I would like to thank Doi for publishing this article. Her site is a great testimony of someone who quit her day job to follow her dreams! After reading this, I highly recommend you check out her post on what to do in Siem Reap, the first stop of her adventure.
Traveling the world has never been easier than it is today. With the internet providing a global connection and a whole world of information at our fingertips, packing up and jetting off has become more simple and straightforward than ever.
Fifty years ago, backpacking holidays would have involved stocking up on information at the local travel agents and reading a plethora of guidebooks to find the best spots to stay and the best things to do. Now, at the push of a button, we can easily compare accommodations, flights and activities and plan the perfect trip all from our mobile phone or tablet.
However, with so many apps out there to help travelers make the best of their adventure, it’s sometimes difficult to narrow it down to the few that are truly worthwhile. These five apps are some of the best to support anyone on their international backpacking experience.
Skyscanner is the most well-known, and by far the most efficient, app on the market for checking and comparing flight prices. Available on all platforms including Android, iPhone and Windows, it checks a wide variety of different flight providers to find the best prices for users. Set up using a simple and common user interface, in which you input where you want to fly from and to and the date of travel, this app is easy to use and fast to produce a myriad of results. It also allows adjustments to the search by allowing you to search specifically for direct/indirect flights—in order to prioritize either time or money—and has an option to search nearby airports and flight dates.
This option is perfect for backpackers, who benefit from not having concrete travel plans, as it allows you to find the cheapest day and place to travel from. You can book the flights directly through the app, so there’s no need to worry about navigating foreign company’s websites; however, it is worth noting that it’s sometimes slightly cheaper to book through the provider themselves.
Hostels are an essential part of any backpacking experience. They’re a relatively cheap option for accommodation and are also a great place to meet other travelers and share stories and tips about things to do in the local area. The Hostelworld app allows you to search through many different hostels all over the world and includes detailed descriptions of each place.
As well as including a five star rating systems on seven different categories—including cleanliness, atmosphere, value for money and location—each hostel also includes numerous guest reviews, so you can get a real idea of how people found their experience there. The app also includes a checklist of facilities for every listing, so if you need a hostel with WiFi, for example, you can easily search through the options and find the one that’s right for you. It’s easy to search, even easier to book— requiring you to pay a small deposit to ensure your place at the hostel—and is by far the number one resource for finding great places to stay while traveling.
Although hostels are the ideal choice for many travelers, for some they are far from the perfect accommodation. Whether it’s the potential for sleepless nights, security risks or lack of home comforts, there are many backpackers who may want a more intimate experience of the destinations they are visiting.
For this Airbnb is by far the best app on the market. It allows you to link up with hosts who rent out rooms, or even full apartments and houses, to travelers looking for a bit of peace and quiet. The range of accommodations on offer are vast and somewhat jaw-dropping, so no matter what you’re looking for you’re sure to find a place that suits you. Traveling in this way also allows you to meet locals and experience the destination from their point of view.
When using the app, all users have to confirm their identity with passport recognition tools and other online sources, so the risk of entering a stranger’s home is well-managed and reduced. When booking, users request the accommodation and wait for confirmation; although, some hosts provide an “instant book” feature, which guarantees you a place if the space is available without having to get written confirmation.
One of the greatest benefit of mobile applications is that they allow you the flexibility to book and pay for things while you’re on the road. Unfortunately, there’s one major drawback to this. As most backpackers have to rely on public WiFi networks to access the internet, which are notoriously insecure, there’s a very real risk that your data will be intercepted and stolen. This is particularly important to consider when entering credit card and bank account details to make purchases.
Fortunately, Express VPN is a great app that can help to overcome this. The way a Virtual Private Network (VPN) works is to create an initial connection between the device and the VPN server, which is completely secure and mimics a private connection. This means that all your data in encrypted, and you can subsequently go on to access public networks without worrying about the prying eyes that are trying to get their hands on your data. Alongside improving your internet security, ExpressVPN comes with other benefits! It also allows you to bypass geo-blocking restrictions and access sites, such as Netflix, who block content depending on the location you’re in.
AroundMe is a great little iOS app, which has recently also been released on Windows and Android, that is perfect for finding your way to essentials wherever you are. Whether you’ve spent the day sightseeing and are in desperate need of a good meal or you’re looking for a place to exchange money before the next leg of the journey, this app is for you.
It works by getting users to identify the category they’re interested in—bars, for example—and then lists all the places in the local area that fit this description using your GPS to pinpoint the exact location. You can then find routes from where you are to your chosen venue and even look up more information about each place to get an idea of where you want to go.
There is also a “nearby” feature that allows you to browse facts about the places around you by using Wikipedia as the source of information. However, although this app is great in emergencies, the one downside is that it very quickly drains your battery, so it’s advisable you don’t have it running constantly.
By using these five simple apps you can transform any backpacking experience. You can quickly and easily overcome language barriers and find your way around places without having to ask for help. It’s true that technology has revolutionized the travel experience, and these apps definitely stand as shining testimonies to the truth it that. However, there are many more out there that are equally useful for international backpackers. If you know of any more that should be on the list, then be sure to leave a comment below!
About the Author
Jess Signet is a full-time nomad and enjoys writing about her adventures. Knowing there’s more to the world than the bubble she lives in makes her want to travel even further. Traveling is her drug, and she’s addicted. (Please, no intervention!) You can follow her adventures @JessTripelio