the team my partner and I like mountains and waterfalls and we didn’t get disappointed)

So, for the almost-trippers who are worried that Anywhr would send you to a place you have already been to, there you go – you can opt out of some places.

This form is what makes trips so interesting. By looking through the social media posts and listening to stories from travellers, I learnt that Anywhr had sent groups of friends on hen and stag parties, proposal trips, break-up trips, first-time solo trips, handicapped travellers and had done the necessary liaisons to prepare the big event in advance.

So, this is where you should tell them exactly what you want! Don’t worry if you want to surprise your partner as each of you would receive a separate preference form to fill up.

anywhr surprise

The booking process is this simple. The price you pay takes care of the destination, flights, accommodations, visas, travelogue, $30 worth of local currency and any special requests. You just sit back, relax and get ready to be surprised.

The Anywhr team also does its best to maximize the time you’ll spend on your vacation. They asked if we were okay to report at the airport the night before for a midnight flight, aka more time in the country. Of course, if time doesn’t permit, they’ll look for a new flight – all to your preferences.

Three days later, you’ll receive a teaser email to inform you of the weather at the destination, what to pack and which terminal and the check-in time (not flight time) to report at. You’ll also receive any good news if budget allows, in my case: a free flight upgrade and baggage check-in.

anywhr-teaser-email

Receiving this teaser email was one of the most exciting feeling I had.

To be honest, you could try guessing your destination with the reporting time and weather by checking flight timings, but where’s the fun in it?

According to the website, you’ll receive your Anywhr mail one week before your flight. You can choose to open it upon receiving it or to open it at the airport.

Mine didn’t arrive. I sent an email and was told the mail was sent out 13 days in advance. They gave me the postal tracking number and I called Singpost to ask for it. Singpost admitted it was their fault and expedited the process for me. I received the mail 2 days before the trip.

It didn’t matter for me though – I planned to open it only at the airport.

Anywhr Review

anywhr travel review

Opening the Anywhr mail and finding out your destination is even more exciting than receiving the teaser email. Imagine the excitement I had upon finding out that with a budget of $600 and only 5 days, my surprise destination isn’t in Southeast Asia and that I was flying on an Emirates flight!

So much value for money!

The Anywhr mail contains the local currency, postcards, any bus/train tickets (depending if budget allows) and the iconic pink travelogue. I’ve also seen – on social media - birthday and congratulation cards.

The travelogue is the guidebook that contains all the information of your trip: the overall route of your trip nicely drawn out, flight information, accommodation information, nearest money changer, food and activity suggestions, missions to complete and practical tips & tricks.

reading-anywhr-travelogue

On the first page of the travelogue, it writes that Anywhr believes that “you should forgo detailed itineraries and recycled holidays” and instead, their mission is for travellers to get exploring and interacting with people, and perhaps discover a hidden gem known only to locals – hence the promise to less-visited destinations. No Bali or Bangkok.

Having said that, they do recommend 3 activities to do and 3 foods to try in each city. Personally, I think that’s how travelling should be. Yes, you should go to a place knowing what’s there to do, but throughout my travel experience, the best places are usually from word of mouth and unplanned discoveries, not from a guidebook.

If you are worried of not knowing what to do, Anywhr also has 8 missions you can complete to exchange for perks like a free flight upgrade and free night stay on your next trip. These missions force you to go explore and interact with people.

anywhr-missions

For example, one of the mission is “Have a meal with the locals. Conversation required.”

Another is to “get lost while immersed in local sights” and also to “make friends with locals while on public transport”.

