20 best travel apps: prologue
“TRAVELING – IT LEAVES YOU SPEECHLESS, THEN TURNS YOU INTO A STORYTELLER.” – IBN BATTUTA
Often life’s gifts come in small packages like the unexpectedly beautiful sky, the laughing wind dancing with rustling brown leaves, a sunshine smile breaking across the face of a friend or lover, cool kissing rain, or rainbows in the sky. It might be simply that your day was free of any troubles. Those little packages are a joy to open, but sometimes the presents come in bigger boxes.
The small simple gifts that life gives you are thoughtlessly and eagerly opened. Often the bigger gifts make us hesitate. We suspect those gifts might come with hidden price tags or that we might not deserve them – but we always do.
Sometimes those large gifts are so grand and amazing that they do actually require something of us because to accept them means that we might have to be brave and it might mean that everything will change. We might have to take a risk. We might have to reach out and grab that gift and accept what it may mean. Accept them we always must.
And so it was that, in my darkest hour, life gave me a grand gift. It offered me a chance to wander and discover. So it was that I was able to travel for 3 months across SE Asia.
So I’ve walked the futuristic neon-drenched streets of Tokyo. I’ve travelled across Thailand by train. I ate steamed dumplings brought and sold through open windows. I watched an exotic world pass me slowly by. I lazed around on an island while water lapped lazy and sang her ocean songs.
I chugged, in an ancient bright coloured boat, down the mighty Mekong river from the border of Thailand to Luang Prabang, Laos. I journeyed across Laos by road and down into Malaysia where I walked night markets and walked through the sky on bridge strewn like an impossible necklace among mountains.
I flew to Hanoi, Vietnam. I weaved my way through the organized chaos of beeping bikes that swarmed the old french streets like buzzing bees in search of flowers. I revelled in the chaos and bright life I found there.
I’ve seen and done seemingly a hundred more things. Now it all lives in my heart like a lighthouse keeping me safe from the rocky shores of desolation and darkness. All that beauty nourishes my soul. And I know, I know, I know. I will go back again.
So if you are thinking of travelling, especially to South East Asia, I offer this list of the 20 best travel apps I used on my travels. There are no affiliate links here. These are all, every one, installed on my phone. I have personally used almost all of them while I travelled and found them extremely useful. There are other “best travel apps” lists out there but this is my list from my own personal experience. I get no money from recommending any app listed here.
A few things to note before this totally awesome and amazing best travel apps list. A few of the apps, I discovered later; Although they are highly rated I have not used them yet. Where I have not yet used an app, I shall state it. My phone is Android and that is the version I am familiar with but where there are other versions or a website then they are listed too. I’m based in the UK so the stores and sites are often defaulted to that location.
So without further ado, here are my top 20 best travel apps.
Best Travel Apps: Getting There
“Be prepared.”– Scout Motto
My favourite app for finding and booking cheap flights. While travelling for over 3 months, I booked quite a few flights. On my phone, I had 4 flight booking apps. I found this often offered the cheapest flights. It’s richly featured and has an easy to use interface. I particularly like how it displays the cheapest days to travel. Momondo is available on both Android and also iPhone.
Another great travel app for finding flights. I always check Sky Scanner as well as Momondo just to be sure I’m absolutely finding the best deal. Not every deal is available on every flight aggregation service. This has a slick and easy to use interface and is very popular for a reason. It’s available on both Android and iPhone.
App in the Air
I only recently discovered this app so I’ve not personally used it yet, but it’s installed! I plan to use it next time I travel. It’s well-rated and should prove to be extremely useful. This app gathers together, in one place, all of your flight booking details. It offers flight tracking, status updates (even offline), management of different travel itineraries, and more! Currently, there is only an Android version of App in the Air
I LOVE this app. This proved so useful. Google maps is often great when you are in your destination but getting from country to country or even city to city? You’ll need Rome2Rio. Just enter in your start and finish locations and it will give you various route options along with prices and journey times. The options will include just about every mode of transportation: trains, busses, flights, ferries, taxi, and so on. Also provided are links for booking your transport where it’s necessary. This is a brilliant and essential app when travelling. It’s available on Android & iPhone, but there’s also a Rome2Rio website.
