Having a smartphone is essential for travel. You can look up directions, you can find places you’re interested in going to, you can plan your day, you can call someone if there’s an emergency, and so much more. It reduces the clutter in your bag so you don’t have to carry so many different gadgets. In this post, we’ll break down the essential apps by type – This is Just Fn’ Travel’s essential apps you need for your travels.
1. Google Maps (iOS and Android)
While this app is an obvious one, it’s much better than Apple’s Maps app. I find it’s more up to date and way better for giving public transport directions. Google Maps can give directions and times for cycling and ridesharing/taxi.
In my opinion, it looks nicer and more user friendly. If you have a Google account, you can also set up your favourite places and home address. You can also download portions of maps for offline use. I did this in Berlin when I didn’t want to buy a sim card for a short trip. While I couldn’t get public transport directions, I could get walking directions.
2. Waze (iOS and Android)
If you drive, use Waze, a crowdsourced driving directions map. It’s the Wikipedia of navigation apps. Over 90 million users share information like traffic jams and police trap alerts to make driving more pleasant. Waze can also find the cheapest petrol en route. One of the most famous features of the app is the celebrity voices, which makes it a nice change from Siri.
3. Public Transport Maps (iOS and Android)
Since this article is a general travel, I’m not going to suggest specific public transport apps for different cities, but it’s nice to have a public transport map in your phone because sometimes you can’t see the maps very easily in the train or the station. Every time I travel to London, I always download a Tube map that can be used offline. Some apps for public transport even have trackers for the buses and trains and live alerts so you can decide if it’s better to wait a bit longer for the bus/train or take a walk.
4. Uber (iOS and Android)
A no-brainer and it’s available in many cities all over the world. Its competitor Lyft is good if you’re travelling to the US, but they’re not available elsewhere.
Uber won’t work very well if you’re travelling in rural areas, but in cities, it’s a life saver and cheaper than taxis. Uber doesn’t charge a fee for extra passengers, so it might work out cheaper than public transport if you’re travelling with a group of friends.
It’s better than calling a cab because you know where your driver is in real time and you get an accurate ETA.
A couple of times Uber saved me and my travel companions. When my family went to New York, they decided to take an Uber a few times because it worked out cheaper than public transport. We’re a family of four and at $2.75 a person for a subway fare, that’s $11 total. Within Manhattan, an Uber ride can cost about $10. It’s a small savings for a family, but every bit counts, especially in expensive NYC. Since we were in New York for a short time, waiting for the subway was time consuming, so it was well worth it.
If you want food delivery, Uber also have the Uber Eats service in select cities. If you’re in a certain area of the city between certain times, an Uber can deliver you lunch or dinner for a flat fee in under an hour. No need for cash because you connect your credit/debit card to your account. Warning: If you’re a vegetarian or vegan or have special dietary needs, you may not have many options.
1. WhatsApp (iOS and Android)
Whatsapp is a convenient messaging app owned by Facebook and it’s one of the most widely used of its kind. It was also a pioneer in messaging apps because it’s been around since 2009. What made it popular was how much cheaper it was than texting, which can cost about 15 cents a message. That adds up if you’re a texting addict. Even before WhatsApp became free in 2016, a $1/year subscription fee was a good deal. There are also no ads on the app, so it’s very clean and distraction free.
If Facebook Messenger isn’t your thing, WhatsApp is a great alternative and it’s easy to find and add your friends from all over the world. You can import your existing contacts and No need to worry if some of your friends have an iPhone and other friends have an Android. You can text, audio call, video call, and send pictures and files all for free. If you’re homesick, your friends and family are a WhatsApp away.
2. Snapchat (iOS and Android)
If you don’t have a Snapchat, get one! It’s so much fun to send snaps from your holidays to your friends. You can take pictures without using storage space. Those face filters are also a lot of fun and change every day. Snapchat also has stories from newspapers and magazines that are entertaining to read and great for passing time during a bus ride or train trip.
3. Pinterest (iOS and Android)
Need some travel inspiration? Pinterest is a great way to look up some beautiful pictures of places you want to visit and find cool infographics listing things to do. You can pin anything you find online, blogs, lists, pictures, videos, and save it to a board. Have boards for different countries you want to go.
1. TripAdvisor (iOS and Android)
You can find reviews of anything from hotels to airlines to restaurants to tourist attractions and get recommendations for things to do near you. If you don’t want to get a local sim card, you can download some information for offline use.
2. Yelp (iOS and Android)
Another great review site. Google Maps has reviews, but there might not always be enough reviews for you to decide if it’s worth going to. If you visit Yelp in the browser, you can’t read the reviews and it suggests you download the app. Yelp also includes a lot of helpful information like if a place takes credit cards, is wheelchair accessible, has a bathroom (and if it’s gender-neutral/single stall), does delivery or take away, serves alcohol, or has parking.
3. Ulmon Travel Apps (iOS and Android)
This is a multi-tool app and it can be used offline. Best part, it’s free. Ulmon make travel guides for many destinations around the world. If you’re going to Thailand, there’s an app for that. If you’re going to Sydney, there’s an app for that.
The app includes a map, sometimes with a public transport map that tells you where the nearest stop is according to your location (in the case of their London, Paris, Rome, and New York apps). You can make a list of places you want to go and the map is usually up to date and includes lots of different restaurants, bars, theatres, museums, and shops.
It’s great for staying organised and making sure you check everything off your bucket list. This app helped me a lot when I was in Sydney and when I went to London, Paris, Berlin, and Amsterdam.
1. Accuweather (iOS and Android)
We all know the built-in weather apps in our phones aren’t the best. Accuweather is one of the better weather apps. Personally, when I’m travelling I have my list of things to do, but my plan isn’t set in stone. I like to check the weather and plan accordingly. Places like New Zealand and Melbourne have changeable weather, so this app can come in handy for your trip.
2. Flush (iOS and Android)
We all need to go to the washroom and sometimes not at the most convenient times. This app lists toilets that are open to the public and whether there’s a fee, you need a key, or if it’s wheelchair accessible. The information on the app is crowdsourced, so if you want to help people coming to your hometown, contribute! The information isn’t always accurate so keep that in mind.
A general tip, if you need to use a public toilet but don’t want to buy anything or pay to use it, check libraries, shopping centres, department stores, universities, parks, museums, or government buildings. If all else fails, just walk into a pub or fast food restaurant and act like you belong.
3. Globeconvert Online (iOS only)
A currency converter that works offline. Now you know what something costs and you can better gauge if it is a good deal. The app doesn’t only convert currencies, but also units like temperature, speed, and volume.
4. Deliveroo/Just Eat (iOS and Android)
If UberEats isn’t available or there aren’t enough options for you, these apps are great for when you want to have a lazy night in. You can order food on the app and prepay for it or pay with cash (only with Just Eat, Deliveroo doesn’t allow cash payments). Of the destinations we specialise in, Deliveroo is available in Australia and Just Eat is available in Australia and New Zealand.
Going to Southeast Asia? You have options. In Vietnam, there’s eat.vn and vietnammm.com in Thailand, there’s foodpanda.co.th in Cambodia, there’s mealtemple.com and nham24.com.
Which apps are your favourites? Share them in the comments section below. Hope this list helps you with your future trips. We here at Just FN Travel can help plan your trip to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, or Southeast Asia.