5 Essential Mobile Apps for Backpackers

Posted April 29, 2013 by Matthew Barby in Tech

When you’re moving from place to place through areas that can’t guarantee the best internet connection, tasks like booking your accommodation for the next couple of days or checking out transport schedules can be a nightmare. The biggest problem that I’ve found when on my travels is being able to navigate through large websites that require a good WiFi connection (which you inevitably never get!) to find a place to stay. The annoying thing is that once you finally load up all those images and adverts on your mobile and sometimes even find a reasonable place to sleep, the internet seems to cruelly die on you. I think many of you will know where I’m coming from here.

Mobile Apps for Backpackers

What us backpackers need more than anything is to be able to quickly find what we need, in a way that will require as little bandwidth as possible. With this in mind, I’ve been testing the very best mobile travel apps during my time across East Asia and hand-picked my favourite five. In no particular order, here they are:

The Skyscanner App

There are a lot of apps out there that can be used to find and book flights, but I have to say that there are few better than the Skyscanner app. The key to the app’s success lies in the simplicity of its design and the speed at which you can get the information you need. When I’m out looking to find a cheap flight for my next adventure, the Skyscanner app can be a real life-saver. It only takes a few seconds to load results for your desired flight, even when you’re on a really ropey internet connection. I used the app to get a domestic flight from the North of Thailand down to the South East coast and I went from opening the app on my iPhone to receiving my payment receipt within no more than five minutes. Just what I needed!

Alongside the ease of use and speed of the app, the best feature for me was the price chart. Once you search for flights on the app, you’re shown a nicely laid out bar chart that shows you the cheapest days that you can buy your flights on. This is great when you’re deciding whether or not it is worth sticking out a 20 hour bus journey across the country in order to make a saving on a domestic flight. You’d be surprise what savings you can actually make.

Clearly I’m a fan of the app and, considering it’s free, I would definitely recommend that you at least give it a try as I’m sure it will help out anyone that’s on the move.

The Skyscanner App

The Kayak App

This app can do pretty much anything you could possibly want when you’re on the move. You can quickly book flights, hotels, rent cars and even get price alerts sent to you when airfares or hotel prices drop.

The beauty of the Kayak app is that it allows you to do everything that you need it to in one place. It has a currency calculator built in and a live flight tracker. I used the flight tracker to great effect when I was meeting my partner in Bangkok last month. On top of this, the Kayak app stores any bookings that you make in your ‘Trips’ folder so that you can get a full itinerary listing at any point.

Another great feature of the app is that if you book any flights or accommodation outside of Kayak, you can email your booking confirmation letter to the Kayak team and they will place it into your ‘Trips’ folder for you – amazing!

The Kayak App

Codegent ‘Learn’ Apps

Being in a country that doesn’t speak your native tongue can be pretty tricky at the best of times. Not only this, but if you’re anything like me then you’ll make a conscious effort to at least learn some basic phrases that will show common courtesy. This is where Codegent Learn apps are great.

Codegent have made a series of translation apps that can be downloaded both for free, with limited use, and paid for, that includes a whole host of extra phrases. During my time in Thailand I used the ‘LearnThai’ app and it was beyond helpful. Not only does it give you a text translation to use but it will verbally dictate the correct pronunciation of the phrase to you. This way, if you’re really stuck, you can just hold your phone up to a bewildered resident as it tells them exactly what you want!

Codegent Learn Apps

The Tripomatic App

The Tripomatic app is designed to plan out what you’re going to do in any given place. The layout of the app is really slick and it gives you a nice map display of where you are, followed by all the local attractions, restaurants and general points of interest.

The map layout is really easy to use; you can find and save places to go in your travel planner, and refer to them throughout your trip. Even if you don’t want to go to the length of planning out your upcoming days within the app, it can be really useful for just glancing across the local attractions for where you are.

The app does a great job of tackling the common issue that we globetrotters have in that we aren’t always the best at planning things out. I used the app through my travels and found things that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I also briefly used the app’s planner function but soon got bored of this; the best feature for me is the ability to quickly find a list of things to do that is displayed visually on the map of where you are.

Simple, easy to use and you can also share your trips with your Facebook/Twitter friends, which is another handy feature.

The Tripomatic App

The Hostelworld App

Most of you will be familiar with Hostelworld, one of the top sites for booking cheap and cheerful hostels across the world. Well, Hostelworld have an app that puts all the best aspects of their site into one manageable application with some extra little features on top.

The app does what you would expect it to; it provides a simple and clean interface from which you can book cheap hostels through. Through using the app religiously in Thailand, I managed to find some amazing hostels that cost next to nothing and it was a big help for both my bank balance and for saving time.

Like with the Skyscanner and Kayak app, there is a map feature that displays hostel locations within it; however, this featured isn’t particularly polished and can often be a bit unclear. Aside from this, the app runs really quick and displays reviews from fellow Hostelworld users which is often a big factor in my hostel choice.

Overall, a helpful and time-saving app that will get you exactly what you want in minimal time whilst also requiring only a limited amount of bandwidth. In short, ideal for when you’re backpacking around!

The Hostel World App

Do you use an app that isn’t on my list? Make sure that you let me know in the comments below and I will give it a try on my travels!

About the Author

Matthew Barby

Matthew Barby is a technology-loving travel junkie from the UK. Matt shares his adventures, writes travel reviews, backpacker tips and features travel photos from around the world on his travel blog, Melted Stories. He's always looking to hear from fellow backpackers so get in touch with him on Twitter or Google+..

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