Smartphones and apps have become a big part of daily life and travel apps can make travelling a hell of a lot easier.
Gone are the days when you get off a bus in the middle of nowhere and wonder if you can just walk to the nearest hostel or need to take a taxi.
We put some research into the below list and found that most apps in other blogs were not aimed at the long term traveller and aimed at city visits. We generally don't fly very much, spend time in cities or plan ahead so thats why our list doesn't contain the obvious apps like GoogleTrips, Hooper and TripIt.
As with all our reviews the apps below are the ones we've actually used repeatedly over the last 14 months of travel.
We’ve categorised the apps into different categories, Offline and Online and because we are cheap skates they are all free to use.
Free Offline Travel Apps
Whats the point of an app if it doesn't work offline as unless you buy a local sim card or are paying for roaming you are offline most of the time.
Maps.me is our number one because we use it literally everyday. Think Google maps but completely offline and free! You can download the maps for each individual country while on WiFi and then use them offline. Make exportable bookmarks, and will create real time directions for walking and in a car.
When you're continuously on the move its hard to keep track of the conversion. Check the prices you’re quoted while on the go. Prices will obviously be only as up to date as the last time you logged on but should be accurate enough to make an educated decision on whether you’re being ripped off.
Automatically backs up your phone photos when you’re back in WiFi. Check the important documents like plane tickets, insurance certificates, passport copies that you need for offline backup.
Blow locals mind when you demonstrate the video function that translates the words on the fly. Download multiple languages and keep a list of frequently used phrases. Google Translate does make better work of long sentences when you’re online but offline you can figure it out.
Combining the apps Feedly and Pocket allows you to be online for only a few minutes and quickly download the news or topics that you are interested in.
Feedly is a news aggregator app which basically means you put in your interests or who you want to follow, e.g. Travelling and then it ‘feeds’ you the headlines from that particular topic. This allows you to quickly scan articles from different providers.
Pocket integrates easily with Chrome and Feedly or any online articles and allows you to save the article for offline reading at your convenience. We often use it for travel information from blogs or bus timetables etc. One thing it doesn’t do is video but we got that covered below.
Tubemate - Free - Android
This app allows you to easily download YouTube or Vimeo videos to your phone or tablet to watch offline at your own convenience. We use it extensively for tutorials on WordPress, Lightroom and Premier Pro and also for keeping up to date on James Cordon’s Late Late Show which Silvia loves. If you're using Apple its a bit harder but help can be found here.
WiFi Map is a an app that uses crowdsourcing to document the WiFi passwords for cafes, restaurants and other public places across the world. So if you’re stuck somewhere and need WiFi you won’t need to buy a coffee to get access. Make sure you download the area you are going to before you go.
Find open WiFi within a mile-radius of your current location. Between this and WiFi Map above you should be able to get online easier. Make sure you download the area you are going to before you go.
What can’t this app do? ‘If this than that’. Integrates seamlessly with multiple apps from Facebook, Google calendar, Instagram and 54 million IFTTT other applets. You can ‘program’ any reaction to happen from one app to another. If IFTTT isn’t on your phone you need to download it now, not just for travel but life!
We haven’t fully got our head around the full possibilities of Polarsteps, but we do use it for constantly tracking where we are and when. Its designed to easily track and share your travels.
Free Online Apps
We check Airbnb everytime we aren’t staying in our tent. More often than not it works out even cheaper than two dorm beds and enables you to local advise and stay in some awesome locations. This often only works out cheaper if you're two or more people. Do check that the listing is per room/apartment and not per person as a lot of hostels are now listing on AirBNB.
More detailed then Maps.me with links to everything and a better understanding of addresses. It is possible to download areas for offline use but usually these are only the most populated areas.
Uber currently operates in 72 countries and is often cheaper than taking a taxi. If you have a local sim or WiFi then its easy to see whether your ride will be cheaper than a normal taxi. Also if you’re in the middle of nowhere it’s easy to get them to come to you.
We've just started using this for getting access to cash. Basically you transfer cash from your bank account to an authorised local agent. You pay a transfer fee which can be around $4 USD and get access to to near live rates. The rates are generally better than withdrawing cash from an ATM and the fees less. Fees vary depending on the amount and the country but its worth checking as if you travel for a long time every dollar counts.
The only VPN that actually worked for us while in China. We now use it if we want to watch something on BBC iPlayer and to protect ourselves on public WiFi's. We would always advise having two VPN's installed incase the first one doesn't connect.
Search by location or hashtag for inspiration and the best angles and light to ensure your photos have the X Factor.
We use Skyscanner as one of the many steps we take when searching for the cheapest flights. Has a comprehensive but not complete list of airlines to compare. The best feature is to see an overview of the whole month to see when the cheapest date to fly is.
We don’t use it everywhere but we’ve had some amazing and unique experiences all which have been free. Like staying in a school masters house in Assam, India and him helping us to get the difficult permits required to travel further into North East India or NYE in Santiago with a fantastic view of the fireworks. Please spend time with your hosts and try and give a little back.
If the number or contact isn’t on WhatsApp or FB Messenger, put a bit of money on Skype and you can phone any landlines or mobile number in the world.
Outside of the USA and China a lot of people use Whatsapp and often hostels and tour operators advertise their Whatsapp number. This is great as you can use Google Translate to translate to the local language and send them a message they will understand. Plus easily pair it with any web browser so you can type message from your desktop.
If you want generic, Western influenced reviews for the best things to do or eat in a place then TripAdvisor comes top. You’ll never find the best street food or find things off the beaten track but when you’re tired and you just need a reliable restaurant that's going to deliver food you want then look no further
What do you think? We would love to hear about your favourite travel apps in the comments below.