When I first went backpacking in 2006 I didn’t have a smartphone with the best travel apps. I didn’t have a device that could help me plan my trip or help me when I was lost either. I travelled in the days of walking around with a huge map in my face and looking like a typical tourist.
Today, there are some amazing apps out there to help travellers get an even better experience whilst on the road. I’ve come up with this list of travel apps to download for your IOS or Android smartphone/tablet.
Best Hotel Booking Apps
One of THE essential travel apps to download is a hotel booking app. Not only are these a great way to help plan your trip but you can also find cheap deals and last minute bookings. Quite often, app bookings have discounts that the websites don’t offer.
Booking.com is one of the most popular online agencies and the hotel booking app I used the most. It’s easy to find cheap deals and there’s even a loyalty scheme that offers 10% off bookings.
The app is easy to navigate and searches can be filtered by price, distance, reviews and more. There are around 28 million properties around the world including villas, apartments and even boats!
Another accommodation booking app I love. Airbnb offers anything from somebody’s spare room in the city to a family villa with a pool. The hosts set their own prices and it’s easy to check the reviews to make sure you’re not dealing with any strange characters.
Airbnb also offers unique stays, tours with locals and experiences. We booked a very well priced local guide in Italy who was excellent!
Couchsurfing is a unique platform where hosts offer travellers accommodation for free. This could be a bed, a sofa or the corner of the living space with a blanket. The whole point is that you stay with a local who is keen to share their home, culture and sights with you.
This is an awesome app for finding the best hostels at the best prices. Like other accommodation booking apps, you can sort hostels by price, distance and reviews. I found that reviews are the most useful as you’ll know what type of hostel/people to expect when you rock up.
Best Flight Apps
Pre-booking all your flights before a 6 month trip around Southeast Asia is a logistical nightmare. Unplanned events can and will happen so why not download a flight booking app for more flexibility on your journey?
I’ve used Skyscanner for years now and it’s pretty much my go-to site when it comes to booking flights.
Skyscanner has the cheapest flights of any flight search engine most of the time. Flights can be filtered by airline, price and even journey time. If you’re flexible with your dates and destination you can even search everywhere to see the cheapest flight around.
The Skyscanner app is just as good as the desktop version and now you can search for hotels car rentals.
Hopper is a slightly different type of search engine. They predict the prices of when the cheapest flights and hotels will be and the best time to book them too. With 95% accuracy and 30 million travellers, they seem to be doing a great job!
Best Navigation Apps
Nobody wants to wander around looking like a typical tourist staring at their cheap hotel map. That’s why navigation apps are one of the most important to have on your device. It’s probably going to be your most used app and is essential when planning, walking or even when you get lost.
Maps.me is the best offline navigation apps you can have. Download the country or area you want and you’ll be able to navigate your way around without using data or WiFi. The maps sometimes come with little hidden gems as users mark locations of cheap street food or secret viewpoints.
Google Maps is great! I use it to search for locations, walking distances and transport schedules. I even use the street view to give me a better idea of the area. That’s the desktop version! The app is great but not always very accurate!
Using Google Maps as a walking/driving GPS can be a little tricky. Stick to using the app for the other features and you’ve got one of the essential travel apps!
Best Trip Planning Apps
Here are some apps to help you organise your trip. From recommendations to travel documents, it’s so much easier to access all that information on a device rather than carrying a load of page printouts!
It feels like Tripadvisor has been around for centuries now. I mainly use the online travel company to check on reviews of hotels, restaurants, sites and other things.
Tripadvisor look like they’re concentrating on hotel and restaurant bookings these days. I still find the reviews left by fellow travellers extremely useful though.
Looking for an app that holds all your essential information for your upcoming journey? Then look no further than TripIt.
The app asks you to forward all your travel-related documents by email and TripIt will generate your itinerary and add it to your calendar. You’ll see when your next flight/hotel is booked for and all the documents and info that accompany it, even offline.
Rome2rio is a transport search engine that will find the best way for you to get from A to B. Just type int the start and finish point and Rome2rio will compare all available transports methods and prices including buses, flights, trains, ferries and even ridesharing.
Best Entertainment Apps
Let’s face it, you won’t be exploring jungles, visiting temples and climbing mountains every minute of your trip. You’ll need to supplement your epic adventure with some hardcore downtime too. Think long overnight buses in Asia or time at the airport when your flight is delayed!
Most of us will have a subscription to some kind of streaming service back home, with Netflix being one of the more popular. They have a large variety of movies and shows and they now even produce they’re own! You can even download your favourite shows to watch offline.
