Must-Have Travel Apps For Cheaper, Safer, and Better Travel in 2021

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travel apps

Best Travel Apps In 2021, The Ones I Use On A Daily Basis

As someone who is a frequent traveler (pre-pandemic), my ‘Travel Apps’ folder on my phone is one of the most frequently opened, and one of the main ones I could never do without. Some of the best travel apps are less important than others, of course, but others hold so much information it’s scary to think about what would happen if I was on the road and lost my phone.

Phones are both a curse and a blessing in today’s travel climate. They can take away much of the adventure of travel, but also give us a much safer and more convenient experience.

If you use your phone wisely when travelling, it can become your best travel buddy.

I’d recommend having a look at some specific travel apps for the country you’re travelling in before you go, but generally, there are some main travel apps I use all the time for every trip. And after visiting over 50 different countries, I’ve narrowed it down to the best travel apps for each purpose; hotels, flights, language barriers, money etc.

Everyone has their own preference, but these are the ones I’ve found work best for me over the years.

RELATED: How To Travel Internationally Without Cell Phone Service

best travel apps

Remember to Stay Organized!

Before we take a look, I recommend setting yourself up a travel folder on your phone to keep these all in one place. This is useful both if you use these travel apps a lot, and a little. It keeps them neat and tidy away if you don’t use them much, and if you’re using them a lot you always know where they’re located. If you dislike organisation and like to live life on the wild side then go ahead and just place your travel apps haphazardly amongst Facebook and your Calendar.

My Favorite Apps for Flights

Skyscanner

There are lots of budget flight apps. Personally, I find this classic the best. Search flights from thousands of airlines and compare them. Set up alerts and bag yourself a bargain when the price goes down!

I must have saved thousands over the years using this app.

hotel pool

Best Travel Apps for Accommodation

This category gets 3 different apps because they all have different purposes.

Airbnb

Often offering ensuite with kitchen services, and central but cheap accommodation, Airbnb is great if you’re looking for a place to stay for a slightly longer period of time and want to save on cash by being central but being able to cook for yourself.

Hostelworld

Budget accommodation? Yes, please! Despite the name, Hostelworld isn’t just hostels, also showing some hotels, but its main use is for hostels in the area. You can compare, see reviews, and book your bed after choosing the type of accommodation. You can pay a deposit through the app then once you arrive at your hostel, just show them your booking on the app!

Booking.com

An all-rounder. Everything from upscale hotels to cheap bed and breakfasts. You can sometimes find some great cheap deals here at really nice places, and if you’re a member you get some great discounts.

travel apps

My Favorite Travel Apps for Directions

Google Maps

(Or country-relevant map)

Old but gold. And constantly updated. Who could survive even in their own city today without Google Maps? Constantly updated, Google Maps is not just good for finding your way in a new place, but also for giving recommendations on anything from the nearest cafe to the nearest ATM. And everything in between!

Top Tip: Some countries, such as South Korea (Kakao) and China (Baidu), use their own map services and attempting to use Google Maps here will have you lugging your suitcase down a wet and dark alleyway. (Speaking from experience).

Maps.Me

Perfect if you are travelling to areas without much internet service, Maps.Me allows for an easy download of cities or entire countries. Once you’re done in that area, just delete your download to make room for the next one!

uber

Best Travel Apps for Transport

Uber

(Or the local taxi service provider).

Uber only made it to my must-have travel list in the last couple of years, although it’s been around for a few more. When you travel, and when you’re backpacking or long-term travelling, getting a taxi seems something of a luxury you’d never dare to give yourself.

Sure, if you’re backpacking South East Asia I’d say Uber is for the more well-off traveller who prefers to travel in comfort – or at least more comfort than on the back of a scooter racing through the city.

But something I discovered only on a trip to India actually made me appreciate Uber’s service a whole lot more. The benefits I found in both India and Bangladesh was that 1. It is safer than hailing a cab, 2. It’s cheaper than hailing a cab, 3. You won’t get ripped off! And if you’ve ever travelled to India, you’ll understand point 3 is absolutely impossible to avoid as a foreigner.

What’s also great, is that you can set it up with your card. So, if for some reason you find yourself without your purse or without money, you can still use it to get back to your hotel or to somewhere safe.

