There are so many apps out ther that people recommend for travellers. Heck, there are dozens of “Top Ten Apps…” articles out there. But many of them feature services I know but would usually just use through my laptop. Also, if you are at all like me, chances are your phone has had an overkill of apps and used storage and you are struggling to keep the ones you have going (empty caches regularly!). So I needed to make a selection. After all, travel teaches you to be frugal. By the way, all apps are free.
An obvious choice but oh so necessary. Just make sure you update it regularly or have it done automatically through the sync function in your phone. Every phone should have one preinstalled and you can even choose the location. I, for instance, have added different destinations depending on my itinerary and still keep some of places I am interested in seeing the weather of. I constantly have a watch on London, Malmö and my home town, for example. It also helps fuel travel dreams and nostalgic trips down memory lane.
No need to tell you how convenient Tripadvisor is. So many honest reviews (you need to filter out the fake or troll ones) and good suggestions. If I want suggestions in my vicinity without bothering to skim through the whole section online, I just download the city I want (there is a limited selection, however), let it locate me and choose the activity I fancy. Is it shopping or dining, a hotel or attraction? Even self-guided walks are stored here. And all is accessible offline. What I love most is that the maps are also offline and much better than google maps in that it knows your general (not exact, though) location without wifi. Only the street names should be labelled throughout.
I guess you could say I’m a new fan. Often much cheaper than a taxi, easier to track down and super transparent. The app will tell you rightaway how long the ride and how much it will be. It gives you a span and you can be sure not to be ripped off. In Cape Town, for instance, I paid double the amount for the same route! Also handy to know is that you can rate the driver, see where they are and how long it takes. And, if you want to be all posh, you can even choose from different levels of uber taxis. If I convinced you now to give it a try, why not use this free voucher to get about $15 off your very first ride? Just make sure you rype in the promo code annemaries59ue* before pressing ‘book’.
When I booked my first stays in Tokyo with AirBnB I was happy that I had installed the app. I didn’t search for the flats through it, nor did I after but it had stored the previous conversations and details on the accommodation, so when I was lost or had no wifi, I could still access it all and this way was able to find out the contact number and could call the host as I was lost in Tokyo. As usual. They were nice enough to pick me up, so that was great. (I know I should have written it down before, too.) I even got a voucher for you if you are a first-timer and would like to give it a go yourself: here is a voucher of 33 AUD.*
I hate Google Maps. It is so convenient when you want to find out distances or can just type in a shop name and get a nice exact location. Only, exact is often flexible and especially in Asian countries unreliable. In Korea it doesn’t even bother to try. You will never get the option to find out walking distances. And in Japan you definitely need it but at the same time, not. I never got as lost as in Japan. Usually I have an excellent orientation but it was screwed up here. Even worse, google maps mostly sent me in the wrong directions. Or to completely different houses. Trying to do it with offline maps (or screenshots) was even worse. All tht said, I still use it all the time.
Thanks to Alice’s helpful tip from the comments, I have found this little gem of downloadable country maps. This proves very helpful absolutely anywhere as it has all the streets, names and needs no internet connection once it is downloaded. Sure, it can take up a lot of phone space, so clear all your cache and get finally rid of Candy Crush. You’ll need your eyes to take in the world!
For Melbourne, you should download TramTracker to get the latest trams in your vicinity, for Tokyo it is and for my home town the name is Jenah, in case you wanted to know. You can even download train apps in some countries. Thus, no matter if you want to rock it with an old fashioned map or ask locals, having an app that does it for you is super convenient. Even if you don”t have wifi, many train stations or cafes nowadays offer it and so you could check your routes before you wait for ages. But even so, apps vary in their reliability, and the TramTracker I wasn’t particularly happy with.
I usually skype on my computer but when I need a quick phone call and have access to internet, skyp is my number one option. It is easy, quick and safe and the prices are cheap. Also, I find the user friendliness is much better on my phone. Unfortunately, the internet connection rarely is. If you have more than one skype account, you can only log into one at any given time. That is the only drawback.
Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. These are the social media apps I access through my phone. I banned facebook and messenger a long time ago since I didn’t agree at all with all the information it wanted from me. A word of warnin: ALWAYS check what each app you want to install wants to get from you and if you want to agree. Otherwise, you were able to live without it before, you can continue to do so. I know, it’s hard. Also, make sure you change the settings on what notifications you want otherwise you have to mute it with all the infux and then miss calls, like I did. Not professional.
You know Swiss Army Knives, the super handy all-in-one gadget for your pocket? There is an equivalent for your phone. And it is in English as well. You get a compass, ruler, torch light and more this way, stop watch, calculator, converter, magnifyer,timer and bubble level this way. Another big bonus is that it doesn’t take away space or needs to be given lots of permissions.
I know there is a onverter in my Swiss Army Knife app but I prefer one that is updated every day and that can give me a great overview and selection of the things I am actually interested in. It will show you how long you have not updated and you can calculate much better in it than with the regular calculator app. Awesome! Also, it takes no space at all.
