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Nothing, and I mean nothing has saved my bacon more than my phone has when travelling. I have no sense of direction, I’m one of those horrible people who can’t speak another language (despite promising myself year on year that I’ll learn), maths isn’t my forte it and I’m rubbish at making decisions. How am I not a wandering mess I hear you ask? Well I am. But thankfully there’s an app out there for everything and I’ve put together a list of the best travel apps to help you out, too.
Worried about getting lost in the middle of Bangkok? Struggling to know how much 78878.30 Vietnamese Dong is in dollars? Or landed somewhere and have nowhere to stay yet because you’re the spontaneous type? There’s an app to help with all of that, and heaps more.
As much as I want to encourage everyone to put their phones down and back off from that Instagram shot you just gotta get, there are some seriously handy apps that can make travelling SO much easier. So here is 15 of the best apps that I use and that you have to get before you start travelling.
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The best travel apps for Accommodation
Airbnb is a great way to stay at unique places in great locations and learn the best insider tips from a local. Hosts post their spare room or even a whole place for guests (aka you) to rent out on Airbnb and all you have to do is pick where you want to stay. There are loads of filters for amenities such as free parking, WiFi and air con to name a few, and it often works out super affordable. Be sure to check the house rules and stalk some reviews to make sure it’s the perfect one for you.
Couchsurfing is a reciprocal community where hosts offer their spare room, couch or general bit of floor space for guests to stay completely free. You can search hosts all over the world and contact them requesting to stay. In return for staying you might give something back to your host such as teaching them a new language, cooking a meal or sharing your travel tips.
A great comparison site allowing you to search and book thousands of hostels all over the world. You can read reviews before you book to check out if it’s for you and book there and then. The app has loads of filters such as size of the dorm room or private room, check if it has wifi, breakfast included and so on. It’s an easy all-in-one app to find the right hostel for you. You can check out the Hostelworld site here so you’ll know what to expect on the app.
This is a great site for booking a range of accommodation in advance or last minute. Booking.com has a feature where it will search for rooms nearby based on your current location or you can search a destination and add your dates. You can search by rating, price, distance from city centre etc and filter by amenities. Many of the rooms allow you to book on the spot and pay when you arrive, and many have a free cancellation policy if you book in advance. I’ve stumbled across some awesome last minute deals as well so it’s a great app to have in the palm of your hand.
The best travel apps for Flights, Transport and Getting around
This is my go-to app for booking flights. Simply type in your destination and dates and Skyscanner will search across most airlines to show you the cheapest flights. If you can be flexible with when you fly you can search through a whole month to find the cheapest flights and you can also set up alerts to be notified of price changes so you can book at the best time for the best price. It’s one of the best travel apps I have one my phone, that’s for sure!
This is an on-demand taxi service that allows you to pay for the journey through your account rather than in cash. When you go to book you are given a pretty reliable estimate of what the journey will cost. It’s nearly always cheaper than getting a metered taxi but bear in mind that the prices for Uber do change during peak hours and you can check this on the app.
7. Google maps
Use google maps either online or download a map over WiFi to save it offline and search any address or destination to get directions right to it. You can get directions by driving route, walking route or public transport to be sure to get to where you want to be. Downloading maps is the perfect thing to do if you’re going to be in an area without phone signal. Online google maps also give fantastic suggestions for places to eat nearby for when the hanger strikes.
Specific to Australia only, If road trips are your thing the Wikicamps is a must. It shows the locations of thousands of both free and paid campsites as well as the facilities at each. I don’t pay for apps when I don’t need to, but getting Wikicamps for just $7.99 has saved me so much money by using the free campsites. It’s worth checking out the comments for each campsite before making your way there.
The best travel apps to help you plan and understand
You’ve probably heard of TripAdvisor and know that its a complete wealth of information. I personally love to use it as a way to get ideas on anything from where to stay, where to eat and what to do. The review system is a great way to weed out the rubbish and find something that is right for you. I personally have never used it to book things like hotels and tours through but it does have that option available. I use TripAdvisor as a guide and although use the reviews to aid my decisions, I do take reviews with a pinch of salt. Let’s be honest, people love to complain more than they do compliment.
10. XE currency
Do you have any idea how much 1,000,000 Vietnamese Dong is worth? I definitely didn’t (apart from being very sure it wasn’t $1,000,000, sadly)! That’s where the XE Currency app comes in. This app works offline and will update to show the most live exchange rates when you manage to get some wifi. It’s an essential app to help you keep track of what you’re spending, especially when travelling through multiple countries.
11. Google translate
First things first, I think it’s so important to try to always learn at least, ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in the local language. Knowing these 3 simple phrases is polite and will help you a lot when speaking with people. Of course, however, this will only get you so far. Google translate is another offline app where you can type a phrase in and it will translate it to another language. Massively helpful if you’re lost or want to ask for some more details on things.
The best travel apps to help you stay in touch for free
Data roaming charges are eye watering so having Whatsapp is a must. This app allows you to send instant messages to your friends and family also using the app so you can stay in touch really easily. You can also send photos. make phone calls and video call through it. If you don’t have any mobile data or a local sim card, Whatsapp can be used via WiFi so you can call and message for free. The app has a very small cost (I think it’s around 99p) but once you’ve paid for it, you’re good to go.
As old school as Skype might be these days, I still use their app to contact my family. As with Whatsapp, it’s free to use and can be used over WiFi or via your mobile data. It’s not always as smooth as video call via Whatsapp but I think it’s a great idea to have a couple of ways to get in touch with loved ones, just as a backup.
The best travel apps to keep you entertained
14. Podcast app
I am addicted to podcasts! I actually don’t have any music on my phone but I have a whole stream of podcast shows that I avidly check for new episodes all the time. If you haven’t listened to podcasts before, they are essentially audio shows, and you can find podcasts on topics for pretty much everything. I listen to a mixture of travel podcasts, true crime series, lifestyle shows and topical news style ones. I wrote a post about my favourite podcasts a while back which you can read here, but my list has definitely grown since then!
I am such a big kid, so I freakin’ love Geocaching. To briefly explain it, all over the world, people have hidden little items or boxes called a cache. Their locations are then marked on the app and you go and hunt them out using the app and any clues that it has. You need to be subtle about it so to keep the item out of view and not known to the public to avoid it getting removed, so it’s all a big treasure hunt really! There is a free and a paid version of Geocaching (the paid version gives you access to more caches) but I find there are more than enough on the free ones to keep me occupied. Meanwhile, Tom pretends to not enjoy it but he loves it really. It’s addictive and a great way to get outdoors.