I remember when my sister and I first embarked on our backpacking trip around South America in 2008, I took with me my ancient Nokia cellphone, that only sometimes made phone calls and could maybe send a text if you asked it nicely, but that was about it.
In order to find out information it was all about guidebooks, asking the locals, or finding the nearest internet cafe. It meant I carried a Lonely Planet guide to South America that weighed over 1 kg, as well as a phrasebook for both Spanish and Portuguese. Confirmations of all of our bookings that we had made in advance were printed out and kept in a travel wallet, sectioned off for each country.
This most recent trip of mine through South East Asia brought with it an entirely new way of doing things, travelling with the assistance of a smart phone. And with it comes the ease and joys of having almost anything you want at your finger tips whenever you need it.
Before I left New Zealand, I researched some good travel apps – some I used religiously (see below), some others were good in theory, but I never ended up actually using (WeatherPro, PackingPro, etc). So I thought I would let you guys know the apps that I genuinely used during the trip, hopefully they make things a little easier for you! (obv not a sponsored post – I’m not that cool….yet!)
I know – everyone knows about Trip Advisor. But seriously, I used it almost daily, whether it was to find the top things to see and do in a town/city/country, or finding a specific cuisine for dinner when the amount of noodles or rice consumed became all too much.
I think TripAdvisor is good for information in terms of finding out what’s around you at any given moment, however a lot of the reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. It is a great place to have a rant about a restaurant/activity you have done if something doesn’t go to plan, so keep that in mind not only when you are reading the reviews, but also when you’re writing them. Try to rate and review the things you had a good time doing not just the shit-house ones.
My usual search mode was to simply bring up the category of activity I was looking for and then head straight to the map function. One day in Singapore I was really hanging out for a decent coffee – so instead of entering ‘cafe’ or ‘lunch’, I simply entered ‘flat white’ and clicked Near Me Now. It brought up all of the places around me that sold a flat white, and I was happy in my Antipodean, coffee-loving mindset.
This currency converter app lets you add and rank all and any currencies you need and use on a regular basis. A great way of knowing exactly how much things are costing you on the spot. I even found myself comparing currencies not just with my home currency of NZD but after spending two months in Indonesia, the worth of a beer in Singapore made more sense to me when compared with Indonesian Rupiah.
Good tip also, is to work out what the conversion for $US10 is to the local rate before arriving in each country, so that when you’re reading things like menus, taxi fare information or room rates, you can have a general idea of the actual cost.
I used this app religiously to back up all my photos. It’s free to sign up, and you can start uploading straight away. One feature I love is that you can share specific albums or just single photos with one specific person (or group of people) with just a few clicks. You can also turn on the automatic upload option on your smartphone, so that as soon as you’re connected to wi-fi any photos you’ve taken during the day will automatically be backed up to the site, which you can access anywhere. This was great for when you’re out all day with no data on your phone, snapping away, as soon as you get back to the hostel (free wi-fi FTW!), it uploads.
For the times that we were trying to book in advance for accommodation, I used Booking.com to secure us a room. It lets you read reviews on the hotels, which I found especially helpful when deciding on the location of a hostel/hotel. After you have completed a certain numbers of bookings and reviews on the site, you receive a 10% discount on prices also.
5. Banking apps
My bank back home offers a pretty great app covering all of my banking needs. Once you have the app on your phone, all you need to do is update them when you change countries (mainly important for the contact phone number so your bank can get in touch with you ASAP). You can complete overseas money transfers, or see immediately if something dodgy has happened to any one of your cards or accounts.
I used Uber quite a lot at home in Auckland, New Zealand – mainly because the ordering system is so much easier than having to call a cab company. Many South East Asian cities and towns also have Uber and are quite reliable.
We were talking to our Uber driver in Kuala Lumpur however, and he mentioned some horror stories of carjackings and muggings by taxi drivers who are trying to give Uber a bad name – so as always, be careful when using this service (and lock your doors as usual!)
7. Airline apps
I downloaded the Air Asia app because that was usually the cheapest airline flying in the area that we were, and then the EasyJet app for Europe. They are great for searching for different flights and booking, but the best thing about these apps are the online check-in, electronic boarding pass and flight alerts.
NB: One thing I will just say about taking a smart phone away with you, make sure it’s insured! It’s almost guaranteed that something will happen to it, whether it’s lost or stolen, so make sure you can claim on travel insurance for it when/if it happens!
Any apps that you really love, or couldn’t travel without?? Let me know!!