I remember the first time we came to Bangkok, way back in 2009, for our first visit to South East Asia. Craig had a print out of our hotel address, plus annotated map, and hard copies of the other two hotel bookings we had. We had no iPhone, no internet devices and relied (a little too much) on our guidebook. Ah how technology has helped. Instead of bulky printouts we carry e-documents; instead of out of date guidebooks you can get hostel recommendations at your fingertips. Here are our recommendations for useful apps for travel around Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
Quick disclaimer – we use an iPhone so this list has an inevitable iOS bias. I’ve confirmed where it’s also available on android too.
Useful apps for travel planning
Evernote If you are like me, planning a trip usually involves a list or two. Evernote is a great way to collate your travel plans in one handy place. You can use it like a scrap book, adding in photos and snaps of a useful article you might stumble across. The basic app is free, but there is a pro upgrade if you happen to really, really like lists. Available on iOS or Android.
Triposo gives you a comprehensive travel guide that only weighs as much as your phone. You can download cities and destinations for offline use, and we were impressed with the recommended bars when we road tested it in Wellington. There is a handy phrase book, and you can tailor the recommendations to your “travel style”. The app is free (which I’m amazed at – it’s that well put together) but there is an ad-free paid for version. Available on iOS or Android.
Air Asia – I’m assuming you are sensibly using kayak or skyscanner to make sure you get the best deal for your flights, but Air Asia is unrivalled when it comes to cheap flights around Asia, and we use them frequently. Alas, the website is headdesk levels of awful if you want to actually book a flight (but does induce amusing rants in Craig about the importance of quality coding). The app isn’t great, but is better than the website and enables you to do web check-in easily on the move. We’ve also used it to actually book flights and it saved our bacon once when we checked our itinerary and noticed AirAsia had changed our booking without actually telling us. Free on iOS and Android.
Trail Wallet – created by Simon and Erin – long-term travel pros over at Never Ending Voyage – this is a fantastic app for tracking expenses on the road. The interface is easy, and allows you to calculate how much you’ve spent by category. The snarky comments if you go over budget are a good incentive not to overspend, and we like the multi-currency abilities and the fact you can separate your trips out. We use it so often we simply call it “the App” now. Available on iOS and Android – free but needs a one-off paid upgrade for unlimited entries. Totally worth it; if you download only one of our apps for travel make it this one.
Google Drive is useful for keeping electronic copies of documents. We’ve set up a shared folder with our parents which has our insurance details, and electronic copies of our passports and other important information just in case we need it in an emergency. Free on Android and iOS.
Useful travel apps for booking hotels
We do initial research from our favourite travel blogs and from reading the reviews of Tripadvisor (with a massive pinch of salt!). We then use Agoda and Booking.com apps to actually make most of our bookings. The apps are all easy to use and are free for iOS and Android users. Craig prefers Booking.com, which offers “genius” discounts to frequent users, and I prefer Agoda for its excellent customer service. Their app often features “insider deals” which don’t come up if you don’t use the apps.
Useful apps for getting around
TripGo is an app that works similarly to Google Maps (also worth a download) but is particularly good for door-to-door urban transport. It is accurate, reliable and easy to use. Less than 3 hours after we landed in Sydney with zero sleep, we’d navigated to the Randwick Racecourse using local buses; not bad at all! At present it covers most European cities, many in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, some in Canada and also Bangkok. Free to download for iOS and Android.
If you are heading to Japan and planning to use the Japan Rail Pass, no doubt you’ve been referred to their rail site Hyperdia. Did you know they also have a free app for iOS and Android? Great for when you are on the move!
Useful apps for keeping in touch
We use the ubiquitous Faceache and its bug-riddled spawn – FaceAche Messenger – to keep in touch with friends and family, as well as Whatsapp for SMS-style messaging to my Mum and Sister.
If you don’t already, consider Twitter; it is fantastic for travel. You can shout out a question to millions of users and, with the right hashtags, (maybe) get a useful response! We’ve even met other travellers via Twitter and had a night out with them because of it. There are zillions of travel bloggers, and I love reading their articles and suggestions. Twitter: it’s not just for trolling celebrities.
As an enthusiastic supporter of the UK greetings card industry, one of the things I’ve found difficult on the road is when big events – such as engagements and big birthdays – happen and an email just feels a bit… cold. Touchnote allows you to use your own photos to compose personalised postcards and greetings cards, and sends them out UK first class (great if you’ve no time to send something from Far Away!). We’ve used it to score some brownie points on Mothers Day, and to send postcards where the postage is less reliable than the wifi. Available for iOS and Android users; free to download but you need to purchase “credits” to actually send cards which cost $1.99 each (cheaper if bought in bulk).
If you need to make a call (such as when Craig needs to shout at Santander – a regular occurrence) we use Google Hangouts Dialer (Android only sadly) which cost $0.01 per minute, or $0.03 for mobiles once you’ve topped up $10 (which will go a long way!). The quality is surprisingly good if your wifi connection is decent; we’ve managed to call both of our banks quite easily. As an alternative, Skype also offers international calls but you need to add at least £3.99 credit and I’m not sure how cheap the calls are.
Useful travel apps on the road
Following a nasty bout of insomnia, I downloaded SleepCycle to try and get a grip on my interrupted kip. It tracks your sleep patterns (very addictive if you like stats!) over the course of the night, and the built-in alarm can be set to wake you during your lightest sleep to avoid that groggy feeling an unwelcome wake up can bring. It also has sleep aids, and the white noise really helped me to drift off when my mind was buzzing. £0.79 for iOS and Android.
What travel apps do you use most?