Whether or not you travel with a fully functional smart phone is a personal choice. Many people, including myself, want to disconnect from the constant buzzing of notifications, text messages, emails and phone calls. 50% of it is spam and clickbait anyway. Allowing yourself to permanently put your phone on silent is one of the huge perks of traveling.
Even though we don’t want to have a data and phone plan abroad, that doesn’t mean we should ditch the phone entirely. This is the 21st century and a thousand little convenient tools can all be used with the smart phone. With a proper tool kit of apps on your phone, you’ll find yourself surprisingly prepared for travel anywhere.
Below are the best apps to make traveling easier and better.
Maps.ME: [Offline Maps] #1 Must have backpackers app. This off-line map/GPS app was a godsend in every country we visited. Not only were we navigating busy cities like a local, we were following trails, finding lesser known attractions, and spotting emergency toilets like a pro. All the locations on the app are crowd-sourced, you can add locations of your own or simply add and share personal locations with their simple interface and tools.
Google Translate: [Universal Translator] There are no good offline translate apps. Google Translate at least allows you to save a list of your favorite translations for offline reference. Do the research on Wi-Fi in the hostel and you’ll be butchering the language to the local’s amusement in no time. 🙂 If you want an offline app, consider a basic English to Other dictionary app.
XE Currency Exchange: [Updated exchange rates] Don’t get screwed, reference this app. Of course this app does not work offline, since rates change everyday, but it’ll keep the old data saved for reference till you do fond Wi-Fi. Set up your preferences to view the currencies you’ll be using and refresh. Easy.
Hostelworld: [Hostel and hotel booking] Comparable to Agoda, AirBnb, Hotels.com and Booking.com, but I found that Hostelworld had the best rates, the easiest interface, the most reasonable options for a backpacker, and the best and most honest rating system. Hostel with 8.0 rating and less than $10/night? Sold.
Bank and Credit Card apps: Get them, use them, love them. It’s easier and faster than the web for checking on your finances. Read our post on credit cards and banks for useful travel tips (coming soon).
Hangouts Dialer: [Free Wi-Fi dialer] Call anywhere in the United States or Canada for FREE using Wi-Fi. No mutual friendship required. I couldn’t believe it either when I heard it. This app saved me when I needed to call my banks and possible employers who didn’t have WhatsApp
WhatsApp: [$0.99 to call or text any contacts] Texting and Calling between mutual friends on WhatsApp. Super convenient and super easy.
Dropbox: [Photos and file sharing] A must have for backing up photos and videos on the go. It’s also a great way to share high res photos with friends all at once by simply sending them a link. (I’ve recently heard that Google Photos is making this even easier, more organized, and more accessible.) Dropbox is also great for sharing media files like movies and music.
AirAsia App: [Flights] It is the worst app to work with but if you’re flying around SE Asia on a dime, you’re most likely gonna be flying AirAisa. Fortunately, the app works better than the mobile site, so be glad about that. Also, always check AirAsia’s direct rates before booking through any third party for the same flight.
Kayak and Skyscanner: [Budget flight finder] Besides AirAsia itself, these are the two apps with the best deals on airfare consistently.
Google Keeps: [Notes and bucket lists] Write down names, emails, and notes in a second. Our memory is crap, but if it’s written down, it’s forever. Google keeps isn’t the best notes app in many categorizes, but its simple, online, offline, and sharable.
Facebook: [Friends and relationships] Maybe you’re trying to get away from social media, but 98% of travelers have one and it’s the easiest way to keep in touch with travel friends.
Spotify: [Music] If you can afford it, you can have all the music you need saved offline for listening on the go.
Podcast Addict: [Podcasts and music] Podcast are a great way to spend a long bus ride. Try listening to RadioLab, Hardcore History, Serial, or Dirtbag Diaries. There’s a podcast for every taste if you Google it.
Play Books: [Paperless Books] Googles basic eReader app is perfect for reading .epub or .pdf files on the go. It even includes a great internal offline dictionary. Books are heavy and phones use battery, so it’s good to have a book in both categories. Nothing is sadder than ten hours on a bus without a book.
If anyone wants to suggest more apps, post them in the comments. It’s a great feeling when you find a good app to make life so much easier.
Other sites for travel apps:
- 10 Best iPhone Apps for the Outdoors
- 20 Travel Apps You Should Never Be Without
- 21 Best Damn Travel Apps for Backpacking
- 15 Best Free Travel Apps for Backpackers