Top Tip: I have written on the top about ‘local taxi service provider’. Some countries don’t have Uber, e.g. China uses Didi, but rather use a different general taxi app service. Uber is generally available globally, but make sure to check beforehand.

travel apps

Best Travel Apps for Money

XE Currency

XE Currency is an app telling you the exchange rates of various currencies. It is updated in real-time.

My favourite feature of XE Currency is the ability to use it offline. This is obviously impractical long term, but it’s perfect for when you can’t do a quick Google on the exchange rates but need a quick approximate number.

google travel app

Best Travel Apps for Language

Google Translate

10 years ago, Google Translate was a laughable piece of software for language translation that gave hilariously brilliant results and frustrated high school French and German teachers to no end.

Now it’s no longer hilariously brilliant. It’s just really brilliant. There are over 100 languages to translate into, including languages of remote countries that may not know much English. There is now also a feature using the camera that reads the language, so if you’re stuck in China or Japan it can be a great help!

Of course, nothing is perfect and there will be many mistakes using Google Translate. But as long as you’re not using it for your homework, you should be able to get by. But remember, this is just a translation app. If you want to actually learn the language there are plenty of other great apps like Duolingo or Memrise for that.

Top tip: Make sure to download the language of the country you’re travelling in beforehand in case you won’t have the internet on arrival or can’t find any WiFi. 

travel apps

The Best Apps for Chat

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is the most widely used chat app. It’s used in various countries throughout the world, particularly over Europe. The app uses data to allow you to talk with anyone who’s phone number you have who also has WhatsApp. Not only can you chat via messages, but you can also call and video call.

This means cutting out any unnecessary calling abroad costs. You can call someone in Italy from the US for only the cost of your data; nothing else.

WhatsApp is useful for staying in touch with people back home, wherever they may be in the world, as well as keeping in touch with people you meet along the road. Most travellers use WhatsApp as a common way to keep in touch with people from around the world, since it’s the one used by a variety of countries globally.

If you’re going to be in one country for a long time, it’s also wise to look up what chat app is popular there, e.g Kakao Talk for South Korea, Line for Japan, WeChat for China. It’s worth downloading these apps before you go since you’ll be prepared for when someone asks for your details!

vpn into china

Bonus Apps I Use While Traveling

VPN

Something a lot of people might not think of (unless you’re going to China), a VPN can be a lifesaver of an app, especially if you get homesick easily or if you’re travelling for a long time.

A VPN is simply an app that changes your IP address so it looks like you’re surfing the net from a different country. This means you can be in the UK and watch US Netflix or you can be in Mexico and use google.fr etc.

If you’re travelling to China, a VPN is an absolute must if you want to use any normal people internet services such as Google or Facebook. These are all blocked in China and you’ll need to download a VPN BEFORE you get to China. VPNs are not strictly legal and it is very difficult to download a VPN whilst in China.

A VPN is also useful when travelling and using various WiFi’s around the world as it helps to secure your connection and protect your privacy.

There are many VPNs to choose from, free or paid.

Been

Been, or any of the other apps like it, is a lovely little way to keep track of where you have been. You can plug in which countries you’ve visited and it will keep the record and tell you how much percentage of the world you’ve travelled to.

And how much you have left to explore!

Best Travel Apps – Final Thoughts

This is not an exhaustive list of all the travel apps you’ll ever need. I also have not tried and tested all the travel apps out there for offer. But this is a key selection of those travel apps that I have used for years and still use to this day. And they’re certainly apps I know I couldn’t travel without now!

What is your list of best travel apps that you simply can not live without? Let me know in the comments!

Zoe Stephens
Zoe is a freelance writer from Liverpool, UK. She spends her time travelling between China, where she is based, and North Korea, where she works as a tour guide for Koryo Tours. You can follow her journey and see her content from North Korea on Instagram (@zoediscovers) and YouTube. You can see more about her life stuck on Tonga on Instagram @ifyouwerestrandedonanisland.

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2 COMMENTS

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I would add 2 more of my favorites:
    Rome2Rio- best app to plan travel but mostly off grid locations gives info on planes, trains, bus, car, etc.. options.
    Loungebuddy- best app i have to plan out your layover stops but for some reason they stopped making an android app only on iphone. You can still access it through website or of your like and have it move it from android to android to keep it alive.

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