Top 20 free Travel Apps for Backpackers

Having the right apps on your phone while travelling can make your life a lot easier. This list of the top 20 free travel apps for backpackers will help you out in deciding which ones to download.

1) Maps.Me (Offline Navigation)

I can’t tell you how useful this app is for navigating when you don’t have any data. This app lets you navigate your way around without the use of data by using GPS and downloaded maps. It’s perfect for when you are backpacking and relying on Wi-Fi for your internet. It will show you points of interests such as popular sights, bars, restaurants and shops. It also has ratings for these places and will show you the quickest route to get there by foot, bike or car. Just remember to download the map for the location you need while you have internet.  

2) Google Maps (Online Navigation)

I think by now almost everybody has used google maps at some point. It’s my go-to navigation app when I have internet available. It’s easy to use and can give you directions for walking, public transport, cycling and driving. It now has the ability to show price estimates and durations for ride apps such as uber or Lyft. I use this to decide whether to walk or if it would be more convenient to get a ride.  

3) WhatsApp (Messaging)

This is already the number one messaging app in the world today but still it’s not that popular in north America. The best thing about it is that it doesn’t discriminate against apple or android users. That means you can message, call and video call anybody in the world for free over the internet regardless of which phone they have. It’s great for sharing photos and videos with friends and family. You can create group chats to stay in touch with new friends and to stay in the loop back home with old ones.  

4) Facebook Messenger (Messaging)

Another messaging app that’s good for keeping in contact with people especially for new people you meet along the way. Whether you have a Facebook profile or not it’s still possible to use Facebook messenger. I actually got this app just so that I could keep in contact with people that I met along my travels. Phone numbers can change and phones get lost/stolen but somebody’s Facebook will remain contactable. 

5) Hostelworld (Accommodation)

As backpackers the majority of our accommodation is going to be hostels and Hostelworld is the best app booking them. It has over 36,000 properties listed in 178 countries so it has you covered in most situations. It gives you a list of the property details, pictures and reviews from previous guests. It gives each property a rating based on its reviews which is useful for weeding out the really bad hostels. I find the reviews really helpful to judge the vibe of the hostels and to make sure there aren’t any major problems with it. 

6) Booking.com (Accommodation)

Booking.com has a variety of accommodations including hostels, hotels and apartments. It is similar to Hostelworld as it has a list of all the property features, pictures and reviews. After backpacking for a while, it can be nice to have a night or two in a hotel to get a good night’s rest. Depending on the country, you can get some good hotels for not too much more than a hostel if you are sharing a room. Once you have completed five bookings within a 2-year period you will gain the status of “Genius level 2”. This can give you a 10-15% discount, free breakfast or free room upgrades at certain places.  

7) Airbnb (Accomodation)

Great for booking apartments, villas or even just rooms inside a house. It has something for every budget and you can find some great deals. For example, if you have a group then booking a villa with a private pool in somewhere like Bali is not that expensive! If you haven’t used Airbnb before then you can sign up here for £25 off your first accommodation and also £9 towards an Airbnb experience.  

8) Skyscanner (Transport)  

This is app allows you to search for flights, hotels and car rentals although I only use it for booking flights. If your dates are flexible Skyscanner can show you which month or day is cheapest to fly on. You can book your trip around this and put the money saved towards extra travelling. Another cool feature is that you can set up price alerts and it will notify you when the price for a specific date changes. 

9) Kiwi.com (Transport) 

Another flight comparison website similar to Skyscanner. It uses a different algorithm to Skyscanner so it sometimes finds cheaper flights. Usually this is at the cost of taking multiple flights or long waits in-between flights, so you can choose time or money. It has a feature that allows you to use flexible dates to plan trips that require multi flights. For example, if you plan to fly into one city but fly out from a different place then you can do this. 

Kiwi.com has a guarantee that protects you from delays, cancellations and schedule changes. I have first-hand experience with this and they were very helpful to accommodate me. A schedule change to my first flight meant that I would miss a connecting flight. They offered to change my flight to an early time and provided accommodation for a night in between flights.  

10) Busbud (Transport)

As you can probably tell from the name this is going to be your best friend when It comes to booking buses. You can search for bus tickets all across the globe and book directly though Busbud. This is a big advantage when you are in a country that you don’t speak the language of. You can get by with no knowledge of the local language in popular spots but in remote locations in can become a problem. Busbud also shows the location of the bus station you will be taking it from and to. It’s best to book a minimum of 24 hours before as some companies won’t sell the tickets online after this cut-off.  

11) Rome2Rio (Transport) 

I have only recently discovered this app but I find myself using it more and more often. It’s a travel search and booking engine for flights, trains, boats, buses and even car sharing. I do not use this app to book my travel although it is possible. The real beauty of this app is that it will show you all the different ways to get from a to b. It gives you a price estimate and how long on average it would take for each mode of transport. It might be cheaper to get a bus half way and then a train which is what this app will tell you.  

12) Google photos / Photo backup app (Storage)  

There is always a possibility of losing all your photos and videos no matter how careful you are with your phone or camera. They can get lost, stolen or just break out of the blue. That is why you should get at least one backup storage app for your photos and videos. I use google photos to back up my photos and videos but there are many other free apps to choose from. Google gives you free unlimited storage if you limit the quality of your back up to 16mp for pictures and 1080p for videos. If you prefer to have the original quality backed up then you get 15gb for free. After that you can pay £1.59 per month for 100gb or £2.49 per month for 200gb. 

13) Mobile Banking (Finance) 

Having a mobile banking App for your bank makes it very convenient to manage your finances while travelling. You can transfer money to your currency card almost instantly and pay any bills back home you might have.  

14) Easy Currency Converter (Finance) 

Simple and light currency conversion tool that can work offline. It works for over 180 currencies around the world and has a calculator built into the converter if you need it. It’s always good to know how much you are actually paying for that barbecued scorpion.  

15) Uber (Transport) 

The most popular ride service app in the world. It gives you an instant price for your journey which you can pay for by card or PayPal direct to uber. They also tend to be cheaper than taxis and everybody knows the price before starting the journey which means no arguments. It is a bit safer than taxis too as the drivers are registered with uber and the journey is tracked by GPS on both yours and the driver’s phones. It’s available in most major cities across the world. 

16) Grab – Asia (Transport)  

Grab is similar to uber but it is more popular in the South-East Asian countries. It has similar benefits such as being cheaper and safer than taxis. Scooter taxis are available through Grab which can save some time when traffic is bad. 

17) Lyft – US & Canada (Transport) 

Lyft is another ride service app but it is only available in the USA and Canada right now. It’s connected to google maps so you can compare the prices of Uber and Lyft. I find that Lyft is usually cheaper than uber and they regularly send you promos with discount codes on.  

18) Memrise (Language learning) 

This is a language app similar to Duolingo. It’s useful to learn some of the local phrases even if it’s only “hello” and “Thank you”. I personally prefer Memrise over Duolingo as I feel it helps me to understand the structure of sentences better as well as improving my vocabulary. This helps me to create my own sentences better once I know enough words. 

19) Spotify (Music) 

I love music and couldn’t imagine travelling without Spotify now. It makes all the long flights/buses/boats/trains go by that little bit faster. The fact that you can download the music to listen to offline is a big bonus as a backpacker.  

20) Shazam (Music) 

If you love discovering new music then this app is the perfect companion to Spotify. Whenever I hear a new song that I like this app is the first thing I open. It only needs a few seconds to work out the song and artist. If you don’t have internet then the app will make a recording for when you do connect to the internet and will then work out the song.  

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