15 Essential Travel Apps for Backpackers
MAPS.me is an awesome maps app that lets you download map data for a country or region so you can use it even when you have no data connection. This app was a serious life-saver when I was trying to find my way through the infinite windy alleyways of the medina in Fez, Morocco — not to mention many other places!
While Google Maps now also include a downloading function, I like the MAPS.me functionality better. It also lets you more easily star specific locations for later reference.
2. Google Translate
If you’re on Android, you may already have this. Either way, get this app, and add it to your home screen!
Not only can you translate text by manually typing it in, it can instantly translate a conversation, or render translated text on top of a camera picture. Google recently switched to translations based on machine learning, making the results much better, especially for difficult translations like Japanese to English.
Be sure to download the dictionaries for languages you need on your trip, for offline use!
3. XE Currency
The best way to avoid getting overcharged abroad (or just making costly mistakes) is to have the latest exchange rates with you all the time. XE Currency doesn’t need to be connected to the internet to work.
Hostelworld is the biggest hostel booking site, so if you’re a budget traveller chances are you’ll be using this app a lot. Once you’re already logged into your account, booking your next place to stay takes just a minute. (Psst, I also have some tips for finding the best hostels.)
Momondo is my other favorite flight search engine, and like Skyscanner it’s fully independent so it includes as many carriers as possible. Get the most out of Momondo and Skyscanner by reading my tips and tricks for finding the cheapest flights.
Skype video calls are a fantastic way to keep up with your friends or family back home. But it’s also a great way to make cheap international calls! I’ve found this extremely useful in cases where I had to call the support desk of my bank or insurer while abroad. Just put a little credit in your Skype account and you can call numbers in your home country at local tariffs.
Okay, this one’s mainly for Americans (I’m European). Whatsapp may not be so known in the US, but it’s the go-to messenging app for much of the world, so it’s often a great way to keep in touch with any locals or other travellers you meet. Fun fact: in Brazil they say zapzap instead of whatsapp, which is super cute.
Pocket lets you save any webpage for later reading. Just hit the share icon and select the Pocket icon, and you’ll be able to pull up this article or blog post from the Pocket app later. This is absolutely brilliant for stocking up on reading material before a long flight or bus journey. Pocket now also lets you save videos for later viewing!
What better time to learn a language than while you’re fully immersed in that language on a trip? Duolingo makes language learning fun by adding game-like scoring and progression systems. It’s free and it’s excellent for learning the basics.
Unlock the Flirting pack and you can even learn such useful phrases as “I’m not drunk, I’m just intoxicated by you.” Hello there sexy locals.
11. Trail Wallet
This app makes it easier to track your daily travel budget and expenses. Supports 200+ local currencies, daily budget targets, spending categories, and much more.
Prey helps you secure your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. It lets you track multiple devices in case it gets stolen or lost, and uses GPS and camera pictures to help you recover a lost device. You can even wipe your devices remotely.
13. Google Drive
Speaking of data security, be sure to back up your shit. Seriously, I’m sick of hearing travellers tell me sob stories about how they lost all their photos. Make sure your phone is set up to sync with either Apple iCloud or with Google Drive (or with a competing service such as Dropbox or Microsoft’s Onedrive). Google Drive gives you 15 GB for free. I personally use the $2 a month plan for 100 GB of cloud storage, which gets synced accross all my devices.
This is seriously the most amazing app for finding out transportation connections, even in the most remote places. Type in where you are and where you’re going and you get a list of bus, train, flight, and self-drive options.
15. VOLO – Your Travel Journal
It’s fun to keep some kind of journal during your trip. While you could easily use the built-in notepad apps, it’s more fun to use a dedicated travel journal app. With VOLO, you can create a kind of scrapbook, including pictures and text, and can even co-author your journey with your fellow travel buddies.