Apps are incredibly helpful for travel, and I am dependent on quite a few. My phone remains my most useful tool for travel: I use it to find a place to stay, find my way around, supplement my guidebook with things to do, stay connected, entertained, and informed. Here’s a list of the best travel apps: my favorite apps that I use on a regular basis.
Finding a Place to Stay
Most of the guesthouses and hostels throughout Southeast Asia work with Booking.com. It’s easy to use, easy to search for your destination, easy to filter by price, property type, rating, etc. The reviews are incredibly useful: I usually narrow down my search results by my budget and then read some reviews to make sure no one mentions bedbugs or bad smells (or whatever you’re particular about, I’m particular about bad smells).
Agoda offers deals on accommodations, and has hotels, guesthouses, and hostels. Most guesthouses I’ve talked to don’t work directly with Agoda, but Agoda has deals with booking.com, so you often see the same guesthouses on both apps. Is it the same thing? Sometimes! But sometimes you can find better deals on Agoda, and vice versa. It’s useful to check both. I actually prefer the interface on Agoda, I think it’s a little nicer to use, and there’s sales and cheaper options for non-refundable rooms.
MAPS.ME is incredible, hands down my favorite travel app! You get free offline maps and offline navigation, which is absolutely indispensable, especially if your sense of direction is, ahem, missing? But even if you have a stellar inner navigation system, you can bookmark important places and really visualize a new city. The first thing I do when I’m in a new place is bookmark my guesthouse and all the things I want to see, restaurants I want to try, etc. This allows me to efficiently plan my days, or just go exploring knowing that I can find myself again without having to find wifi. The offline navigation is awesome as well! Best travel app out there!
Finding Things to Do
I am a huge fan of real, paper guidebooks to advise me on my trips, however, TripAdvisor is an incredibly useful tool to complement my guidebook. I like to peruse the Top Things to do to make sure my book didn’t miss anything. Where TripAdvisor really shines, though, is restaurants. Whereas my guidebook lists the places that one, maybe a couple of people tops, really liked, TripAdvisor collects hundreds of people’s opinions, which is much more reliable. You can filter by ‘Cheap Eats,’ and ‘Nearby,’ and TripAdvisor provides you a list of the best cheap places close to you, with the distance, and plenty of reviews to peruse. Basically the Yelp of travel apps.
Staying in Touch
Free message, call, or video chat your loved ones on the road! Really amazing free service to stay in touch with your friends and family back home. Perhaps even more useful, however, is the paid Skype to Phone service. I loaded $5 onto Skype before my trip, and I can call any phone number for $0.023/min, as long as I’m connected to wifi. This was especially valuable when I had to call my bank to sort out an issue, and it’s amazing to have the option to call any phone number for a very cheap price.
Free messaging app, ubiquitously used by people all over the world, from other backpackers to tuk-tuk drivers. I use it to communicate with my travel companions, chat with friends back home, share pictures with new travel friends, or coordinate with tuk-tuk drivers. Convenient and effective!
I love this app so much. With Overdrive, you can borrow ebooks and audiobooks from your hometown library to read and listen to on your trip. Be sure to sign up for your local library before your trip (I talk about 10 things to do before your trip here), and you get a wealth of free ebooks and audiobooks to choose from, all for free! You can’t always find everything you want, and for the most popular books there’s often a waiting list, but I’ve been able to read bestsellers like The Martian for absolutely free! Some of my favorite books I’ve discovered by taking a chance on books I’ve found on overdrive that I’d never heard of before. Even if you don’t like to read, or you get motion sick on long bus rides, there’s a ton of audiobook to choose from!
OK, YouTube is not exactly a secret and everyone already has it, yea yea. But I wanted to talk about it because it has entertained me throughout countless bus rides, and is a marvelous source of knowledge! (I learned how to make this website from youtube, for instance, something I had no skills and training in before!) The download videos feature is where it’s at, I download 5-10 videos the night before a long bus or plane ride, and I get to learn about whatever it is I’m obsessing about offline! Super cool!
EDIT: So I discovered the download feature in Southeast Asia, and then experienced crushing disappointment when I came back to the USA and all of a sudden it was a paid feature!! Apparently this feature is designed for countries with poor internet connections and expensive data plans. So if you’re going to such a country, just wait until you get there to download your videos!
Currency Converter Plus
Easy to use, basic currency converter. If you can’t divide 210 Thai baht by 33.35 in your head, it’s very easy to type in and get $6.30 US dollars (at time of writing). Especially if traveling to multiple countries with vastly different exchange rates, it’s a very convenient resource to help you out when running on you’re running on zero sleep, in a new country, negotiating with a taxi driver at the airport.
Stay informed on local weather, with useful information like temperature, humidity, wind speed, UV Index, Dust and Dander for allergies, and live storm alerts. Basically, do you need to wear sunscreen (always yes, but sometimes extra yes), do you need to bring a rain poncho, etc.
Awesome language learning app that feels like a game: fun and easy! The only downside is the language selection, a lot of languages aren’t available. But if available, the experience is definitely one I can recommend! I learned a ton of Spanish using Duolingo, and I was able to have some basic conversations while traveling in Chile!
What are your favorite travel apps?
Please let me know in the comments what you think are the best travel apps! Did you find this article useful? What else would you like to hear about? Let me know in the comments!!