Travelling has changed somewhat over the last decade. Following the introduction of the modern day smart phone, it’s no longer necessary to purchase and carry around half a dozen books, maps and notes on different subjects and countries as all that information can now be stored on one device that fits in to your pocket. You don’t need to spend as much time tracking down shops, buses or attractions by word of mouth due to the power of Google and countless on-line reports and guides. There is less chance of being taken on the long route in a taxi as a quick consult of the GPS will tell you if you’re heading in the right direction. You can know within 2 minutes if the restaurant you’re thinking of heading to is worth the coin or not. The list goes on.
I thought I’d compile a list of some of the apps that have made my travels easier. There are loads of apps out there and every backpacker will find different ones useful. I do still try and find out as much information as I can by asking around and in most cases I’d much prefer to go wandering a city to see what I find. But there’s no doubt that I’ve saved a LOT of time and money with some of these.
In no particular order:
1. XE Currency Converter
A handy piece of kit. You add the currencies you want it to display and once you enter an amount on any given currency it will display the equivalent on the other ones you have listed. It updates frequently with the latest rates and is simple to use. A good way to check and see how much you’re actually spending, or should be receiving when swapping cash.
2. Google Keep
I use this app frequently back home for all sorts of things; writing down thoughts, information, lists and so on. It syncs with Google meaning I can access these lists from anywhere. I use it to draft blog posts when I’m on the road and don’t have my laptop or have no connection. It’s super handy for writing down information people give you, things to do in cities you’re going to be visiting, how to say things in other languages and so on.
This one is regularly found on similar lists to the one I’m writing. A resource friendly offline Maps application, you can download entire countries on to your phone and then use it in offline mode when you visit. Setting points of interest is easy, as well as searching for nearby necessities with the latest update. It’s a lot lighter on memory than Google’s equivalent, and a country like China might only take a couple hundred MB worth of space as opposed to Google Maps, which would likely fill your phone if you tried to download the country to be saved offline.
4. Banking App
Most banks should have one of these. From here I can easily cancel of freeze cards in case they get stolen, keep an eye on what I’m spending and transfer money with a couple of taps. Most people have these sorts of apps already but it’s even more handy when you’re in a different country and don’t want to log on to your bank’s website with your password on an unknown computer or connection.
This site is great. I create a public trip and people in the country or town I’m heading to can see when I’m arriving, then look at my profile and if they like they can offer to host me or show me around which is truly fantastic. It’s a great way to meet people and see a place from a local’s perspective. In return you host people when you’re back home.
6. EBook Reader
I can now download a dozen books at around 1MB each and read them at my leisure without having to fill valuable space in my backpack. I can also use the app to read travelogues from other people.
In countries like China, services such as Google are blocked. If you’re like me and need to access your email and other services when travelling you’ll need to circumvent that. It’s also come in handy in places like Mongolia where the free wifi is often limited to certain sites like Facebook and I need to send a message.
Everybody uses this, except for the Chinese. A great way to keep in touch with people you’ve met and you can also use it to call for free. Simple to use, just add someone using their home country phone number and all you need from there is an internet connection to get text, MMS and call functionality.
I personally prefer Booking.com to Hostelworld. The map function is more accurate, the app is easier to use, you don’t need to front with a deposit and 9 times out of 10 there are more options on Booking.com than Hostelworld. I’ve used this app for the entire time I’ve been travelling and have no complaints.
10. Trabee Pocket
A handy little budgeting app. You add a country, then insert the currency and your budget. Then you allocate expenses to different categories; transport, food, alcohol and so on. You can then see how much you’re spending and if you need to cut back on the booze.
Though the forum section of the app could use an update, it’s handy to read reviews on different places, recommendations on things to visit and to ask questions about on just about anything. There’s a huge community on there and if you’re thinking about visiting some place there’s a good chance someone’s been there before.
Now operating in loads of different countries worldwide, using Uber mostly guarantees you won’t get shafted on a taxi ride and it’s likely cheaper anyway. It’s also a way to conserve the cash flow when travelling in a cash society as it just gets charged to your credit card.
13. Google Translate
The real merit of this app is in downloading languages to be used offline. There are loads of translation apps for different languages which take up less space but Google will also translate a lot of words and symbols on things like menus by taking a photo of it. Handy when you’re in some place like Russia and you’ve got absolutely no idea what the lettering means.
There are obviously loads more apps that each have their own handy functions but these are the ones that I use often. Thanks for reading!