From finding great deals on flights to communicating across language barriers, we rely on technology every day while we travel. I’ve seen bloggers recommend to leave your smartphone behind when you travel, but to me that seems like a bad idea. Having our phones with us has allowed us to travel cheaper, easier and more safely. Here are the best travel apps that you need to download for your next trip!
Our phones have gotten us out of some tricky situations – they found us cabs in the middle of nowhere, hospitals when we have had emergencies, and routed us back to our hotel when we got lost in a strange place. Without them we wouldn’t be able to communicate as easily with our friends and family and feel closer to home (Whatsapp is a godsend when you’re away!). As long as you insure your phone and use it discretely when you’re out at night, it will make your travels a lot easier and help out in stressful situations.
While you’re getting prepared for your trip, check out these other helpful posts;
- Backpacking Essentials Checklist: Packing Guide For All The Gear You Need
- Backpacker Visa Guide To South East Asia
- Backpacker Travel Vaccinations Guide For South East Asia
- The Cheapest Way To Fly From Europe To South East Asia
Only available on iOS
Created by fellow travel bloggers Never Ending Voyage this app is everything you need to stick to your budget while you travel. It’s one of the best travel apps I’ve discovered since we left!
You can create a different ‘wallet’ for each country and set your local currency using live exchange rates. Enter your daily budget and add your expenditure under different categories: Accommodation, Transport, Food, Alcohol, Laundry etc. You can add your own categories so you can make it as detailed as you like.
The home page of the app will tell you how you’re doing today, how you’re averaging out for the trip and then the data view will tell you where you’re spending most of your money. You can see at a glance where your money is going and any spending habits you need to fix.
If you travel abroad, even for short trips, you should definitely have a travel debit card. These handy cards can save a fortune over time in fees and exchange rates. Our favourite is the TransferWise card, and we use the app almost every day. If you don’t already have a TransferWise card then sign up for one here.
Banks often charge fees for using your debit card abroad, and also don’t offer the best exchange rates when you withdraw money or pay for goods. Travel cards will skip or reduce these fees and offer you great rates, so they’re a no brainer for anyone who likes to travel. With debit cards being accepted more widely around the world, travel cards mean you won’t need to carry a lot of cash on you.
You simply transfer money from your current account into your TransferWise account and convert it into the local currency at great rates. Then withdraw cash at an ATM or pay for things by card as you would usually. The card is a Mastercard so it is accepted at most ATMs and payment terminals.
The TransferWise app allows you to manage your money and track your spending. You can transfer money between your accounts, or to other people – in any currency you like. If you have the TransferWise card, then definitely get the app to manage your money!
Language barriers can make travelling tough, and we’ve found it hard sometimes when we had to give directions to a taxi driver, order food in a rural town, get directions from local people, or tell servers about Tim’s food allergies. Google Translate makes it so much easier by providing voice and photo translation as well as text translation.
With voice translation we are able to have full conversations with locals when neither of us speak the other’s language. Click the microphone icon and speak or ask someone to speak into the phone and it will translate the conversation for you. In some places we found that people weren’t able to read so instead of showing them the translation the app would speak it to them. Honestly, it’s a must have!
Photo translation comes in really helpful when you’re eating out, or checking ingredients on packaging if you have allergies. Take a photo of the text with the app and it will translate the words for you. We used this feature daily in Japan as most menus are in Japanese characters which we can’t read. If you’re not in central Tokyo your server will have no idea how to translate for you so we depended on the app anytime we needed to eat.
Travelling can be a great opportunity to grow your mind and learn a new language. Not only will it make it easier to get around, but it also gives you an insight into the culture of the country you’re going to, and will endear you to the locals.
Duolingo is my go-to app for learning a new language. The lessons are short, so you can easily fit them into your day, and they’re structured to allow you to learn at your own pace.
I highly recommend doing the Japanese course if you’re heading to Japan, and the Spanish course if you’re going travelling in Central/South America.
At the moment the app offers 33 languages for you to learn, and is completely free – although you can upgrade for extra features. New languages are being added all the time, so if you can’t see the one you’re looking for then check back later.
This is my go-to accommodation booking app. I’ve tried every other site and app but this is the easiest one to use and the only one that gives you the total price of your stay up front.
Booking.com gives you free cancellation on most hotel rooms up to 24 hours before your stay which allows you to be flexible with your plans, but with the security of a booking. You can check on the hotel listing if it offers cancellation, or set a filter to only return cancellable hotels.
Since we book 2-3 hotels a week and pretty much all on Booking.com, I have a system for how I find a place to stay:
- I decide which area I want to stay in before I look on Booking.com. Putting ‘Bangkok’ into the app is a surefire way to get overwhelmed by choice and give up. Research which areas you want to stay in and search for the street name or area instead – like ‘Khao San Road’ or ‘Sukhumvit’. Knowing the city you want to go to also rules out ending up in a hotel that looks really nice, cost hardly anything but is miles away from everything.
- I set my price filters, usually setting both a floor and ceiling if it’s a really cheap country or just a ceiling in an expensive country.
