A very 2017 question that I tend to get every once in awhile from people, other than how the hell I afford to do some of these things (travel budgeting blog coming soon), would be what kind of travel apps I recommend for getting around easier, saving money, finding places to stay, and so on and so forth. It seems nowadays that there’s a mobile app for just about anything and everything, and honestly that holds to be relatively true. An example that comes to mind would be awhile ago when I was wondering if there was an app that would make it a little easier to learn some words for the country I’m about to visit, and within about 10 seconds of searching I was able to find Google Translate and Duo Lingo, both of which are free and provided me with language assistance in every country I traveled to after that, all that from a whole 10 seconds of research…go figure. I decided to compile a short list of some of my own personal favorite travel related apps, some of which would appear to be no brainers to the avid travelers among you, but if I can help you find one app that you weren’t using before that helps you travel a little easier then hey I’ll chalk it up as a major win, and I’d also like to note that every single one of these apps are FREE! So without further ado, here’s my list, enjoy!
This handy little app deals with all things transit! It works a lot like google maps but instead of offering directions you get different ways to get from point A to point B, companies, alternative routes, and how much each option costs. Typically it will show options for flying, bus, train, driving, ferry, or some random fun combinations of them. Each will be color coded and will show the cheapest price, as well as how long it will take the transit from start to finish. We don’t all enjoy hitchhiking with strangers as much as I do so this is a cost efficient way to view all available options you could possibly imagine, again, its all things transit built into one app!
To show an example I just plugged in starting point Yangon, Myanmar going to Bagan, Myanmar, and it shows up with flight option of $120 (always compare these with sky scanner and google flights because often it IS NOT the best flight deal out there), bus for $15, train for $ 35, and then dives into the amount of time for train + ferry or self drive (about 7 hours). For taking a bus whether it’s cross country or 20 minutes down the road it will give you everything you need from line numbers to times and where the bus stops are, it’s ridiculously easy to use and can be a solid one stop shop for international transit!
This one holds especially true for my American readers (which at this point is a vast majority of you, hi guys), as we like to be difficult and do our own thing with just about every form of measurement imaginable for what seems like just shits and giggles! Miles per gallon? square feet? These are just ways to confuse your non-American friends, the only real reason I see for using our old style systems, sheer confusion on an international level. So believe me it helps to have an app with conversions from volume to weight to distance and everything else in between!
I know it took me awhile to go fully get used to using liters, kilometers and celsius on a regular basis, so this app just helps to give you an answer in the palm of your hand within seconds and it’s absurdly easy to use. My favorite part of this app without a doubt would have to be the currency converter, this lets you convert two of any known conversion in the world, so I would always just plug in (insert foreign currency here) to USD and it would give me a good idea of what the purchase would cost me normally, really helps put things into financial perspective! Want to know how many Vietnamese Dong (I was just looking for an excuse to say Vietnamese Dong honestly, it’s the real currency look it up), adds up to being 1 USD? Then this is the simple solution to that within seconds, again, too damn easy am I right?!
This one might seem like a given to many, but for those who don’t know about it, it’s simply the easiest and most efficient way to find a hostel (or guesthouse) anywhere in the world at anytime. Even in places you would never think there would be a hostel, sure enough there’s usually something, or at the very least a guest house or cheap backpacker hotel. Hostelworld allows you to filter your search to your preferences, so if you want say; wifi connection, a hot shower, air conditioning, etc. you can plug that in and choose your hostel accordingly, but I’d like to warn you that with some of the more low key areas with hostels the options can be slim to none, just kind of have to take what you get!
I’m always shocked whenever I hear that people haven’t heard about this one, and for good reason, this thing is a straight up life saver for those like myself who have zero navigational skills! It’s a lot like google maps in its layouts, but allows you to download the map of an area to have offline when you don’t have service or wifi.