If you are travelling in Asia and want to book a train, coach, or ferry, then this is an essential travel app to have. It’s available on both Android & iPhone but there is a web version too. You can also apparently book flights but I’ve never personally used it for that.
The Man in Seat 61
This is a list of the best travel apps and yet one of my top recommendations isn’t an app. Everything you could possibly want to know about travel via train in just about every country in the world. This site is an invaluable guide to everything train-related. So useful when you are growing the seed of a journey. Here you’ll find information to water that dream. Check it out The man in Seat 61
Best Travel Apps: Staying There
“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world. You are surrounded by adventure.”.– Freya Stark
You’ll need a place to stay. Maybe it will be just a place to rest your weary head or maybe you want something a little grander. Agoda was, by far, the cheapest option when it came to booking a place to stay, at least in SE Asia. They offer a rewards program too which is useful if you are long term travelling. You can go directly to the Agoda website or use the Android or iPhone.
This really seems to be the granddaddy of all hotel booking sites. I see it recommended time and time again but I found it to be fairly expensive when compared to Agoda. I also find the user interface to be cluttered and difficult to navigate. I’ve no idea if booking.com is cheaper in other parts of the world – your mileage may vary, so I include it here. Visit Booking.com website or use the app on Android or iPhone.
Hostels are nearly always framed as the cheap option but I find that’s not always the case, and especially in South East Asia. I think, rather, hostels should be thought of as an alternative to a hotel stay. They offer the chance to meet and socialise with others in a way not simply possible in a hotel. The staff are often a lot more helpful and willing to guide. Many places organise events to participate in.
Just like any form of accommodation you have a cheap and basic budget end, a middle mix, and high end with prices to match. If you want to give the hostel thing a try then you can’t do better than HostelWorld. They have apps on Android and iPhone.
This probably needs little introduction. Rent someone’s home (apartment or house) for a while. You can choose to have the run of the place or stay in a room but share the house with the host and/or other guests. Visit the Airbnb site or download and use the app on Android or iPhone.
As an alternative to a traditional stay you could become a couch surfer! What is couch surfing? You may well ask! The concept of couch surfing is a cultural exchange. You get to stay in a local’s home (for free!) and really get a feel for the culture and people.
Couch surfing isn’t just a freebie. You’ll be expected to give something in return and interact with your guests. This is a two-way exchange. It’s also polite to turn up with a little gift and offer to help with the chores. So if the idea of staying in a locals spare room or even literally sleeping on their couch appeals to you then give this a whirl. Visit the Couch Surfing website or download and use the apps on Android or iPhone
Best Travel Apps: Eating there
“People who love to eat are always the best people.”– Julia Child
Travel to Asia? You hungry? Don’t be hangry (hungry+angry) use this app to find the best places to eat!
I’ve not personally used this particular app, but it looks great! I didn’t know about this, the last time I was travelling, but wish that I had. Next time, I’ll try this out. I suggest you try it out too. If you’ve already tried it then I would love to hear about that in the comments.
This app contains over 2000 restaurants across Asia including Hong Kong, Macau, China, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. It’s also available in 6 languages. There are plenty of food photos and reviews for each of the restaurants. If you like what you see you can click for directions. There’s a reward system and also the option for restaurant booking where available.
Yes, the big kahuna, the big cheese, the big apple – wait, no, that’s a city. Anyway, it’s always going to be useful in looking at restaurants where ever you are in the world. If you are wondering about what to eat or where to eat then it’s useful. I use Tripadvisor more to get a feel for what the place is like by looking at the photos and seeing what the general feeling is rather than taking it all literally at face value. Obviously, they have a website version of Tripadvisor or you can download the app for your Android or iPhone.