- I set any other filters I have: the star rating (usually I go with 7+ and see what the prices are like, then move up to 8),
- bed preference (I choose ‘double beds only’ if I don’t want a dorm room), check in times (if we arrive super early we won’t want a 3pm check in), plus any extra facilities I want.
- I sort the results by deals first to see if there are any last minute deals on (I usually book last minute as you can save so much money by doing this).
- If there are no deals I sort by the cheapest price.
At this point you should only have a handful of options so read the reviews and see which one has the vibe, location and facilities that you’d like.
Don’t forget to review your stays so you can become a Booking.com Genius and get extra discounts and added perks like late checkout, early check in and a free welcome drink.
If you’re sick of hostel dorms and want to stay somewhere more homely then check out Airbnb. You can reserve a single room, or an entire house on this app – sometimes even cheaper than local hostels! In Bali in particular there are some great deals to be found, and in Sri Lanka we saved a lot of money by using the app.
The best thing about the Airbnb app is that it’s easy to search for properties on the map view. This allows you to zoom right into a particular street or attraction you would like to be near, and search for places to stay nearby. You can read all about the host of the property you will be staying at, and see reviews from other visitors to find out their experience.
The best thing about Airbnb is that it doesn’t just offer standard rooms, you can stay in treehouses, beach huts, camper vans, giant bubbles, and even sheep wagons for the night! Here are some of the most unique listings on Airbnb.
You can now book local experiences on the app, like cooking classes, zip lining, hiking and tours. They have recently added a restaurants section here too so you can find great places to eat on your trip.
If you haven’t used Airbnb before, you can book your first room using this link and save $25.
Ever been stuck with a non-refundable room reservation, but your plans have changed and you can’t make it? That’s where Roomer comes in. Instead of losing your money to cancellation fees and non-refundable rates, sell your reservation to a fellow traveller and recoup your money.
On the flip side, you can use Roomer to snap up great deals on hotels by buying other travellers’ reservations for much cheaper rates than Booking.com or Agoda.
If you’re in the low-to-mid-budget traveller bracket, you can stay in some really fancy hotels for a fraction of the price by using this app. If you are travelling to an expensive city like Singapore or Dubai, you can find decent accommodation that doesn’t break the budget. There are some incredible hotels in Dubai on there over 50% cheaper than the hotel’s standard nightly rate.
The app itself doesn’t get the best reviews, and they seem to have had some teething issues with setting it up. But with 5-star hotels popping up for just £40 per night, it’s worth sticking with it. Rooms are available all around the world, and the app features a TripAdvisor plugin so that you can see how well-reviewed each hotel is before you book.
I use this only in really expensive countries when hostels are our only option. HostelWorld is the only app you’ll need for hostel bookings and has a ton of reviews you can read so that you don’t end up somewhere awful.
I would trust their ratings and don’t book anything that’s 6 or below. Backpackers tend to have lower expectations for their accommodation so they give more honest reviews and are likely to be more forgiving than a holiday maker (I’ve seen someone on Booking.com give a hotel a 4/10 because their fried eggs were too runny at breakfast). If a hostel has under a 7 then I would read the reviews carefully and see why that is, we’ve stayed in some awful places because I figured a HostelWorld 7 was a Booking.com 7 and that’s not the case.
Grab / Uber
Hailing a cab and haggling for a fair price was always my least favourite thing about arriving in a new Asian city. In many cities across Asia, taxi and tuk tuk drivers wait at airports, ports and stations for tourists to pick up and charge them sky high prices. Now that we can use taxi apps our transport costs have more than halved compared to our previous trips. Grab drivers tend to be friendly and welcoming, and usually give you their card so that you can book directly during your stay.
Grab has recently acquired Uber in Southeast Asia so download it if you’re coming this way. It’s a cheaper and safer way to travel, and with Grab the price is set before you book the cab so there’s no surprises once you get to your destination. You can use it in most countries we’ve been to, although some will have their own version. For example Sri Lanka has PickMe, Indonesia has BlueBird and India has Ola to book taxis and tuk tuks.
Available on iOS and Android
I came across Rome2rio a few years ago while planning our trip, and it’s been my go-to routing app ever since. Google Maps just can’t cut it when you’re backpacking in Asia but R2r will get you anywhere you need to go. Let the app know where you’re headed and it will give you every available option to get to your destination and breakdown the cost of each. It knows about routes that you can’t find on other map apps we’ve got and I’ve found that it’s the best app for getting around in Thailand as it takes sea and river crossings into account.
After using the app for our first year in Asia we headed to Melbourne to work and found out that R2r’s offices were in the city! Tim got a job on the Data Science team and we got to know more about the company and the lovely team. We still use the app all the time and miss everyone there!
This is the best app for finding cheap flights, and it’s slowly recovering from the terrible update that made it almost unusable last year.
SkyScanner is an independent flight comparison website / app which allows you to find the cheapest fare for a given flight. Many people use SkyScanner just for basic flight comparison but there are a few extra features that can get you even better deals:
Price Alerts: Flight prices, particularly long haul ones, are constantly changing and it can be frustrating when you miss out on the best price. I set up price alerts for a range of dates anytime I have a big flight coming up, and SkyScanner lets me know via email when is the best time to book.
