In the age of smart phones and plentiful wifi all over the world, travelers have never had more at their fingertips to ease the stress and complications of traveling in an unknown world. One way that technology has really changed the game is through helpful apps that can help you save money, find the best flights, teach you a new language, and communicate with new friends and loved ones back home or abroad. Here is a list of some essential apps you need to download, most of which are free:
- Momondo (Free iOS & Android) – out of all the websites and apps I’ve used in the past, this one tends to be the best. I love it because they show you a graph for prices each day of the week around your proposed date, and even prices for the month. That way you can make an educated decision on when the best time to fly out and arrive is for your wallet.
- Skyscanner (Free iOS & Android) – the pioneer of cheap flying apps, Skyscanner tends to have deals and connections with airlines that some sights don’t or can’t show (such as Southwest & Frontier Airlines). They also get heaps of deals from Vayama and Cheapflights, which tend to be $5-30 less than the rest.
- Kayak (Free iOS & Android): this app has gotten more expensive through the years, however every now and then can find a diamond in the rough. I love Kayak because you can set alerts for different flight deals and save trips.
- Pro-Tip: Great app to use in collaboration with AirFare Watchdog
- Hopper (Free iOS & Android) – this app is amazing. Hopper uses data from prices and flight patterns over the past to help you predict, watch, and book the absolute best deal on your specific trip. You can watch multiple flights at one time, it notifies you when you should buy the flight and when prices are going up, and also shows you on a day-to-day calendar what the pricing patterns are so you can make the best decision.
- Hipmunk (Free iOS & Android) – another great app for finding cheap flights.
- Skiplagged (Free iOS & Android) – One of the best and most unique apps on the market right now. It finds layovers and abstract routes so that you can get to your destination at the absolute cheapest price. Here’s how it works: lets say you need to fly from Atlanta to Denver. The direct flights are around $400, however there are a bunch of flights that are cheaper flying from Atlanta to Los Angeles, with a stopover in Denver. Skiplagged finds those exact flights for you and directs you on how to buy the ticket, so you just get off in Denver and skip the LA flight, while paying a cheaper price!
- True Story: Once I missed my flight from NYC to ATL and the next flights out were $375 one way. I went on to Skiplagged and found a $150 flight from NYC to Cancun with a stopover in Atlanta. Luckily I had my passport on me and a carry-on bag, and was able to catch this amazing deal 🙂
- Pro-Tip: if you are checking bags, DO NOT use this app, otherwise your bags will go to the last destination.
- Hostelworld (Free iOS & Android) – the absolute best app for finding hostels and cheap hotels around the world. With hundreds of comments, lots of pictures, and an easy mapping tool, this is a great way to find cheap accommodation. Make no mistake, hostels are not the dangerous sketchy places the media has portrayed them to be. On the contrary, I’ve found some hostel options to be much nicer than a lot of hotels. In addition, you get to meet new friends around the world, and are usually provided with fun activities, maps, tours, and info about the city/country you are in.
- Pro-Tip: travelers around the world (including yourself) rely on peoples experiences, comments, and reviews on Hostelworld to determine the best option. Do your part and write a review for the hostel or hotel you stayed at as soon as you can, making the world a better more informed place for backpackers 🙂
- Hostelbookers (Free iOS & Android) – the 2nd best app for finding cheap accommodation in hostels and hotels. It’s worth checking out before you book something on hostel world because they sometimes have cheaper prices.
- Couchsurfing (Free iOS & Android) – I believe Couchsurfing is an essential part of discovering a country. Staying with locals provides you with a unique and special experience that can literally make your trip. Take time to set up a solid profile with lots of pictures and information about yourself. I have never had a bad experience. And best of all, it’s FREE accommodation.
- Booking.com (Free iOS & Android) – A lot of hostels and hotels use Booking.com instead of Hostelworld to avoid the fees, so make sure to check this app first before booking in order to get the right price. Booking.com is also a better option for booking regular hotels, providing more information and the non-budget options.
- Pro-Tip: Hostels and Hotels allocate a certain amount of rooms for each website and sometimes just because its all booked up on one website, doesn’t mean its sold out on the other. If there is a place you really want to stay but it’s all booked, make sure to check both cause you might be in luck.
- Airbnb (Free iOS & Android) – great for couples and groups traveling together to find a whole house or apartment for a good price in a great area. I would choose this option over a nice hotel any day.