Best Travel Apps: Exploring there.
“Not all who wander are lost.”– J.R.R. Tolkien
Once you get there, you will need to communicate. This is an absolutely essential travel app. Unless you are the amazing memory man that has mastered pretty much all the languages on the planet, plus Klingon and High Valerian, then you’ll need this app to communicate with the locals. Things such as: excuse me, where are the toilets? May I please order many of those delicious things to put into my face? Excuse me, I am bright red and covered in bites, can you kindly direct me to a shop that sells sun protection lotion and mosquito spray?
Obviously, try and learn some of the languages before you go, but once you venture beyond the basics you will need this handy app. This has been a life-saver so many times.
I’ll always remember the conversation between me and an especially helpful station attendant in Japan. He had Google Translate on his phone too. With his help, I managed to get the right train. We would never have been able to “talk” without this. Get it on Android, iPhone, and for the web version just type “translate” into the Google Search Bar.
Communicating with the locals is really important. Personally I always learn hello, please, thank you, and DELICIOUS! It’s also extremely useful to know how much you are spending! For currency conversion, I like Currency Plus. It’s not available on iPhone but many people like XE.
Once you can communicate and know how much things are then you’ll most likely need to get from place to place. If you find yourself in SE Asia then Grab is what you need installed on your phone. It’s a ride-hailing app just like Uber. It has a whole load of other offerings and features but I’ve only used it to call a ride. It’s cheap and convenient. Using grab is a much better idea than using local taxi which may try to rip you off. With grab, there’s a known set price. Download Grab on Android or Grab on Apple
Not really much I can say here. Pretty much everybody knows what Uber is. Unless you live in a cave then you’ll have heard of Uber and know what it is. If you do live in a cave you probably don’t have an internet connection… Uber is available in many countries but banned in many places too. Check before you go! Uber Android and Uber Apple
This is really a no brainer. For getting around a city, knowing what is around you, getting to your hotel, finding places to eat, navigating local busses, metro, and trains, there’s just nothing that comes close. When taking local busses or using the metro this is a particular godsend. I can’t live without Google Maps. This might be the best travel app. Ever. It’s obviously available on Google’s Android system but you can find it on iPhone too or use the website if you have a laptop.
A one-stop-shop for attractions, tours, activities, walking tours, and just about anything you can think of. There are reward points for booking via Klook. I used it a number of times and found it really useful. there are often special offers and discounts too. Visit the Klook website or download for Android or iPhone.
No internet connection? No problema! You can still get around using this very handy offline maps app. It features turn by turn navigation. A very handy backup in case you lose connection or even don’t have a connection in the first place. I have never had to use this but I’m glad it’s installed. Maps.ME is on Android or on iPhone.
20 Best Travel Apps: Epilogue & Bonus Round
“I really wish I had gone to the toilet back in my hotel…”– Me
Ah, the last chapter in our best travel apps saga and we find out it was the butler all along. If only it were not for those meddling kids…
BONUS ROUND: Just a few more suggestions before I go. I didn’t include them in the main list because they’re not travel apps, but they’re useful to have when travelling all the same. If you’re travelling in SE Asia then you might consider having Line installed because it’s used a lot for communication.
For long journeys, Spotify for music on the go and Kindle for reading on the go are both awesome to have. Last but not least, Netflix and Amazon for movies and TV on the go, which both have the ability to download shows and movies in advance. Although if you are anything like me, you’ll be too busy looking out the window or daydreaming or possibly both.
I really hope you found this list useful. If you did then I really love to hear from you in the comments. Are there any essential travel apps that I missed? Again, I would really love to know! What would your ultimate best travel apps list include?
If you have anything else to say then please do leave your thoughts, ramblings, philosophies, conspiracy theories, mutterings, antidotes, praise or damnation in the comments below.
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Happy Travels! Stay safe and stay hungry!