I must admit, these missions made us want to get out of bed and forced us to interact with locals. I guess it’s a good thing.

anywhr-caves

I would also like to point out the differences between personalization and a concierge service. Anywhr promises personalization – and I got it:

  • I indicate a love for the mountains and waterfalls, and the destination I went had both.
  • The travelogue had cheeky references to myturntotravel.com. For instance, on the destination page, “venture into the unexpected – it’s now your turn to travel.” On the final page, “we can’t wait to see your photos on myturntotravel.com ;)”.
  • Knowing that I am going with a girl, one of the tips & tricks is: “Destination X has a culture of treating the ladies well. Don’t sia suay.”
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    And a bonus mission: “Hit a new “peak” in your relationship while on XX Peak.” We did.
anywhr-personalization

I’m sure if you have dietary preferences, the food recommendations would be personalized to you and not a general suggestion. Likewise, if you plan to propose, I’m sure they would recommend a romantic beachside restaurant or a mountain-view resort.

On the other hand, expecting a concierge service would be expecting a restaurant reservation, them arranging a spa treatment for you, or a car waiting for you everywhere you go. This is totally not in accordance with Anywhr’s mission and you might want to set your expectations right before booking a trip.

My impression of the travelogue is that it is beautifully designed, has practical tips and suggestions, but there are some minor typos and inconsistencies; no major errors that would screw up our trip.

anywhr-mountains

Regarding the destination Anywhr sent us, my partner and I were both happy with it. It is a lovely place and we had a room with beautiful mountain views (although it is a little walk to town). We hiked breathtaking mountains and visited waterfalls. The train journey and town is filled with tourists but is still relatively less-visited among Singaporeans.

With our budget option, we had to make our way from the airport to the train station and buy the tickets on our own expenses. The travelogue gave us clear and detailed instructions – down to the transport options, prices and train timings.

anywhr-train-tracks

I heard from a friend that Anywhr was thoughtful enough to book a place for him to rest for a couple of hours before catching a long-distance bus to the next city. It sounds easy but you actually have to book the room for the previous night and pay full price for it. We didn’t have this luxury but I believe the budget was spent on the upgraded flight and accommodation we had (private room instead of shared dorms in hostels).

One down side to a concept like Anywhr is that you can't really do multi-day treks since they've booked accommodation for you. And throughout my one-year adventure in South America, I've noticed that multi-day treks bring you to the most beautiful places on Earth.

Perhaps that will change in the future, but right now, Anywhr is more suited for a short vacation. ​

Some things to note:

  • Booking with more people gives Anywhr more budget for better flights and accommodation. Solo travellers have it the worst in terms of value-for-money.
  • A longer trip and higher budget give you more chances to be sent to a further destination. I've seen travellers being sent to Europe - but don't expect that if you book a 4-day trip.
  • Anywhr claims that you wouldn't spend more than 15% of your total time on travelling - which includes flight, transits, ferry and train rides. Even then, we felt that we spent a long time on the train ride.
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    Don't expect cool weather on a short trip because you're most likely going to Southeast Asia... and you know how the weather here is like.

All in all, our Anywhr trip was a great experience and it was value-for-money, but it is not for everyone.

here's a glimpse of my Anywhr trip and the destination I was​ sent to

Who Anywhr is NOT for:

  • Anywhr is not for the absolute barebone backpackers. If you're used to couchsurfing, hitchhiking, sleeping in $7 shared-dorms and cooking tasteless pasta to extend your travel, you might find that Anywhr is comparatively expensive - even on the budget tier. No shame in doing all that, I did that on long term travel too. Even now, I feel the pinch when booking an Anywhr trip.
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    Anywhr is not for those who can’t see the value in experiences. Yes, you can probably book your flights and accoms much cheaper, but that’s not what you’re paying for. You can buy a piece of beef steak in the supermarket and cook it yourself, but why do you still go to a steakhouse? Likewise, you’re paying for the surprise element, expertise, personalization, support and convenience.
  • Anywhr is not for those who need absolute control. You can open the Anywhr mail and find out your destination beforehand to be prepared, but if you are the type that requests to change your accommodation even before leaving home, then this is not for you. Why would you even let others book your trip for you?
  • Anywhr is not for those who can’t handle surprises (good and bad). It’s a surprise trip after all! Anything could happen in a foreign country. Even though Anywhr only sends travellers to safe destinations and have their hotline available 24/7, you’re still physically alone. If you need to be led by the hand at all times, and have everything under control, perhaps joining a tour group is better for you.
  • ban
    Anywhr is not for those that wants a concierge service. They provide personalization, but not be your bell-boy or masseuse.

