Travelling without a smartphone today is akin to not bringing a passport for many people. There are, of course, thousands of travel apps available for almost every aspect of your trip. With so many to choose from, how can you tell which ones are the most useful and likely to make your trip more memorable? Don’t worry – I have pulled together my list of 30 essential travel apps that I wouldn’t leave home without!
Booking and Accommodation
I think everyone knows what Skyscanner is by now. Select your origin, destination and throw some dates at the app to get the cheapest available flights from hundreds of airlines. While not quite as versatile as the proper website (multi-city, where art thou), it’s still a great way to check prices on the go. Just be careful, there is a very real chance of booking an impromptu getaway or four. You can find hotels and car hire while you’re at it too!
One of Skyscanner’s biggest competitors, Kayak offers similar options but it does have a handy travel planning tool. Punch in your budget, how long you want to go away for and even what the weather is – and Kayak will generate options for your next adventure. Oh and it lets you book those multi-city itineraries so start planning those stopovers!
Hunting for cheap travel deals is fun but can be pretty time-consuming. Holiday Pirates does all the hard work for you, posting the latest offers around the clock. You can browse the app for cheap flights, hotel stays and package holidays and even get alerts on your phone when new deals are posted. I’ve been able to go on some great trips thanks to these guys – £500 return flights from London to Melbourne is just one example! It can be pretty addictive as you eagerly check the app every day to see if there is a deal worth grabbing!
Probably the app I use the most when I am travelling! Hostelworld has a huge database of hostels, hotels and guesthouses in almost every country in the world and the intuitive app makes it very easy to navigate and book. It has detailed descriptions of accommodation, reviews from fellow travellers and clear directions making it easy to figure out where you are staying. If hostels are your thing, this is THE app to use!
Airbnb is a great way to experience a destination like a local – by renting out a room or an entire home in your destination from the owner. As well as more traditional places to stay, it’s possible to find yourself spending the night in castles, windmills, barns and loads of other quirky locations. The app allows you to search for accommodation using a variety of filters and get in touch with prospective hosts directly. I recently stayed in an Airbnb in Tokyo and had a great experience!
Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet, right? And they are all also potential hosts if Couchsurfing is to be believed. Those after unique local experiences or on a budget have an opportunity to crash on a local’s couch (or a spare room) and meet interesting people from all around the world. Granted, it’s not for everyone but I know a lot of people that have had some cool stays and met some lifelong friends.
One of the most comprehensive hotel price comparison websites, Trivago combs 200 worldwide booking sites to find the best deals for travellers. You can look for budget-friendly places and compare hotels in your chosen destination. Trivago compares some of the biggest websites such as Expedia, Hotels.com and Booking.com to save money on bookings.
Getting around and exploring
Google Maps is almost as indispensable as the calculator or clock on your phone when travelling. While it normally uses data, it’s possible to download maps before you head abroad – making it easier to navigate even if you can’t find an internet connection. Google Maps is pretty reliable when planning journeys or when used as a GPS too, making it a handy solution for all eventualities on your trip.
An interactive travel guide at your fingertips, Triposo allows users to find things to see and do in over 50,000 destinations worldwide. It has detailed maps, suggestions for top activities and uses clever algorithms to pool together all the info you could need in one app. You can even book hotels, restaurants and tours within the app. Best of all, it works offline so you don’t need to keep hunting for WiFi to use! Just download the guides before you travel and you’re good to go!
Citymapper takes out all the stress in planning your public transport journeys by providing real-time timetables, fastest routes and personalised features. I use it on my own commute every single day but the app has now expanded to almost 40 cities around the world with more being added regularly! It could be invaluable when you are trying to navigate around a new city or simply want the quickest way to get from A to B.
Not just another guide app, Trip.com helps you personalise your itineraries with suggestions based on your personal preferences, weather and your location. You can discover cool restaurants, quirky bars and local events in over 60,000 locations around the world. You can read reviews, book hotels and even share your photos with an in-built customization tool.
Rome2Rio is great for planning journeys and itineraries as it gives you detailed routes to just about anywhere on the planet. Want to know the quickest way to get to Singapore or how much a train journey between Paris and Berlin costs? This app has you covered! It works really well and I used it quite extensively on my latest trip to South Korea!
The ridesharing app has now spread to more than 500 cities worldwide, making it easy to get a ride on your travels. You know the drill – load up the app, set a destination and immediately see how far your Uber driver is. You can get estimates for how much the trip will cost and see drivers’ reviews before you get in the car. Some cities are cheaper than others, sure, and the company has attracted some negative publicity for its working practices but its ease of use and convenience can’t be denied.
Guides by Lonely Planet
Curated by Lonely Planet writers, this app has 100+ city guides with essential tips, advice on activities, accommodation and restaurants. You are getting the sort of recommendations you would expect from Lonely Planet so you know you can trust them! You can download the guides and use them offline once you arrive and there are even maps and phrasebooks available making it easier to navigate and interact with locals. This is a great way to access the years of expertise provided by the brand without lugging around a big book with you!
Eating Out and Nightlife
The restaurant booking app makes finding somewhere to eat simple and quick. There are already more than 40000 restaurants available and an ever-growing list of countries, making this an idea of way discovering new spots on your travels. You can browse menus and photos and even get special offers from restaurants before booking a table without the need to call ahead or be disappointed once you get there. Worth a go next time you want to try that seafood place in Tokyo you’ve read so much about.