The days of taking a walkman or CD (what are those?) player are long gone. Streaming songs is the best and most convenient way to carry your music and Spotify is my favourite music streaming app.
Spotify has a library of over 40 million songs and you can create your own playlists or let the app create one for you. What’s more, if you pay for the premium service you’ll get ad-free music at a higher quality and downloadable songs to listen to while offline.
I know many travellers still love the feel of a paperback but more and more of you are reading books digitally. Inspired by the Amazon Kindle, the app lets you read books on your device (a tablet is probably better than a smartphone.) If you’re a keen reader then store the book onto your Kindle app and save some space in your luggage.
Best Ride-Sharing Apps
Ride-sharing has become popular all over the world. You can track when the vehicle will arrive and you know the amount you’ll have to pay so no more sketchy local taxi drivers.
The original ride-sharing app, Uber has over 93 monthly millions of active users worldwide! The app is very easy to use and, in many countries, Uber is cheaper than the local taxis. This is great for when you travel through expensive countries like the UK or Switzerland.
Bolt is another ride-sharing app that I’ve used in many parts of Europe. The company has expanded into 40 odd countries and now has 50 million customers worldwide. I found them to be cheaper than Uber (where many cities have banned them completely) and local taxis while they’ve also expanded into food delivery and electric scooters.
Best Language Apps
Unfortunately, not everyone who travels can speak 10 different languages. Using a language app can help get through those awkward moments ( like when you don’t want to order something to set off your peanut allergy!)
Duolingo is a great little language learning app that teaches with fun games and pictures. It may seem a little childish at first but the technique is much more varied and interesting than reading about grammar and translations.
There are many languages to learn for English speakers and you can learn languages as a speaker of other languages too such as English for Spanish speakers or Swedish for Arabic speakers.
Google Translate is a language app. As useful as it can be, it can also give horrible translations! That’s because languages are all structured differently but generally, the app does the job better than most and is one I use very often.
One of the coolest features is instant translation using the camera. Just point the camera of your device onto the text and it should be automatically translated into English or your desired language!
Best Budgeting Apps
Budgeting apps are so important as nearly travellers need to carefully budget for their trip. Not so important for those going all-inclusive but those who want to spend 6 months in South America might have to be more conscious of their wallet.
XE Currency Converter
The currency converter by XE is one of my most used apps when I’m abroad. The app offers live exchange rates and even lets you save currencies to a favourites list that you can use offline. This is one app you really can’t travel without!
This is one of the best budgeting apps and is perfect for those who want to track their spending. With TrabeePocket, you’ll know exactly how much you’ve spent so you won’t have to worry about whether you can afford that overpriced souvenir at the end of your trip.
Best Cloud Storage App
Cloud storage apps essential if you plan to take lots of photos and videos. It’s good to back up everything with a memory card but saving to the cloud just adds that extra security.
IOS users can easily upgrade their cloud storage for a monthly fee but some may prefer a file-sharing app such as Dropbox. With this app, users can easily share photos with other users accounts. What’s more, the files can be accessed on any device the app is downloaded to.
Best Communications Apps
Everyone needs a way of communicating with loved ones back home. Not only that, communications apps also let you contact local agencies, tour guides when you’re on the road.
WhatsApp is much more than a messaging app to make funny groups with your friends (although that in itself is a pretty cool way to stay in touch!) You can also make voice calls, video calls and send photos, videos and other documents.
Skype has been around for a while now and although other apps have caught up with audio and video calling, there are still some useful features from this video chat app. For example, their video calling is in HD and the audio is usually very clear. Their rates for calls abroad (to another landline) are also very competitive.
If you haven’t heard of Zoom recently, then you must have been living on another planet! Zoom was an essential tool for meetings and can host up to 100 participants at once. Skype’s cooler and younger brother has nearly all the same features but is more popular for business calls.
Best Toilet Finding App
This is just a random app I use but it could be a life saver!
Something a little different compared to the others – Flush is an app to help you find a public toilet anywhere in the world. There over 200,000 public toilets and restaurant bathrooms in the Flush database so you’ll never be caught short. The best thing is that the app works offline too!
Which Travel App Will You Download?
So that’s my list of the best travel apps and I’ve tried them all either as an app or the desktop version.
There are also many apps not on the list that you might find essential to your travels. Any kind of gaming app is surely going to help pass the time on long journeys or waiting at the airport. Not to mention the number of local apps like Grab and Gojek which are Southeast Asia’s answer to Uber.
While these are some of the best apps for travel right now, there are literally thousands of apps created every year so who knows which one could be the next revolutionary booking or language app.
I hope that you’ve found the list useful. Maybe you have an app you can’t leave home without? Leave a comment or send me a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks!
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