We’ve all seen it when we’re in a hostel. Whether it’s in the dorm, the bar area or anywhere the wi-fi connects properly, people are unwinding with their phones in their hand, their headphones in as they video chat or their eyes glued to their iPad mini as the scroll down their Facebook newsfeed.
Our smart devices are full of apps to keep us amused and in touch with people around the world. A simple tap can tell us the weather in Seoul, the price of a new backpack or the history behind the La Sagrada.
I’m pretty basic when it comes to apps, especially when I’m travelling. I like to keep my phone for a quick snap rather than a snapchat, but there are definitely a few apps that I like and think are important. Here are my top 8 essential apps (in no order) that I usually have before I pick up my backpack and start traveling.
XE Currency Converter
I’ve never been good at converting currency in my head, so I always makes sure I have this app ready to go. It’s up to date for over 100 currencies and works offline with the most recent rates. I’ve used it every time I’ve travelled and it’s super handy if you’re on a budget and need to work out if you can afford those last shots at the bar!
There are so many apps that you can use to communicate with your friends and family around the world, but WhatsApp is definitely my favourite. It’s so quick, it never freezes and pretty much everyone has it. I’ve tried a few different ones, such as Tango and Viber, but I always go back to WhatsApp because I find it the most reliable.
Ah, Mr Google Maps. If it wasn’t for you I’d probably be in a small town growing vegetable garden.
Google Maps is great because you can save maps for offline use. All you have to do is search for that hostel in Lima, type ‘OK MAPS’ in the search and once you arrive there, just open the app up and the map will be saved for you so you can navigate your way. Also, it’s great to save a map before you head out from your hostel, just so you know your way back to the area.
Google Maps is great for looking up certain places such as malls, restaurants, stations, etc. Just type the keyword in the search, such as ‘bar’, and the closest ones will come up! That Pisco Sour is closer than you expected, isn’t it?!
I always keep Sky Scanner in my apps and have used it a few times to book flights. It’s a great app to have because sometimes flights may be really cheap, especially if you’re in Europe/UK. You can find some sweet deals and may even be more efficient than catching a train or a bus! Don’t disregard flights if you’re on a budget, cos sometimes they can be better for you. The 2-hour plane journey for 30 quid over the 24-hour bus for 15 quid may work out in your favour!
Whichever one you chose, having a hostel-booking device is handy if you’re fluking your trip and haven’t booked all your accommodation. I never book all my accommodation and usually only do max 3 days. Having this app will allow you to easily look up hostels, read reviews, see prices and just work out which one is the best for you.
Speaking from personal experience, the app is also good in emergency situations, like when you have no accommodation for the night. You just jump on and start looking for a place to sleep. Being super efficient, it’ll inform you very quickly about the availability and if you’ll have a bed that night or not! I sadly could not find a dorm that night and had to resort to a hotel . . ew! :P
After buying an iPad, I realised that I no longer need a physical copy of a book because I could just download them. With an app like iBooks/Overdrive, I’m able to read my books anywhere and through any device such as my iPad, iPhone or Mac. I used to be against reading books off devices because I loved the feel of a tangible book, but I’ve now realised how convenient it is to have them on your device! With iBooks, you can sample the book first so if you don’t like it, you can delete it. With Overdrive, you actually borrow the book from your local library, which is super handy. Also, there are heaps of free books and it also saves you carrying some weight, such as those extra big books like the classic backpacker novel of 944 pages, Shantaram.
I wish I had heard of Evernote sooner! It’s one of those apps that is fun to play around with because you can store so many kinds of things on it. If you have important tickets, documents, directions, etc, they can all go in a special travel folder so they are easily accessible. Evernote can also be used as a diary so you can record places you’ve been with the use of pictures, videos and writing. You can create multiple notebooks and just store whatever you like in it, from articles and webpages to ideas and inspiration. Evernote is super fun and can be time consuming, so it’s good for long journeys and lazy nights in with your laptop.
Rail Planner (for Europe)
For anyone who is going to backpack Europe by train, this will be your lifeline. The rail planner app has the whole timetable for the trains in Europe. My favourite thing about this is that it works offline, so you don’t need a wi-fi connection to see when the next train from Berlin to Cologne is. The app tells you each stop your train will make, and whether you need a reservation or not. It also tells you if there is a restaurant on board so you can save your final Francs on a beer as you head towards your next destination.
What are some of your must have apps when traveling? Feel free to share them below!