So, after reading this review and still think you’re game for a surprise trip? Head over to Anywhr to book your trip now!

Who knows, you could surprise yourself and come home with a girlfriend like I did.

anywhr-reviews

Yes, I am biased, because I had a positive experience. It seems like it's impossible to have a good experience and sharing about it without being labelled 'sponsored'. Anywhr follows up with their travellers and interviews them if they have a story to tell. Through these conversations, one gets to know the company better and naturally, likes the people and tend to write good reviews. For the sceptics, watch this video.

And now, it’s your turn.

Prescilla - July 19, 2018

Hi. Great write up! See that your experience has been great. Saw your pictures on instagram too.

Just to share my experience here. I went with Anywhr a couple of months back. Yes it was fun, interesting and exciting. Especially the surprise element and destination x where I have not been to (or rather never heard of). But it wasn’t really as good as what you have mentioned.

I paid more than you for a 4 day trip, on budget flight to a Southeast Asia country.
Maybe you are a blogger, hence Anywhr is giving you a better deal?

As for the personalised part, I don’t really agree. Example, I did mention that I cannot take hot weather, but I was sent to destination x at 37 degrees.

And information provided in the travel guide was not accurate. Example, it stated money changing service available at hotel but the reception staff rejected me, saying no SGD accepted.

And the hotel booked for me was a good 20 min walk to the beach when there are nicer and cheaper accomodations nearer to the beach area though.

    Owen - July 19, 2018

    Hi Prescilla,

    Thanks for your comment. I’m not trying to defend Anywhr but based on my travel experience here’s what I can think of:

    First off, I’m not an influential blogger at all. I’m pretty sure you’ve not heard of me and I have less than 1000 followers on Instagram, half of them my friends. So I doubt it mattered. I’m not sure why you paid more since the price is fixed. What I can think of is that a two person trip offered much more budget for a better deal. We are two person yet we get the same amount of local currency as you. We get one room instead of two (if you think logically, we should get two). All these money ‘saved’ was spent on upgrading our flight and choosing a better destination.

    Edit: You mentioned ‘hotel with money changer’. I think you went on a regular tier trip. I went on a budget trip, that’s why I paid less.

    Another thing is the timing you booked. We booked one month in advance and this gave them time to look for better flight deals. Of cos, if someone books last minute, the deal is gonna be shitty. Also, I’m not sure where you went but the weather can change from the time they checked to the time you arrive. For our trip, it was freezing the day we arrived (in the afternoon) and the other days were hot as hell. Who’s to blame? Anywhr or Mother Nature?

    If you have only 4 days, chances are you went to an ASEAN country. If you went recently, it is summer time. Where do you think you can get cool weather in ASEAN during summer time?

    Both of us combined have travelled pretty much the whole of ASEAN, perhaps that’s why they sent us somewhere else even if that meant they earned less. Come to think of it, I wonder what they earn from my trip lol.

    I agree there are some typos and inconsistencies in the travelogue. But they were not wrong in saying there’s a money changing service at the hotel even if they do not accept SGD. Most money changers accept USD. I’m not sure why you bring SGD out.

    My hotel was rather far from the town too and I feedback to them, but it had awesome mountain views. You can’t really have the best of both worlds.

    Like I mentioned in my post, Anywhr (and surprise travel in general) is not for everyone. Kudos to you for trying it out. But I’m not sure what you’re trying to achieve here. Are you trying to dissuade others to try out an experience that you got to try? Are you trying to discredit Anywhr? Or are you hoping to get a refund back?

    My cousin and his girlfriend went on an Anywhr trip in the early days of the company’s concept (last year) and he had an unpleasant trip, probably worse than yours, but he still encouraged me to try it out instead of dissuading me. I can assure you that much has changed since those early days.

    My blog is all about inspiring others to try out new things and go and travel. Even if the experience is not perfect, I think it’s still worth a try.

