Having fantastic apps downloaded on your phone before you set off on your travels can be invaluable.
I remember last year, I flew to India as I was trekking the Himalayas over Christmas and had touched down in Delhi airport at 1am. By the time I got my luggage and hailed a cab (which turned out to be the most horrific journey of my life), to take me to my hostel – Poshtel in Hauz Khas Village – it was about 3am.
The driver (I use that word loosely as he basically swerved across the road and jumped up and down to get the car going) dropped me off at the end of a dirt road in the early hours of the morning with no signs of where Poshtel was.
I had with no wifi, no downloaded maps, no GoogleTranslate. It was then I vowed if i were to travel the world, I would be more prepared.
So don’t be a crazy fool like me and find yourself unstuck, especially if you’re a solo female traveller. Download these apps so that you can enjoy (and be safe) roaming the world.
If I could only have one app on my phone whilst travelling it would be Maps.me.
It’s an offline maps service which enables you to download countries when you have WIFI and then access it offline.
Not only does it pin all the essential places such as transport links, hotels, banks, bars, restaurants, pharmacies, doctors, supermarkets, it also allows you to save your favourite spots or bookmark new places that aren’t on the map so that other travellers can see it too.
Using your phone’s GPS (which you don’t need data for) you plan routes and get live ETAs.
Brilliant for planning the quickest journeys from A to B within a city. I used this every day in London for the 5 years I lived there. Want to walk, cycle, bus, tube, train, or Uber it? This genius app will tell you the quickest route and give you all the other options too to consider.
I’ve used Citymapper to guide me through the subway in New York, the Metro in Paris and the buses in Barcelona.
I use this app in tandem with Maps.Me
Add a Trip by inputting the destination and dates you’re going to be there and it allows you to download that town to use offline.
What you can do on Google Trips:
- Search for things to do – by top spots, indoors, outdoors kid friendly, farther away, A-Z
- Search for restaurants, cafés, bars and pubs. As it’s run by Google, you gain access to Google reviews and star ratings.
- See suggestions for day trips which Google cleaverly plots on the map for you and in which order it’s best to do.
- Reservations – If you make an online reservation and have Gmail, it’ll pull the reservation into a folder for you to access offline.
- Saved places – you can favourite places and save places that you want to visit.
- Discounts – Google pulls through local discounts in the area mainly from tour operators or cab companies.
What doesn’t Google Trips do?
- It doesn’t use your GPS like Maps.me so you can’t create a route from where you are to the end destination.
This is a clever translation app that allows you to download popular languages offline.
Website: Yandex Translate
Most of you probably know about Uber but if you don’t it’s a private taxi app that links up to your credit card so you can book cabs without needing any cash.
In London, Uber is the cheapest taxi company over black cabs, Addison Lee, Get.
In other cities, this might not be the case. I used it in Merida in Mexico and it was slightly more expensive but on the upside there’s no chance of being ripped off and I’ve always felt more safe in them because you can report bad drivers to Uber.
- The cars tend to be nicer than your local taxi aswell.
- In some cities (i.e. London) you can choose to “Pool” where you pay a set fee at a slightly reduced rate but you may have to collect another passenger en route.
- No need for cash – it uses your pre-registered credit card
- You can’t prebook a car. Only use the app when you want a car now. They usually come within 5 mins.
- Some drivers don’t know the area so will purely follow the Sat Nav. This means yo might miss out on cheeky shortcuts or divert traffic jams. Knowledge you’ll only get from a local taxi driver.
- It’s not available in all cities
- It requires you to have WIFI / 3G
There are 3 apps I use when booking accommodation – Airbnb, Booking.com and Hostelworld.
If Adam and I were to stay in a hostel, we’d only book a private room with en suite. We’re both in our thirties, travelling as a couple, and not on tight budgets because we work while we travel so dorms just don’t appeal to us.
Because of this, I usually find Airbnbs work out cheaper than hostels! This is true if you book for a week or more because Airbnb offers discounts of up to 30%.
If you book an Airbnb for a week or more, you can get up to 30% off.
Booking.com is brilliant in that it pulls in hostels, boutique hotels, chain hotels and even homestays. Plus it offers the option to “pay later” and free cancellations (sometimes up to 24 hours before).
It also saves your reservation neatly in the app which saves scrolling through the hundreds of emails you haven’t filed yet (guilty!).
The ability to book hotels without having to pay a penny has really changed how I plan my trips.
When Adam and I first arrived in Mexico just before Christmas, we thought that we could book accommodation last minute. We were wrong! All the good places were booked up which meant we couldn’t go to Tulum for New Year as we had originally planned, nor could we stay in Holbox for Christmas.
Due to companies like Booking.com, Hostelworld and Airbnb now offering longer cancellation periods, it’s easier to book in advance rather than winging it at the last minute. Yes, it takes away the “I’m so free, let’s do things on the spur of the moment” element of travel BUT as you can usually cancel quite late in the day it does take the stress out of frantically trying to secure a hotel!
The best site and app to book hostels. Hostelworld offers free cancellations and no need for a deposit. This level of flexibility has been a game changer for me. I usually book a hostel a couple of weeks in advance so I know I’ve secured somewhere. However, as I’m sure you know when travelling, plans change, you meet people, you hear about new destinations etc, so I love that I have the freedom to do a detour for a few days and switch my dates on Hostelworld without facing a financial penalty.