- True Story: Once I needed to find a place for 14 people in Medellin, Colombia coming off of a boat trip through the San Blas Islands. Air Bnb connected me with an awesome host named Gustavo, who let us rent out his entire house, as well as cooked us a delicious Colombian BBQ and picked us up from the bus station in his van!
- Pro-Tip: if you are trying to meet people, avoid the this option.
- Maps.Me (Free iOS & Android) – One of the most essential travel apps at the moment. Maps.Me works offline to give you GPS and live directions within the city or region you are in. Simply download the maps you need while on wifi and never be lost again.
- Pro-Tip: Make sure to download the maps for the countries your need BEFORE you arrive, you never know if you will be able to find good wifi, or even any wifi at all when you get there. You want to make sure you know where you are going and how far it is, so that you don’t get ripped off by any taxi drivers.
- Google Maps (Free iOS & Android) – Google Maps is great to use when trying to find restaurants and hotels, however does not work as well as Maps.Me when you are without data. There is an option to download maps offline, however you can’t get live directions. Either way, great to have.
- Moovit (Free iOS & Android) – Moovit is the absolute best app for Live Directions on public transportation (bus, metro, and tram) around the city (Best used in US, UK, Australia).
- Uber (Free iOS & Android) – Uber has now become international. It’s proven to be the cheapest and safest option compared to taxis in countries like South Africa, Philippines, Brazil, and Australia just to name a few.
- Flixbus (Free iOS & Android) – this app only pertains to Europe, and is the best and cheapest bus option these days. Flixbus recently bought out Megabus in Western & Central Europe, giving it an even more wide range of route options. I love these buses because they have reclinable seats, air con, movie options, drink & snack options and also free wifi on board! Flixbus is also cheaper almost 100% of the time compared to trains in Europe.
- WhatsApp (Free iOS & Android) – Recently bought by Google, Whatsapp is a universal communication app that works through data or wifi. Through Whatsapp, you can communicate with people all of then world by text, voice message, and free calling (on wifi and data), as well as easily send pictures and videos. This app is 100% free and works great all around the world.
- Pro-Tip: consider getting a Chat-Sim card for $21 a year for unlimited international messaging using WhatsApp & Messenger around the world, without even having a data.
- Viber (Free iOS & Android) – If Whatsapp is the Facebook of messenger apps, think of Viber as the Myspace version. Viber has been around longer, and has more animated texting and emoji’s. You can also send pictures and videos, as well as call internationally free to others with the app.
- Skype (Free iOS & Android) – Even with FaceTime and Messenger apps offering video calling these days, Skype is still an extremely essential app. Most importantly because of its international calling function on which you can call any number around the world, no matter if they have the Skype app or not. This is great when you need to call your bank or airlines, providing a much cheaper option than making international calls on a phone plan. Simply buy Skype Credit and use it when you need to.
- Pro Tip: Go ahead and add $20 to your Skype credit account because if you go with the $5 option, you may end up on an important call with your bank/airline and run out of minutes, in which you will be disconnected and have to start all over (this happened to me so many times)
- Messenger (Free iOS & Android) – Facebook continues to embed itself within our social lives connecting us with the world on its new Messenger app. This is another app you can use with a Chatsim card, and is great for communicating back home with friends and loved ones via voice call, video call, or message. Messenger also proves to be an easier app to share photos with compared to Whatsapp.
- Currency+ ($1.99) – There is a free version of this app, but its worth it to buy the “+” version in the app store. This app is great and works no matter if you are connected to wifi or not, as long as you have previously loaded the currencies you want to see in your favorites. With Currency+, you can compare currencies and exchange rates from multiple different countries with just one click. Whether er you are in a market haggling, eating at a restaurant, or pulling money out of the ATM, this app really comes in handy.
- Pro-Tip: Everyone loves a different currency app, try a few out and find the one that suits you best. Just make sure that it works without data (go into airplane mode), and shows you multiple conversions for different currencies at one time.
- Piper (Varies) – I am a big believer in being a good ambassador to ones country after having worked in the hospitality industry for 8 years in the United States. It is all too common for foreigners to not do their homework on certain customs in other countries, especially when it comes to tipping. Piper is an app that eliminates ignorance on tipping policies around the world, and is data free once you download the continents/countries you need. It provides an accurate guide for everything from restaurants, to bars, to taxis, to the hotel concierge.