I’m aware that you may do the same with google maps, but not anywhere near this detail, the downloaded offline maps show you everything you could possibly every need from city highlights to where’s the public library at. It will show you things like landmarks of interest, bars, cafes, and everything in between. To sum it up it’s like an even more useful google maps for offline usage especially when you don’t have cell phone service or wifi, got it? Excellent.
Skyscanner & Google Flights
Some true life savers (and money savers) right here. Both of these I use together to compare with each other on which flights are the cheapest. The concept for both of these is that they take every single flight from around the world and compare them with the dates and locations you enter in, they give you the cheapest option when you bring up the calendar and they’ll show you all the lovely details for flight company, times, extras, etc. usually routing you to the flight companies official website once you click on the flight you like.
I honestly can’t stress enough how important these two are for finding flights, if you’re using something else (other than airline reward points, you keep on keeping on with those if you’ve got ’em), then drop it right now and use these two, I’ll wait here while you do it… These have saved me so much money on my flights both domestic and international, by simply finding the cheapest date to fly I was able to average about $20 per flight around Asia, which was exactly as much fun as it sounds!
I’ll probably even go into deeper detail and write a blog post independently on using google flights effectively to save hundreds on flights, because it’s a very important resource that I feel not enough people are utilizing!!
If you’re off to a country where you know little to none of their native tongue then man do I have an app for you! Duolingo is basically a language tutor in your pocket to put it simply. Going to a country where you know none of the language can be a little daunting I know believe me, so every little bit that you can learn of the basics goes so far in those places. I tested this baby out in Myanmar to try to communicate better with the locals, and long story short it worked wonders but of course they loved hearing me trying to pronounce words in their native tongue with my strange Montanan accent (there’s a difference between this accent and other US accents believe me), I’m free entertainment I should start charging what can I say…..
This app breaks the lessons up into short manageable segments for you to learn when you have a few minutes to spare, and if you have the time to be reading this blog right now then hey guess what you probably have the time to learn the basics of another language, congrats!
This app falls in line with the above mentioned Duo lingo, whereas it deals with learning the native languages of the places you’re visiting. This app is more for the use of instantly typing in phrases and using them instantly without actually truly learning the language, but it comes in handy more often than you probably think in places where they don’t speak English much especially. As much fun as the “cultural charades“ that I like to play is (where you attempt to act out the words you’re trying to communicate), this makes it a little easier on you, albeit less enjoyable for the locals in the countries you travel to though, go figure. It contains every language you could possibly ever need (sorry anyone who wanted to know Mayan, don’t think it made the cut, maybe next year guys?)
One feature that’s extremely handy in Asia would be the ability to speak into the microphone, so for instance when I was traveling with a Chinese man for two days in Kathmandu, he would just speak into the microphone and out came the words in English on the screen, and that’s literally how we communicated for those two days, come on that’s cool and you know it! As well as being able to trace symbols or words onto the blue screen being an option, this held especially helpful for Mandarin Chinese as well, as you could trace out the symbols and once again, out comes English words like some kind of sorcery!
Want a typically free place to stay with an accommodating hosts who genuinely enjoys just meeting travelers who you can swap stories with and befriend while crashing on their couch in a foreign place you’ve never been to? Couch surfing is the app for you, it’s a connected community of travelers who offer their couches up for other travelers, and most importantly it has a rating system and feedback so you know you’re getting a reliable host.
I’ve met some amazing people through this app who let me, a random stranger off the street, crash on their couch and they were all very hospitable in my experience. One guy in Thailand actually became my own personal tour guide and brought me to all his favorite spots in the area, so it is also a way to get more off the beaten path and learn the local customs/traditions from staying with the locals themselves, it’s another one of those win-win’s for both parties and you make a friend out of it, so give it a shot I dare you, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
* ON A SIDE NOTE: If you have any recommendations for what you would like me to write about, feel free to shoot me an email and I’d be happy to respond back and let you know what I think! If you like what you’re reading please click on the SUBSCRIBE button on the side or bottom of the page, much appreciated!!