Your bank’s mobile banking app
I bank with Natwest and find their mobile banking app seamless to use.
I have several credit cards that are aimed at travellers which means I can withdraw cash from an ATM using my credit card FOR FREE provided I transfer money to the credit card that same day.
This is so simple using my Natwest app because I save my credit card company’s details as a Payee meaning I can pay it off within 1 minute using my phone.
*This one’s only applicable for Brits, sorry!
Monzo is a UK bank that lies only on your smartphone. There’s no high street store or laptop app equivalent. They claim they now have over 1 million customers.
In a nutshell, Monzo gives you a UK current account and a cash card that you load up with money.
Why is it so useful?
- No fees for using your Monzo card including UK payments and cash withdrawals
- Payments abroad are FREE with no added fees
- You can withdraw up to £200 per month cash for FREE when abroad (3% fee for more)
- You can use Monzo card in shops and restuarants abroad and online for FREE
- The app has a budgeting function which tracks how much your spending on bills and eating out and send you regular notifications so you know when you’re nearing spending over your budget
- You can create lots of “savings pots” on the app. So you can have a travel savings pot or a savings pot for that new bag you’ve got your eye on, whatever you like!
*Skiplagged is only useful if you don’t have checked luggage*.
This is one of the ultimate travel hacks for flights. Skiplagged exposes loopholes in airfare prices by finding “hidden city flights”.
What does this mean?
The clever beans at Skiplagged have worked out that it’s sometimes (a lot) cheaper to book an indirect flight to a final destination that you have no plans to go, because the stopover destination is the country you actually want to see.
This is why you can’t travel with checked luggage because your backpack or suitcase will end up at the end destination!
However, it’s perfectly legal to get off the plane at the stopover airport and not board the connecting flight.
Right now, I’m in Mexico and say I want to go to San Francisco. I can book an indirect flight to Las Vegas with a connection in San Francisco for £118 with United Airlines.
If I were to book a direct flight from Mexico to San Fran being my end destination, still with United Airlines, it would cost me £206. Crazy, right!
Skiplagged has been so effective at finding cheap flights that United Airlines sued them for it. Skiplagged won. It’s totally legal so get on board!
As I’m travelling long-term and am one of those people who is ALWAYS hungry (the struggle is real), it’s important for me that I don’t get carried away eating out all the time and drinking beers every night. I love feeling and looking healthy and Myfitnesspal is an easy app that helps me stay on track.
It works by setting your daily calorie intake including macros (protein, carbs, fats) and then it’s quick and easy to input your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks which pulls information of their calorie content, sugar, fat, protein, carbs etc.
You can search for thousands of foods on the database ranging from Pret-a-Manger sandwiches to Sainsburys soups to generic items such as cooked quinoa, a handful of spinach, a cup of raw papaya.
There’s also a really handy barcode scanner which works worldwide. I’ve used this in Mexico to scan tortilla chips (they’re calorific FYI) and lots of other foods quickly.
If your aim is to lose weight you can set a goal which the app tracks how close you are to it based on what you’ve eaten every day.
There’s also a section to add exercise but I like to keep it simple and just track food otherwise you end up thinking “well I’ve done 10,000 steps today which means I can eat that Mars bar”
I like to use MyFitnessPal as a food planner rather than a record of what I’ve already eaten. I type in everything I want to eat that day and then if I’m in surplus, I can back track and chose what I want to remove or swap for something else. It’s helpful if you know you’re going out for dinner that night and are going to have a few glasses of wine. You can take that into account and slowly (and sensibly) deduct calories over the week so you can still reach your goals and have fun!
A couple of times I’ve settled down on a long bus journey to read my Amazon Kindle and the batteries died. Although it’s not entirely ideal as the screen is so much smaller but you can pick up where you left off using the Kindle app on your phone.
Accuweather is the best weather app I’ve used. It makes it a whole lot easier to plan your beach days!
Adam and I are both digital nomads and get 70% of our income through Upwork.
If you too, are looking to work whilst traveling or simply need to earn some extra cash in order to take that kitesurfing course, then Upwork could be for you.
Upwork is a portal that connects businesses large and small with freelancers all over the world.
Businesses post jobs online for either a fixed fee or by the hour and freelancers are able to submit proposals in order to win the job.
Jobs vary from web design to social media marketing to proof reading, branding, translations and admin work.
You can also hold phone calls and video conferences through the app to get to know your client before taking on the job.
The brilliant thing about Upwork is that it provides security. Upwork holds money in escrow which takes the stress out of wondering if you’ll be paid and using Paypal / bank transfers etc.
I only recently discovered GooglePhotos because I could no longer back up my phone on my Macbook Pro. I had almost 11,000 photos on my phone, none of which I wanted to part with.
GooglePhotos is separate to Google Drive and allows you to choose to back up your photos to high quality, rather than original quality for free. To read more on the difference (or lack of), I found this article useful on PhoneArena.com
This means you can free up space on your phone without losing your favourite photos and memories. Hurrah!
This app is designed for worried parents. Provided you and your parents both have iPhones, they can track where in the world you are through your phone’s GPS, clever huh? My mum says she goes on it every couple of days! It’s peace of mind for them as at least they know roughly where you say you are.
One caveat to that – If your phone gets stolen, make sure you have a way of contacting your parents otherwise they’ll be calling the Embassy to report you missing before you know it!
It works vice versa too so you can track your mates (or your mum).