If you don’t want to upload your photos to your laptop for editing, install VSCO Cam. It has an incredible selection of filters and option to tweak it yourself, from saturation over sharpness to changing colours in shadows and highlights. And it looks much better than any instagram filter ever. Another great option with vintage looking fitlers and blurs is Rookie. The drawback: It takes up a lot of space.
When I know I won’t have wifi for a stretch of time, I schedule my latest posts so they go live even when I can’t. It works for different platforms and I currently do it for twitter and facebook and it works both on my phone and laptop. A big drawback are the updates. They seem to wreck the app for me so that it won’t open. I usually don’t update as long as I can and then it works fine. Loading I still slow.
The alarm and clock app is super important so I can get up early when U stayed up late to follow twitter chats and keep up with my blogging journal. Also make sure you have a timer, too, in case you want to time distances, your working efficiency or a nap. And if you want to find out the time at home, you could check the Swiss Army Knife or my favourite, the Weltzeituhr (world time clock). Here, I can have a great overview of many destinations and I can manually shift the clock to see what time equals a certain time in my destination. No need to calculate in your head and get confused. That said, I alo like to use a calendar to keep up with itineraries and flight times. But I always write them down as well!
Oh well, I intended this post to be a brief overview and it turns out, I am actually using more apps than I thought. But hopefully you have found a new one through this list or learned something new. Maybe? Be sure to let me know in the comments.
*This post contains affiliate links that are marked with an asterisk. Using them doesn’t cost you a thing. In fact, you will even get a free voucher and you should know that I only recommend things that I would recommend to friends, too. And you are my internet friends, after all.
Marianne @ Mum on the Move says
Always good to get someone else’s favourite travel app recommendations! I agree – I think Google Maps is a lifesaver when you are traveling. Actually I use it all the time where I live in Hong Kong too as it is such a confusing place to find your way around sometimes! Another of my favorites – if you’re a coffee lover – is Beanhunter. It helps you track down the best independent coffee shops (no Starbucks allowed!) and has reviews of the coffee. I use it all the time when traveling. And XE currency if you’re a maths imbecile like me!
Travel on the Brain says
Hi Marianne, thanks for stopping by and sharing your go-to app as well. I am no coffee drinker but I know a lot of people are and would love to know about the app. So thanks for telling us! And you live in Hong Kong? I love that city! Hehe, I used to be pretty good in maths but I am bad when it comes to currency rates and so I love to haev an app like XE currency, too. I use convertpad for that.
I would also add a good navigational app Spyglass. It works great when offline, assuming that you pre-download the maps that you need in advance. It shows your accurate coordinates and your current position on a map, allows to mark locations and waypoints, share your locations with friends and much more.
Travel on the Brain says
Hi! I think I’ve heard of Spyglass but have never tried it. Thanks for sharing your tips. Iy sounds way better than google maps. Is it?
Alice Teacake says
A great alternative to Google Maps is Maps.Me! Especially for Asia. You can download the area map you want and it will tell you where you are offline too. Also, specifically for China, CTrip is invaluable. You can book trains, hotels and flights on it and the prices are some of the best I’ve found :)
Travel on the Brain says
Hi Alice! That is a such a great tip! Thanks for sharing. I would have needed that one in Korea and Japan, where google maps was just plain rubbish. To China I have never been. How was it? What did you like best?
Susan Moore says
I used to think I didn’t need any apps! I had a Blackberry for several years and only just switched to Samsung Note 4 last year – within a couple of days I wondered how I lived without it before – and all the apps!
Thanks for sharing yours apps list, I will definitely try out Schweizer Taschenmesser, I had never heard of that one before. I love Google maps and Skype as well. I am traveling to San Francisco soon and I will try out Uber while I’m there, I’ve heard great things about it!
Another app I like is Whatsapp for messaging while traveling.
Travel on the Brain says
Hi Susan, that’s what I thought before buying a smart phone, too! I was a late buyer, never seeing the point in replacing a phone that could still serve its original purpose, namely that of making and answering calls. But now that I’ve got a smartphone and all these apps, I am an addict!
So you are going to San Francisco?! That is so cool! I really would love to go as well in November but am not sure. Where else are you going to visit in the USA? Maybe you have some tips.^^
What an amazing post. There are so many apps for travelers out there and I only use a few of them – the most of them being the same which you listed here. There’s another great travel app I recently discovered and it’s called “CreateTrips” – I absolutely love this one. It’s like TripAdvisor :)
Oh and WhatsApp – whatsapp is essential for staying in contact with my beloved ones back home.
Travel on the Brain says
Thank you so much. You’re right. There are so many apps, just to many and everyone has a different perferenceand travel style anyway. I have heard of CreateTrips but have not tried it. Tripadvisor won’t let me download US cities now so I should check it out. Thanks! :)
And I used to have whatsapp on my phone, too but never really used it and since I only have wifi a few times throughout the day it was a bit annoying. How do you use it offline?
Rachel the Ramblr says
Great list! Would love to have you check out Ramblr as one of your go to Travel Apps! It’s great for tracking and sharing your trips, hikes, and other activities.
Travel on the Brain says
Hi Rachel, thanks for dropping a comment. I do like to use Ramblr, but just on my laptop as I try to avoid working on my phone, which by now is very stubborn and likes long loading times and to not cooperate. ^^