They say time flies when you’re having fun. That’s certainly true as I nearly forgot that this week marks a year since I crammed all my essentials into a 65L rucksack, took a solo flight halfway around the world and began my Southeast-asian trip of a lifetime. I didn’t have a clue what the following six months would involve but I’d never been more excited.
As I write I’m sitting in a lovely cafe sipping on some even lovelier Vietnamese coffee. Yes I drink coffee on the regular now, and for the record, Vietnamese coffee IS the best! I’m no longer a full-time ‘traveler’, I’ve taken some time out from that. You can read up on what exactly I’m still doing here in Vietnam, here: From Journalist to Traveller, to now ESL Teacher. The reality of teaching English in a foreign country
Traveling solo has been great, but with it comes an added pressure to stay safe, be responsible and organised without wanting to be boring and taking away all the fun. I don’t mean organised in the sense of knowing exactly where you want to travel to, or what you want to do next, because let’s admit it, the best part about traveling and discovering new things, most of the time, comes from unexpected, unorganised experiences.
The last 12 months have been incredible, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it all without technology. Yes technology. It’s been a life saver many a times. So here’s a roundup of the 10 Apps I think all travelers MUST have. And bonus, they’re all free on iOS and Android!
I can’t remember who first told me about this app, or when I heard about it, but I just remember saying “Oh my god. This is brilliant, why haven’t I known about this earlier?” And since then, every other traveler I’ve met, I’ve told them to download it if they haven’t already done so.
The app is basically a collection of offline maps of the whole world. Yes, the WHOLE WIDE WORLD. You need data to initially download the country you want a map of, but once you’ve done that you can turn your data off and start enjoy getting around the country completely offline, without worrying about your data running out. You can save places of your favorite locations and even search for food, hotels and ATMs nearby. It’s especially useful if you’re driving around in an unfamiliar area and you need to get to a gas station asap!
I’m pretty sure everyone has or knows about WhatsApp so I won’t write too much, but what I will say that’s great about this app is, if you’re feeling a little too lazy to write, you can always send a voice note instead. Sending locations has been a feature I’ve used quite a bit too. Personally, I think everyone needs WhatsApp in their life!
If you’re one of those travelers who hasn’t got a specific plan of where you’re going to next this app is for you. As fun as it can be to spontaneously turn up to a new destination, the less fun part is finding somewhere half decent to stay. This app takes away a bit of that stress as you can simply use the “current location” search to find accommodation suitable for you. It’s been a lifesaver for me when I’ve just got off an overnight bus in a new city and haven’t got a clue where exactly I was.
To be completely honest I use this app solely for the rewards. If I’m looking for accommodation in advance I’ll tend to do a bit of research. Comparing prices, the best locations, looking at reviews etc. After finding somewhere I like I’ll usually go onto the hotels.com app to see if the place is listed. If it is and it’s the same price as everywhere else I’ll book through the app. The reason for this is because for every 10 nights you book you get one free night. When you’re traveling you’re usually on a budget so this is a super easy way to save a bit of extra money. And if you’re traveling long term, those 10 nights add up pretty quickly! It’s not just hotels that are listed on the app, accommodation types come in all forms from hotels to apartments and hostels.
I’ll admit I’m a passive user of this app. I’ve never made a review, apologies to all those restaurants, hotels/hostels that I’ve told I will write them a review when I get home. The truth is, I just forget! That said, I do use this app a hell of a lot when looking for hotel or restaurant recommendations. It’s pretty handy when you’ve arrived at a new destination late at night and you’re super tired and hungry. Many times I’ve also used this app when I’ve been fed up of the local cuisine for breakfast and all I’ve been craving is a decent Eggs Benedict. TripAdvisor, I can safely say you’ve never failed me on that front.
All I have to say: guaranteed you’ll need this app!
Uber / Grab
Save yourself some money and download Uber or Grab if either of these apps are available in the place your traveling. Most countries I’ve visited in Southeast Asia have either, if not both of these apps. You’ll also save yourself from being ripped off from taxi or tuk tuk drivers taking the long way around so that you have to fork out more money.
Funnily enough, the thing I hate about traveling is the traveling part. Queuing up and waiting around at airports, bus stations, ports. And then finally getting moving. I’m so impatient I just want to be at the new destination already. I’m always asking myself, “Are we there yet?” Fortunately binging on my favourite Netflix shows has helped me become a little more patient. When you’ve got wifi download all your favorite movies or tv shows and then when you’re traveling, kick back, relax and enjoy the journey.
I’m adding this app on the list, but not for the reasons you may think. We all use Instagram for sharing videos and photos with people who ‘follow’ us. But Instagram is also an incredible source for researching what a place is like before going there. When I’m looking for places to eat, hotels to stay at or things to do in a new destination I usually head to Instagram. People are great at expressing what they think of a place, and in this case it can’t be more true. A picture truly is worth a thousand words.
App in the Air
I actually downloaded this app after the time I nearly missed my flight to Vietnam from Malaysia. After getting a bit too comfortable in Nandos at Kuala Lumpur’s International Airport, (I’d had cravings for MONTHS), it meant having to rush around to get money exchanged for my Vietnamese visa VERY last minute. Still exchanging Malaysian ringgit into US Dollars, 20 minutes before the gate was due to close meant having to literally run through security to get to the departure gate. I honestly thought I was going to miss my flight and had work in a few hours. Luckily the flight was delayed.
This app is great for keeping you updated on the flight status. With each flight being broken down into four stages; check in, boarding, takeoff and landing time, there really is no excuse to be late again.
So there you have it, my top 10 must have apps for traveling. To be quite honest I’ve often wondered what I’d do without technology. Hats off to all those people who travel without using a smartphone or the internet. I just couldn’t do it!
Thanks for stopping by and reading.
Current location: Blogging from this cute little cafe.