Month view: Searching for flights on a specific date can mean that you miss out on some great deals. We saved over £300 each by flying two days later than our planned departure date on our last trip to Singapore by using the month view in our SkyScanner search. When you’re entering your departure date, from the dropdown select ‘Whole Month’ to compare prices across any month you want to look at. Alternatively you can select ‘Cheapest Month’ to find the best deals for the year. On the mobile app you can see the monthly prices as a graph which makes it really easy to pick the best price.
‘Everywhere‘ search option: Want to take a trip on a tight budget but don’t know where to go? Enter ‘Everywhere’ as your destination along with the specific dates, or month that you want to travel and you can find out where you can go for a steal. Sometimes you’ll be surprised at the destinations you can afford!
Airline fees index: If you’re stuck between two similarly priced flights, consider each airline’s baggage fees, policies and allowances. Baggage isn’t always included in the price and this can push the cost higher than the alternative flight. SkySkanner’s airline fees page will give you the baggage allowance and fees for every airline they cover, this is linked on the ‘Read Before Booking’ section when you click into a flight.
Those are the best travel apps to use while you backpack! All of them are free (apart from Trail Wallet if you want to upgrade) so check them out whether you’re travelling long term or short term. Do you have any other apps that you would add to the list?
Everyone’s go-to app for getting from A to B, Google Maps is always my first port of call when I need to get anywhere locally. However many people don’t use it to its full potential. Here are a few features that are really handy for travellers, but are often overlooked.
Ever arrive in a new city and want to know what there is to do near where you’re staying? Open the explore tab on the homepage of the app and you can find nearby coffee shops, restaurants, gyms, movies, live music, and anything else you could want.
We’ve found this feature really helpful when we’ve been exploring a new area and want to stop somewhere nice for lunch. The restaurants are listed by rating and you can read reviews by other diners and see photos of the menu so you can pick a place that suits your mood.
To see all of the attractions you can search for, tap Explore and hit the green ‘More’ button.
If you’re going out to sight see and won’t have WiFi, then download a map of the local area in advance. This is great if you’re going on a road trip or a hike. Your starred locations will also be kept in the map, so you can easily find your way between them.
To download a map, tap the three grey lines on the left of the search bar in the app. This will open the menu bar, and tap offline maps. Hit Custom map and you can zoom in or out to find the area you want to download. It’s super easy, and really helpful while you travel.
You can also tap the blue dot on the map and click ‘download offline map’ to do this quicker.
Before you leave for your trip, and while you’re away, you will be bombarded with recommendations on places to go, things to see, restaurants to try etc. Either from friends, travel blogs, travel guides, or through inspiration you see online.
To make sure you visit all of these places, save them in Google Maps. I can’t count the amount of times I was in a new city, opened up the app to get somewhere and saw a starred location nearby that I would have completely forgotten to visit. Even if I don’t currently have plans to visit a city, I still save down things I find online that I want to visit some day.
Saved locations are shared between your desktop and mobile device, so long as you are signed in on both. This means you can save things on your laptop and find them on your mobile when you’re out and about. If the app is deleted or you get a new phone, you just need to log in again and your saved locations will be there. I’ve found that this is the most reliable way to keep track of your travel bucket list.
To star a location / attraction, then just search for it in Google maps. When the result pops up, swipe up the details at the bottom of the page, and click ‘Save’. I tend to add locations to Starred Places, but you can create custom lists like ‘gyms’, ‘restaurants’ etc.
Find out where you parked
Remember where you parked your scooter, car, or left your driver by setting your parking location in the app. To do this, open the app and tap on the blue dot, then click ‘Set as parking location’.
This is handy if you’ve found a shop, cafe, or left a friend somewhere you want to return to shortly. A purple P icon will appear on the map, and you can route your way back here when you want to return.
Calibrate your compass
This isn’t a feature but a helpful tip. If you find that Google maps is struggling with your location, it might be a good idea to calibrate your compass. To do this, move your phone in the figure 8 a few times.
This app is a must if you want to eat healthily while you travel. It lists over 75,000 vegan-friendly restaurants around the world. If you’re vegan, vegetarian, or health conscious then this app is definitely worth the investment.
Use the map feature to search for nearby restaurants and check out their menus, with descriptions and reviews of the food. You can even create a trip planner for future trips and plan where you want to eat before you go!
Eating healthily while you travel can be tricky, but this app will help you to stick to a healthy diet on the road.
If you don’t want to spend money on the app, their website is free to use.
Free on iOS and Android
This one is specifically for travellers in SE Asia. Eatigo allows you to make discounted restaurant reservations quickly and easily.
The app is great for budget travellers as it offers so many discounts at restaurants around Asia. If you’re willing to eat a little earlier or later than regular mealtimes then you can save up to 50% on your total bill!
At the moment this app features restaurants from just 10 cities in SE Asia, but this is expanding so do check back before you go on your trip. The 10 cities it does features are: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Mumbai, Pattaya, Pune, and Singapore.
Those are the best travel apps for 2019, and the ones I love to use! If you have any to add then let us know in the comments below.