- Pro-Tip: with the exception of Canada (15-18%) and the United States (18-20%), its safe to leave around 10%, or at least round-up/leave the change in most countries. If you are not sure, ask the locals what the custom is or check this a global tipping app, you might be surprised what your find.
- Spotify (Premium) – If you have not hopped on the Spotify train yet, I suggest you do before you go traveling. With Spotify Premium you can download unlimited songs directly to your phone and listen without data usage. Best thing to do is ask 4 of your friends to join you (or your actual family) on a family plan, making is only $3 a month per person for unlimited awesome tunes!
- Been (Free iOS & Android) – Been is a really fun app I love to use. It basically allow you to fill in each country and state you have been to, allows you to see the percentage of the world you’ve covered, and keeps you inspired to see more.
- Tinder (Free iOS & Android) – I know what you are thinking and it may seem silly, but I am a true believer in Tinder being an essential travel application. Of course it can be a great (and interesting) way to meet someone romantically, but it can also be used to meet someone in a different country that could change your entire experience! I love to use it to meet locals that can show me around a city, or maybe invite me out with their friends, or to go out to a local pub/bar/club/hotspot that I may never find on my own.
- True Story: I once met a girl in Morocco that taught me more about Moroccan customs, food, and culture than any guide could have done. She showed me awesome restaurants, rooftop bars in Marrakesh, and took me around the city on a tour on the back of her bike! All because of Tinder 🙂
- Google Translate (Free iOS & Android) – this one is pretty obvious. It doesn’t work without wifi/data unfortunately, but if you have it, this app has gotten me out of quite a few pickles. The coolest thing it can do is using the camera option to translate signs, menus, and messages.
- Example: Once I was walking around China and really wanted some street food but I had no idea what is was. So I held my phone up to the menu, all written in Chinese, and walla! Google Translate shows me the same menu, but in english on my phone. Turns out it was a duck stew.
- Duolingo (Free iOS & Android) – probably the best app out there for quick and easy learning of over 10 different languages, and it’s 100% FREE. Think of a mini-Rosetta Stone app with much softer features.
- Pro-Tip: do your best to get through the first few levels of basics before arriving to your first country. It helps to create a genuine experience if you can communicate a little bit, as well as helps you get around. Directions, Bartering, Greetings, and Food vocabulary are most important.
- Google Photos (Free iOS & Android) – an essential free app great for uploading and storing unlimited amounts of photos and videos from your phone, directly in the cloud and into your Google Drive. This is much better than the iCloud photos storage in my opinion and you can set the settings so that whenever you are connected to wifi, Google Photos automatically syncs your libraries and backs up your content.
- Dropbox (Free iOS & Android) – a very popular app for music and business, Dropbox is also an essential travel app for your documents. I use dropbox to save my important documents such as: a copy of my passport & ID’s, Vaccinations, Contacts, Visa Letters, and also some photos.
- Pro-Tip: Make sure to save the documents as “Offline Versions” to your phone, so that you may look at them at anytime without data.
- Genius Scan (iOS & Android) – this is an awesome app that can save you a trip to the local copy & print business. With Genius Scan you can scan your documents, add your signature, create pdf files, and upload book pages, all with your phone! You can also transfer these items directly to your Dropbox or Evernote apps for safe keeping.
- iPassword ($1.50 iOS & Android) – a wise app to have not only to save your password information for different webpages, but also to record your banking routing and account numbers. I would also put all of your credit card/debit card details inside, as well as any password/username combinations. You don’t want to be stuck in another country without this information.
- WiFox (Free iOS & Android) – a really cool app that allows you to see the wifi password forthousands of airports and lounges around the world.
- Evernote (Free iOS & Android): Not a lot of people have or use this app but it happens to be one of my favorites. Think of it like a iPhone notes on steroids, all up in the cloud. I love it because you can create notes, lists, and whatever else, and access them from any computer or phone around the world. You can also upload pictures, documents, addresses, and contact numbers to each note. I use this most for keeping an ongoing contact list for everyone I meet on my trip, of which it helps to layout a template for everyone and keeps things organized 🙂
- PS: If you get the premium version which is $10 a year, you can even see all of these notes at all times without data or wifi, saved to your phone