    Lucy - October 2, 2018

    I felt like i had a worst experience with them to be honest.

    I paid for a regular tier trip and they sent me to a hotel that felt worst than hotel 81. To slightly elaborate further on the hotel that I was sent to, the doors cannot be locked properly, the bathroom door is broken, as in there’s a hole where the doorknob should be. And the bed sheets reeked of smoke smell and stains and cigarettes butt holes everywhere.

    We also realized that the hotel provides “escorts” services as we saw a few of them asking for business in the lobby. We are 2 female travelers in case you are wondering our profile.

    When we called to explain to them that we were really uncomfortable in such a “hotel” which costs $16 a night we later found out, they proposed to relocate us to another hotel that seemed worst than this. We had to pay for another hotel that is about $70 a night (which we find totally reasonable for the regualr package we paid) but they told us that this budget is reserved for the luxury tier.

    It was really a horrendous experience.

    I agreed that the information in the travel guide was also far from accurate. We received 3 pictures in the guidebook that was obviously copied and pasted from the first Google image of that place and no directions or whatsoever to get there. We spend a day trying to figure that out. Now tell us about how was that efficient for a short 4D3N trip.

    The place that was recommended to us was far that it was actually part of another larger island that was more touristy. We got the impression that we were made to stay at this more remote island just so that the “hidden gem” idea was fulfilled but to no value added.

    Sad to say we were immensely disappointed.

    So, to be honest, with the trip you had, I think they probably did google you up to see that, while you might not be an influential blogger, but still yield a significant enough group of audience.

    But well, i do agree that people should go out there and try out these experiences on their own. i don’t know, maybe from a better platform?

Bonnie (43BlueDoors) - July 23, 2018

What a cool trip! This sounds like a great idea for someone who just needs a vacation with no time to plan. That would have been me when I was in the corporate world

I love the surprise element as well, very exciting.

Congratulations on coming home with a girlfriend!

    Owen - July 23, 2018

    Thanks Bonnie! Hope you’re doing well on your trip! Saw the favela story, exciting!

Alex - August 30, 2018

This is totally a sponsored writing. No doubt about it.

    Owen - September 6, 2018

    Lol, sorry to break it to you, it isn’t. I actually paid for the trip and wrote it on my own accord. Anywhr doesn’t sponsor any bloggers or influencers (have you seen any sponsored posts about Anywhr on Instagram, except their own ads?). In fact, I tried to get an affiliate deal with them AFTER this post is published, but they refused.

    It helped me get views to my blog so mission accomplished.

Audrey - November 5, 2018

I just came back from my anywhr trip today for 4d3n.

Read from your blog, “Anywhr claims that you wouldn’t spend more than 15% of your total time on travelling – which includes flight, transits, ferry and train ride” – Hell no, we had 2 flights to take, a taxi ride, a ferry + a boat ride – our flight was 845am and we only reached abt 6/7pm. We only went for 4 days & 2 days were basically spent on travelling. We were so exhausted and frustrated when we reached, I even have to pop down 2 panadols. Anw, we opted for getaway, not sure why we felt more like a torturing trip. Lol.

We requested for a cooler weather but we got sent to somewhere hot as well!

Same from one of the traveler above, we also decided to book our own resort since thehostel they booked for us was pretty cmi but we are cool with it.

We had problem checking in on day 1 at the airport but we cldnt reach anyone from anywhr. Like 2 lost monkeys infront of the airline staff. Ok, they did call back after a long time, but we have alr solved it with the airline, whats the point of hving the emergency hotline then?

& for 1 of our transfers, we had to take a speed ferry. 90% of their reviews were bad and of cos we are worried, hence, we did inform anywhr, they did assure us everything will be fine but the ferry came very late, we had to stand under the hot sun to wait, ferry was overcrowded, we were supposed to hv a seat each but all i had was a small cushion on the ferry- boy it was dangerous, i dont even have anything to hold on to! 🙁

Would i sign up for anywhr again? The ans is no. But still, to each his own and individual’s opinion.

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