A few weeks into our travels, we realised just how much we depended on apps to simplify our travelling experience. The following apps have made our adventures more convenient, cheaper and less stressful. Take a look at the best travelling apps we use everyday.
Note that we use all these apps ourselves so we feel comfortable recommending each one. Most have some kind of offline capability, but with some you’ll need a data plan or WiFi. We recommend picking up local SIM cards in each country you visit. Usually, they’ll cost you no more than $5 for a SIM card and 1GB of data.
These apps are what we consider to be the best travelling apps we’ve used thus far. They’re all available for free on the various app stores, but I’ve only personally used the Apple iOS versions.
Most newbie travellers will turn to google maps as their go-to maps app. However, maps.me has several advantages over google maps. Maps.me has more offline countries available and goes into greater detail into the attractions and restaurants in an area. It’s modified by the community so is usually right up to date. You can also search, navigate and get directions to places completely offline. At the time of writing, this isn’t available in google or apple maps.
Revolut is an unbelievably good banking app. They send you a debit card then give you free transactions on that card anywhere in the world. You get the exchange rate set by central banks in country and they take 0% commission. Your transactions show up immediately in the app so you can check how much you just spent. You can withdraw up to £200 a month from an ATM for free, but then you’ll pay 2% on any withdrawals (many banks charge higher than that anyway). Support is great, and you get a live breakdown of your spending within the app. For extended travelling, we couldn’t find anything better. Really, we highly recommend Revolut; it’s convenient and the best way to keep hold of your money when changing currencies.
If we were to order this list of best travelling apps, Revolut would likely be number one.
This one can be a lifesaver. If you’re somewhere where there’s literally no English, it can save you loads of time, confusion and that awkward charades moment where you try to act out blocking the toilet in your room. Simply speak into it in your language, and out pops the translation. It works the other way too. The best part though, is that you can save languages offline and use it all day without internet. Don’t rely on it too much though, you should still try and learn the basic please and thank yous of the place you’re visiting!
AirBnB seems pretty unpopular among travellers and backpackers alike. Many seem to shun it as being too expensive and others try it once, find nothing in their price range so never use it again. If you’re travelling as 2 people, you can often get great deals on AirBnB. You can easily get places for £11/£12 a night for two people, and often with good reviews or super hosts. We’ve never had any complaints (at any price point) with a super host. If you’re travelling as a couple, always check AirBnB before you go to your usual accommodation booking site. You might find somewhere really nice at a great price point – we have many times.
This seems a pretty obvious one, but if you’re going somewhere on a whim and haven’t done much research it can be really useful. We had a great time in Bangkok using only TripAdvisor. Read about that trip here. The top things to do and restaurants section will nearly always recommend places that have good genuine reviews. For most tourist businesses, their success depends wholly on their trip advisor reviews. Most are honest, but some are not. Thankfully, it’s fairly easy to tell which reviews are fake. You can generally trust the most recent long form reviews with perfect English. Filter restaurants by the local cuisine and cheap eats, it’s nearly always excellent!
This app is similar to trip advisor, it has recommended restaurants, hotels, things to do etc, but with one huge advantage – offline city guides. Download the guides (for free) then read them whilst on the train or bus. You can get a real sense of the best things to do in the city as well as some great restaurants. The app also provides cool summaries of each city. Again a great research app to make sure you make the most of your time in a location.
This is one your parents are going to love. Essentially, you’re permanently lo-jacked. The app shares your location with whomever you give access to. We use it to allow our parents to see where we are in the world. That way they can keep up with us all the time and even google some of our locations. It appears to work based on location services too, so you don’t actually need an internet connection, just GPS. Find Friends is an often overlooked one, but is still one of the best travelling apps around.
Likely the most common accommodation app among backpackers, booking.com is a great way to find cheap hostels at affordable prices. Try to find a hostel that is rated at least 9/10. It’ll be more difficult if you’re booking for the same day, but it’s worth paying a little extra for a higher rated hostel or a hostel closer to the centre. There are some bad hostels out there so be wary of ratings and reviews. Hostelworld is very similar, check both before booking something you’re not thrilled with. We still recommend checking AirBnB before either of these sites, especially if you’re a couple. You can often find nicer places for the same price.
Using Uber whilst travelling seems weird right? You’re supposed to haggle with tuk tuk and taxi drivers aren’t you? In reality, we have never found a tuk tuk or a local taxi to be cheaper than Uber. In Bangkok, a tuk tuk driver quoted us 700 baht, then I checked Uber which offered us the same trip for 150 baht. There’s no doubt, if you’re a tourist, local drivers will try to rip you off everywhere you go. It’s just part of it. You can stand there and haggle for 5 minutes and still pay a higher price, or you can use Uber and know you’re paying local prices. Uber isn’t available in every city yet, but if you’re lucky enough to be somewhere it is, take advantage.
If you’ve been travelling for a while, you might be missing your favourite tv shows (there’s no shame in that!). A VPN tricks your browser into thinking you’re in a different country, so you can watch all your shows from back home. We use Hotspot VPN set to the UK setting (they have dozens of countries) to watch bbc iPlayer and Netflix. You need good WiFi or lots of data, but it works well and is a nice slice of home. Get the 30 day free trial first to make sure it works for you. Then it’s £11.99 a month. In this list of best travelling apps, Hotspot Shield VPN is probably the one we use the most!
As with all good apps, the ones above will either save you time and money or they’ll add convenience to your trip. Whether it’s time communicating with a local, saving money on a trip across town or giving you a nicer bed for the night, this list of best travelling apps will enhance your travelling experience. Worry less about the little things, and spend more time making memories.