Like it or not, we live in a digital age. Phones are undeniably a resourceful travel companion, and after 6 months on the road, I couldn’t have been more thankful for mine. Although I found myself panicking if I’d left the hostel without my phone, it was important to me to make sure I wasn’t spending too much time on it either. Travel for me is about opening the mind and experiencing new things. If your heads stuck in your phone, you miss things.
Saying that, there are several apps I don’t think I could have survived without. From navigational aid, to entertainment on those 21 hour bus journeys, here are some of the apps I couldn’t live without on the road.
Probably my most used app when travelling, ever. XE Currency gives you real-time exchange rates if you’re connected to WiFi or 4G and stores the last updated rates if you’re not. You can save several currencies in-app, which means it’s easy to access the currency of the country you’re staying in. It also means you can store the currency of another country, if you’re due to take a flight or cross a border by land knowing you won’t have access to the internet. This app saved me from getting ripped off on so many occasions. When you’re in a new country and trying to get used to the currency, this app will save you money!
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? I thought so too, until I met so many people using Maps.Me as an alternative to Google Maps which “doesn’t work offline”. Except it does. Google Maps has a feature to allow you to download maps to be used in offline mode. When you’re connected to the internet, open the menu, click “offline maps” and select the area you want to save. There’s no limit to the number of maps you can save. It all depends on your phone memory. If you have memory remaining, you can download as many areas as your heart may desire! Although Maps.Me is a useful alternative, we’ve found it be a little off in some areas of the world.
Another Google gem! Google Translate got me out of so many sticky situations when my dodgy Spanish wasn’t up to scratch. And again, you can download to use offline, just choose the language you’ll need. The app is so easy to use, and literally translates for you as you type. You can then either relay the phrase it’s given you, or play an automatic recording. Google Translate also has a camera feature, which means you can hover over a menu or sign, and it’ll give you the translation. This app is a lifesaver.
Useful for travel bloggers, those writing a journal, or those who just want to keep track of where they’ve been! Polarsteps automatically tracks your route and places you’ve visited while you are travelling. As long as the GPS function on your phone is enabled, you won’t need to lift a finger. It’s also useful to allow family and friends to track where you are if you share your link with them. You can add photos, blurb and points of interest, so the app acts as a journal in your pocket.
I’ve found that people tend to be team Booking, or team Hostelworld. I’m both. Booking.com is admittedly better to find hotels, B&B’s and self-catering accommodation, but is still a fantastic resource for travellers. If hostels are more your thing, booking.com does seem to be increasing the number of hostels in its listings, though obviously doesn’t have as many as Hostelworld. Booking.com also has Genius rewards program, which I’ve been part of for a few years. This gives you access to discounts and benefits and saved us quite a lot of money on the road. The Booking.com app gives you access to all your past, current and upcoming bookings in one place.
As mentioned above, Hostelworld would be my go to app for searching and booking hostels. The search function is really easy to use, and in most places we visited, Hostelworld had the best variety of hostels available. All of your booking information is available in one click, which sets it apart from the Hostelworld website.
Available for a small fee on the App Store/Google Play Store, Pocket Casts is one of the best podcast players out there in my opinion. The variety on offer is huge. The app allows you to save your favourite podcasts, and presents them to you each time you open the app. There’s no need to subscribe, and all podcasts I came across were available to download for offline use. Podcasts were a lifesaver for me when staying in hostel dorm rooms, and trying to sleep on buses, coaches and planes.
Another boredom buster for those long bus journeys, Netflix is life. Travelling on a budget, I sneakily used my mum’s login, so there was no monthly cost involved for me. It’s another app which allows downloading for offline use, which is the key theme here. It is a little restrictive in that not all series and films can be downloaded, but kept me entertained on one too many a bus journey.
Guides by Lonely Planet
A little more niche depending on where you’re travelling to, but Lonely Planet have a number of downloadable guides for destinations across the world. They’re useful for activities in the area, and places to eat, and have a map function too.
Travel without technology is of course, possible. But these apps helped me out no end whilst I was on the road, and I couldn’t recommend downloading enough for your next trip!