Nowadays, each traveller has a handy set of apps that they rely on to help them navigate through new cities, communicate with locals, book accommodation and convert currency.
Perhaps you have already heard of these, and maybe even have them downloaded already, but for those of you who don’t, these are the 7 Apps we ALWAYS have readily available and updated on our phones while travelling!
XE – Currency conversion
One of the simplest, but most useful apps available. XE provides live updates refreshing every minute, for up to 10 different currencies at a time. Select your base currency/country, and compare it directly to the other 9, with the ability to enter an amount and directly convert its value in another currency. View interactive charts of how the currency has been valued over the last 10 years, or as recent as the last week. You can also send money on XE, which is a feature I haven’t used yet (but would like to).
I’ve found this APP useful, as although it requires an internet connection to get the most update values, you can still log in and compare currencies using the last value before you lost internet connection. It’ll also tell you the exact time and date you last had a refresh. When travelling short term, this APP is a great way of getting used to a new currency and keeping in mind how much items would’ve costed you in your home currency. For example, you may think 100,000 IDR (Indonesian Rupiah) is way too much to be paying for a meal, but in reality, it’s not even $10 AUD (Australian Dollars) which is very reasonable.
Instagram – Photography
If you haven’t heard of Instagram, you must have been living under a rock for the last 8 years. Instagram is a way to edit and share your photos of your everyday life, like a Polaroid album, with the expected social buttons to like, comment and save other photos you like. If you have friends with the app, you can ‘follow’ them, and when they post a photo, you’ll see it pop up in your home feed.
The slightly frustrating, but also saving grace of Instagram’s design, is that you can’t edit anything but the description or tags once the photo has been posted. The downside to this is that photos can look great on their own, but they may not go well with the rest of the photos on your profile, and as of yet, Instagram doesn’t have a way for users to rearrange the order of their photos, once they’ve been posted. This prevents a lot of spamming, as well as users keeping their best photos at the top of their profile to make them seem more popular than they actually are.
Stories are a more recent feature, that allows you to share photos and videos with your followers for a limited amount of time; 24 hours, to be exact. Stories are a lot more interactive: ask questions and get answers from your followers, add music to a video, create a poll where people can vote live, and include GIFS. If you really like a story you shared, keep it on your profile as a ‘highlight’, and people can watch it over and over again.
We use this app as a way to record our adventures with descriptions and geo-tags, so we can easily take a trip down memory lane. It’s also a quick and easy way to share what we’re up to with friends and family who follow us. Blog posts can take hours to write, and sometimes even the most intricate description isn’t able to do the same justice that a photo can.
Do you follow us yet? @BorderlineBackpackers
Google Translate – Language Translator
Ever feel completely lost or useless in a country with a foreign language? You’re not alone. Google Translate should be your go-to in countries that use a language you are unfamiliar with. I’ve found it useful when meeting someone who barely speaks English, as I can type in what I want to say, and the APP will translate the sentence and say it to them in their language.
Another mind-boggling feature is the live translate camera, where you can basically point your phone at a foreign text to translate. It will detect the language and replace the text on your screen with similar font, colour and size to that of the foreign text, in your own language. You really have to try it out to understand, but you’ll be walking around translating everything once you’ve used it.
Airline Specific Apps – Media
Although you might need to download an app for each airline you use, it’s worth having on your phone or tablet. Airline apps allow you to book flights, check-in, add features like meals/luggage and offer boarding passes too. Never worry about forgetting your paper tickets at home again.
Make sure to check out all the apps features, and research if your airline has more than one. One of the most frustrating situations is being on a long haul flight, and after takeoff, realising you needed to download the airline’s app to be able to access any of the onboard movies, music, games etc. Canadian airlines such as WestJet and Air Transat are the ones I’ve had this situation with most often. Make sure you download their media app before takeoff.
TripAdvisor – Reviews
Whenever we arrive in a new place, we check TripAdvisor to see what’s going on in the area. TripAdvisor rates activities by popularity, taking into account the number of reviews and how highly they are rated. They often have a ‘Top 10 Things To Do In…’ for most cities in the world, which helps you create an itinerary of excursions for your trip. We use it mainly for the reviews, leaving our own when a specific tour is exceptionally good or bad, to advise future travellers of our experience with that company.
Hostelworld – Accommodation
Unless you’re going to be sleeping in a tent, the cheapest form of accommodation is usually a hostel. Hostelworld has over 36,000 properties to choose from, in over 170 countries, and has the most reliable accommodation reviews we’ve encountered. You can compare hostels, using filters to adjust rating, cost and distance from the city to find the perfect hostel for you.
Their booking system is very straightforward, and they usually only charge you a deposit until your booking date (although some hostels you pay the remaining balance to upon arrival). As Hostelworld takes your deposit, they offer a non-refundable rate, which is slightly cheaper, or you can choose the standard flexible rate, and if you cancel, will receive your deposit back.
Airbnb – Accommodation
If hostels aren’t your thing, then the next place we’d suggest is Airbnb. When we’ve spent a bit too long in a 10-bed hostel dorm, take a break and enjoy the privacy and homely feel of an Airbnb. You can book anything from a private room to an entire house, specifying the number of guests, bathrooms, beds and other amenities you wish the property to have.
If you’re a solo traveller, this will be the more expensive option but if you’re a couple, it can actually be cheaper. We’ve found many private rooms on Airbnb are actually the same or less than a bed in an 8-bed dorm, which for us, is a no-brainer.
Skyscanner – Flights
We use this website to book ALL of our flights. Select your starting location, destination and prefered dates, and Skyscanner will compare loads of different flight companies to give you the cheapest available flight on the day you wish to fly. If you’re flexible, it makes it even easier, as you can leave the date or destination section open, giving you way more options for your holiday.
Some flights are booked through the Skyscanner website directly, but most of the time you’ll get redirected to the flight companies own website, straight to the booking page.
When we booked flights for our Euro Trip, we just looked at the cheapest city to fly to (selecting the ‘everywhere’ feature), and got an average flight of $20. Just remember we flew budget (normally Ryanair), and this price only included hand luggage, which has also just been reduced by Ryanair to 40x20x25cm which is TINY. Our backpacks are slightly bigger but can squish really well. Still, a great way to compare flights, times and prices all on one hub.
Do you have any travel apps to add? Let us know in the comments below.