I am not sure many people saw this coming from Uber but here we are! A food ordering app that utilises the existing Uber network to deliver a wide range of cuisines to your doorstep. It’s already expanded to many major cities around the world with more on the way. So if you don’t feel like heading out for a dinner after a long day of sightseeing, you can still enjoy quality local food – all in the comfort of your hotel room!
Time Out is one of the best way to discover things to do, places to eat and drink as well as local events and activities. Used by locals around the world, it’s a great way to tune in to what’s happening in your destination and be “in the know”. I often use the London guide to plan my weekends or find things to do with friends and always make sure I check out what’s happening locally when I find myself abroad. There are currently 30 cities available with more being added soon.
Previously known as Urbanspoon in some parts of the world, this restaurant finder covers 10000 cities around the world, so chances are you won’t go hungry when using the app. It features loads of search options and you can find eateries by cuisine, budget or proximity. You can even get recommendations from friends who use the app and even book a table in select locations.
Day to Day
Finding an internet connection in a foreign country can be a stressful experience – and while going “offline” can be liberating, we live in a connected world! Instabridge helps you connect to free WiFi hotspots in major cities and also has passwords to public networks. You can even download lists of WiFi spots that will be available offline, making it easier to locate them when wandering around. You can even activate alerts telling you a connection is nearby!
Revolut is my favourite way of managing my money when travelling. It’s a service that offers near-perfect interbank rates and allows you to exchange your money at a touch of a button. Once you download the app, you order your free Mastercard and start loading it up with money. It works everywhere and you once you’ve loaded it up, that’s it! You can spend without worrying about any bank fees and instantly transfer money to friends and family across the world. ATM withdrawals are also way cheaper than using your own card abroad! Trust me – it’s SUPER easy to use and very secure as it’s regulated by financial authorities!
Navigating your way around foreign signs, menus or texts is not the easiest thing with a simple phrasebook. This app lets you translate over a 100 languages by typing or handwriting words and characters. You can even point your phone’s camera at text for an instant translation to make sense of what it is exactly you are about to eat in that awesome street food market in Bangkok.
Ok, bear with me here! While travelling solo is great fun, meeting other people is one of the best parts of the experience. Tinder is a great way to meet locals and other travellers and discover new bars or cool activities. I’ve got plenty of tips from matches in the past and if staying at a stranger’s house, a la Couchsurfing is considered normal, then a date in a foreign land is just as acceptable! At worst, it’s a story to tell people back home and at best…well, who knows, maybe you will even find love on the road!
Weather forecasts can be pretty hit and miss but Accuweather is as precise as it’s going to get. It provides one of the most reliable forecasts with minute-by-minute updates and localised information down to your exact street address – perfect when you are planning a hike or an evening walk but are not sure of whether you’ll beat those gathering rain clouds.
Keeping in touch with friends and family while travelling is important and WhatsApp Messenger lets you do it in real-time and for free. While it does need an internet connection to send and receive messages, its flexibility is unrivalled – from sending simple messages to sharing photos, videos and voice notes, there are loads of ways to connect to your loved ones. It also allows for free voice and video calls using an Internet connection – much better than using your plan’s minutes and avoids expensive overseas charges. I use WhatsApp every single day – whether I am at home or abroad!
PayPal makes it very easy to send money to people around the world using just a few taps of the screen. You don’t even need to know someone’s bank details as you can just use their phone number or an email address. This is great while travelling as it’s possible to quickly transfer money to someone who booked a flight ticket or paid for a meal for the entire group. More and more business are also offering payment by PayPal which makes it easier to make payments for goods and services – no need to type in long card numbers anymore!
Planning and Organising
If you are serious about immersing yourself in your destination or want to be able to speak like a local, an app is a great way to pick up a new language. Broken up into manageable lessons, you can do as much or as little as you like. You can test your skills and earn achievements as you get more and more proficient. The app can be unintentionally hilarious, getting you to translate sentences like “Our rabbit does not drink milk” and “I need a horse”, but it’s a fun way to learn. There are currently 23 languages available.
Tripcase allows you to organise your trip plans and itineraries in one place making it easier to keep track of everything. Once you receive an itinerary or hotel booking from the airline or travel agent, you just forward the email to a dedicated address and the details will appear in the app within a few minutes! I use it extensively to keep track of all my trips and I find the updates and reminders about my flights quite handy.
A currency converted app can be invaluable and XE Currency is my favourite of the lot. You can add up to ten currencies and track live exchange rates and converting is easy with the inbuilt calculator. Bear in mind that the rates you see in-app are almost never the rates you will get on the high street (they are “mid-market” rates) but provide you with a very good starting point. You can even analyse how the currencies have fluctuated over time and set up alerts.
Another handy way to organise all your trips and itineraries in one place but Google Trips goes much further than that. It suggests day plans based on popular attractions, restaurants and bars and lets you to get directions, read reviews and find opening times. Of course, being a Google app, it seamlessly syncs with other Google products such as Gmail and Google Maps to make for a unified experience.
Packing for a trip can be daunting – especially when you have no idea what you should bring with you. Packpoint takes the pain out of the process by helping you organise your packing based on where you are going, the weather at your destination and what kind of activities you are planning to do. This serves as a checklist, meaning you know exactly what you should bring and stops you from forgetting important items. I enjoy packing but using Packpoint definitely made me think more about how much stuff I am taking with me and whether I need to add or get rid of certain items.
Have you found these useful on your travels? Do you use any other great travel apps? Let me know!
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