I honestly don’t know how people used to be able to travel, let along backpack for long periods of time, before the invention of the smart phone. I know to a lot of people that sounds like an awful thing to say, but they truly make the experience so much easier. The ease with which I was able to navigate cities, sort out money, book accommodation and keep myself entertained through long bus journeys really made such a big difference to my travel experiences. Sure, traveling off the grid definitely has its perks, but here are my top essential free apps that’ll help you out.
Hostelworld (iOS and android)
I cannot emphasise enough how much of a life saver Hostelworld is. Pop in your destination and the dates you wish to travel and it’ll show you the hostels in the area and then filter them depending on any specific requirements, prices or ratings. Each hostel comes with photos, description, lists of facilities and then detailed reviews and ratings. They allow you to book with a deposit, rather than the whole cost of your stay allowing a little more flexibility. They also provide free city guides for the post popular destinations once you’ve booked a room. We would often book the hostel a night before heading to the destination and it was always stress free with hostel world. It is worth bearing in mind that they don’t have every hostel in existence so if you can’t find the right place to stay a quick Google search is always worthwhile.
Airbnb (iOS and android)
Similarly to Hostelworld it’s always helpful to download accommodation apps rather rely on their mobile sites. I rarely used Airbnb but occasionally you do fancy a little time to yourself so booking an apartment can give you a couple of nights of downtime.
Skyscanner (iOS and android)
An obvious yet crucial one. Skyscanner collates all the flights from different airlines to find you the cheapest option. Do make sure you check how many stop overs there will be, as cheaper flights tend to take a lot longer than the expensive ones which is worth bearing in mind. Also, do make sure you double check the dates entered, don’t do what I did and accidentally book the wrong day leading you to turn up to the airport a month early. It’s times like that I’m grateful I look so small and helpless, people feel sorry for me.
Maps.me (iOS and android)
This is an app I didn’t discover until a couple of months into my trip but it made such a difference! It works as an offline navigator, allowing you to find your way with no data. Simply download the map of the area you’ll be exploring while connected to wifi, and you can navigate around as you would with any other maps apps. You can also pin your location so you can easily navigate yourself back to your hostel.
Revolut (iOS and android)
If you check out my first post about essential things to sort out before you travel, you’ll see me hyping the Revolut card, an app based travel money card. You load it up with your local currency and as you use it it’ll convert your money into the currency of the country you’re in, fee free. It also allows for £500 to be withdrawn from ATM’s free per month and works through both Apple and Android Pay. It’s recently included a feature that tells you how you’re spending your money, how much in each country and on what breaking expenses down into categories such as transport and food. Their chat based support system also makes sorting out any issues much easier than trying to find a way of phoning.
Naturally, you don’t want to load up your currency card with all your money in case it gets stolen or lost. It makes sense to have your banks app downloaded so you can transfer money over in smaller chunks as you need it.
DuoLingo (iOS and android)
Why not learn a little bit of the local language while you’re there? Duolingo is entirely free and has a surprisingly wide range of languages on offer, I’m currently learning Spanish and Japanese but there are also courses in Vietnamese, Swahili and Russian to name a few.
Google Translate (iOS and android)
As much as we may try to fumble through with the local language, this is a necessary app for the vast majority of people. I wouldn’t have eaten a few nights had it not been for the camera option on the app, allowing you to hold your phone up to a menu as the app translates it on your screen.
Been (iOS and android)
This is a fun little app that allows you to track the countries you’ve visited. Simply tick off where you’ve been from their list and it creates a highlighted map of the world for you. It also tells you what percentage of the world and each continent you’ve been to which are fun statistics to know.
Instagram and VSCO
We would all be lying if we pretended like we don’t like showing off our incredible travel snaps knowing our friends and family are all at work back home. VSCO is my favourite free photo editing app, their filters and option to adjust clarity make your photos look that little bit more impressive.
Spotify & Netflix
It’s worth paying the monthly fees for the sanity that these will provide you.