I’m not really an “app person” (those people exist, right?) but for some reason when I started traveling abroad, I became addicted to travel apps.
This is probably because I actually need and use the apps I have, most of them on a daily basis.
These travel apps turn my iPhone into a compass, a receipt scanner, a translator, a currency converter, and a travel agent – and every single one of them was free.
1. GlobeConvert Free (my currency converter)
I still use this app all the time, even though I’ve been back in Vietnam for over 6 weeks and have a pretty solid handle on the conversion rate.
If a taxi driver quotes you 2 million dong for a 3-km cab ride, you can whip out your phone and remind yourself that 2 million dong is about $100, and inform him that you’ll be using another taxi driver thankyouverymuch.
This app has just about every currency imaginable, and it’s easy to toggle back and forth between them.
2. Shoeboxed (my receipt scanner)
Here’s how my lazy butt “manages my finances” back home: I swipe my debit card, then I check my bank account online. That’s pretty much it.
The problem with traveling abroad in Asia is that the entire continent seems to operate on a cash-only basis, which means I need to get receipts, which means I need to keep those receipts organized.
I stay at a lot of different hotels, so I’m constantly collecting scraps of paper. The problem is that my backpack is already stuffed to the brim without adding an ever-growing pile of paper receipts into the mix!
Shoeboxed has been the answer to my prayers. With this travel app I simply snap a picture of the receipt in question, then toss said receipt in the recycling bin. All of the info from the receipt – including the date, amount spent, the vendor, and the location – is magically beamed to my Shoeboxed account.
Shoeboxed can even detect which tax category my receipt falls under. If I scan a receipt from a hotel I stayed at, it will be automatically labeled as a “travel and transport” write off.
This made doing my taxes so easy this year, that when I was finished, I had a big “I finished my taxes really fast!” party in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
If you like the sound of Shoeboxed, you can get a free 30-day trial by clicking here.
3. Compass by Tim O’s Studios (my – duh – compass)
This app has saved me a ton of money and has saved me from getting lost time and time again.
For some reason the Google maps app on my phone doesn’t always come through. Also, sometimes I don’t buy a local SIM card if I’m not going to be in a country for a long period of time.
In those moments – no cellular data and/or cranky Google gods – I’m flying blind and rely on this app to get me where I’m going. You may not know exactly how to find a place, but you can at least get yourself in the general vicinity.
It’s also great when you’re riding in taxis.
Make sure you know which direction you’re supposed to be headed by checking a map before you get in the cab. Then, whip out your compass app and make sure you’re heading the right way.
If your driver is happily soaring due east when the temple you want to see is most definitely to the west, you can speak up (before the meter runs up!)
4. Skyscanner (my airfare agent)
This is one of my favorite travel apps for booking airfare and checking airline prices, especially in SE Asia. Skyscanner shows you all of the available flights for your desired dates and makes it simple to filter by price.
It also shows you every airline that flies between your destinations, and lets you book airfare right from your phone.
5. Hostelworld (my accommodation agent)
Hostelworld’s app is a great research tool, even if you don’t end up booking through their site. A lot of the time, I only prebook a single night at a hotel or guest house in case I end up hating the place.
This travel app lets you see how much you can expect to pay for a private room at various hostels in various parts of the city.
Let’s say you look up hostel prices in Hanoi and see that a private room in the Old Quarter is around $12/night, while a private room in the West Lake area of town is closer to $30/night.
Armed with this information, you’re ready to negotiate a great deal on a room (and ready to laugh out loud when a $12 hotel tries to charge $30, knowing that you can walk next door and find a much better price).
Conclusion (starring Ryan Gosling)
I’ve heard some people recommend leaving the smartphone at home and buying a cheap cell once you arrive in country.
For me, having a smartphone and using awesome travel apps saves me money, keeps me safe, and even makes me feel a lot more organized than I typically do at home. I really couldn’t survive without it.
I also couldn’t survive without the hope that someday, somehow, Ryan Gosling will realize that we were destined to be together, will dump whichever gorgeous actress he’s married to at the moment, and will fly to Paris to sweep me up and start making a baker’s dozen of Little Goslings. (see how I’m in Paris in this fantasy? That’s what separates the dreamers from the deranged. I might even add a pet monkey into the scenario if the mood strikes.)
Yep, just struck.
Which travel apps can’t you live without?
YE OLDE DISCLAIMER: If you sign up for a Shoeboxed account (which you should totally do, btw), the good people at Shoeboxed just might find it in their hearts to throw some scratch my way. But don’t get the wrong idea – I am a loyal Shoeboxed customer and would never recommend the service to you if it sucked. It sucketh not! Go get your free trial already!
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I can't live without....
1. GlobeConvert Free for currency conversion
2. Shoeboxed for receipt scanning
3. Compass by Tim O for my compass
4. Skyscanner for checking and booking airfare
5. Hostelworld for researching accommodation prices
6. Eating great spring rolls with Ryan Gosling in Paris while my pet monkey sits on my shoulder and Ryan and I discuss whether or not we'll have to get rid of the monkey when the twins are born.
Want to dig deeper? Go for it!