Whether it is planning or booking, searching for bargain accommodation or cheap flights these are the best apps for backpackers that allowed us to do all that at the click of a button. Taking the stress out of travelling and getting us out of some very tricky situations. There literally is an app for every step of your journey to save you money, time and effort as well as stick to a budget, speak the local language and travel as safely as possible.
One of the best apps for backpackers who like to travel for less than a fiver
What does it do: Allows you to book, track and search buses all over Europe.
Why we can’t travel without it: Not only is Flixbus great for cheap bus travel around Europe, you are also informed of delays in real time. One of the best apps for backpackers as you can also track and store your bus tickets. This is so much easier than searching through emails to find them (especially if you can’t find WiFi). Not only does it track journeys you have already booked but you can book new bus tickets through it too, often with exclusive deals!
Backpacking Europe by bus could not be easier (or cheaper!) thanks to this app. We used Flixbus from Venice to Ljubljana then onward to Vienna and Bratislava then Prague and Krakow! Our cheapest journey was the bus from Vienna to Bratislava which took around 1 hour and cost a crazy £3.47! Our most “expensive” was the bus from Ljubljana to Vienna which took 5 hours and was £22. Download it ASAP as you can get your first 5 journeys within Europe for 99 Euros!
One of the best apps for backpackers who want to learn a new language
What does it do: Allows you to learn a new language, in an easy way.
Why we can’t travel without it: We found Duolingo to be one of the best travel apps for Europe as it means so much to locals when you make the effort to speak the language. Whether ready to full blown commit to a whole new language, or you simply want a few phrases to get by (like “where is the nearest pub?”) then Duolingo is definitely the app for you.
After our time in Switzerland through Workaway (you can read about that adventure here) we used Duolingo every day to practise our French. If you are serious about learning a language you can also setup reminders every day and it will set you challenges to try. This was a great way to ensure we didn’t get lazy as you’d lose your “streak” – which Darren took a little too seriously at times. It also gives you a percentage of how fluent you are, hopefully you can beat our 12% in French!
One of the best apps for backpackers to translate anything immediately
What does it do: Translates phrases using voice, typing or your camera.
Why we can’t travel without it: Wait, before you think well duh, there is so much features to Google Translate we had no clue about before backpacking Europe. One of the best apps for backpackers because it helped us out of so many tricky situations. With downloadable offline languages and an easy to use interface this app is perfect for a quick translation.
It was a life saver when Loz was ill in Ljubljana and after spending a silly amount of money on medicine, didn’t think about the fact that the instructions would all be in Slovenian. Using the phone camera, the app translated the medicine instructions into English without having to type in each word individually. Perfect for translating menus, roads signs and so much more! It was also hugely useful in foreign supermarkets, allowing us to avoid some odd fishy foods in Greece and find Cornflour to make Scottish shortbread for our Workaway hosts in Switzerland.
One of the best apps for backpackers on a roadtrip of New Zealand or Australia
What does it do: Allows you to search via GPS campsites nearby, categorised by price (free, cheap, expensive)
Why we can’t travel without it: This is one of the best apps for backpackers if you’re planning a campervan or camping trip around Australia or New Zealand. Firstly, it’s fab because you can you download the maps offline – essential when WiFi is almost non-existent in New Zealand! It is an absolute life saver for finding campsites nearby, last minute and within your budget. Through the app, each campsite is represented by 1 of 3 colour codes – if the campsite is free then green, low-cost is blue or slightly higher cost is purple. As you see it through GPS you know when you’re nearby and can also choose site based on if they are near the beach or finding cheap sites in tourist hot spots such as Milford Sound.
It also shows you other amenities such as public toilets, activities, restaurants and more, such as where to empty your campervan waste or top up fresh water. Each day exclusive deals will pop up on the app for the location you are in such as discounted kayaking, 2 nights for the price of 1 and so much more.
Most importantly, Campermate allows you to leave and read reviews for every single site so you know which are safe, cheap and clean. This review system was also so useful for hidden gems in each area, recommended by other travellers. For example while visiting New Zealand we were able to go and see the little blue penguins in Timaru for free due to advice on Campermate and we received free cookies at one campsite for mentioning we booked through the app!
One of the best apps for backpackers who hate planning
What does it do: Find cheap flights, plan your travels.
Why we can’t travel without it: It’s likely you’ve heard of Kayak being one of the best apps for backpackers due to its bargain flights but did you know it is also one of the best trip planning apps and ideal holiday organiser. Kayak Trips is an amazing app for backpackers (especially if you hate itinerary planning) as you simply forward all of your trip emails and info to the app and it stores it all in order of when you’re going to need it. Days of A4 folders with printed tickets and hotel reservations are over and there is no need to hunt through emails to find your reservations. All your bookings are in one place from bus tickets, airport transfers, hostel bookings and flights.
The best part? Not only will the app send you reminders about flight check-ins but it would even buzz when you land and tell you which baggage carousels your luggage would be on! At times it would inform us of flight delays even before the airline did! Best of all, this nifty little holiday organiser is completely free!
One of the best apps for backpackers who love road trips
What does it do: Like Google Maps, but much more fun
Why we can’t travel without it: Waze is a navigation app which is the funkier, younger cousin of Google Maps. Why is Waze better? Waze allows you to report road incidents in your area and this will then become visible to other Waze users. It is one of the most accurate navigational apps that we have ever used and couldn’t travel without it.
There are many quirky features that make long road-trips much more fun, a favourite being recording your own voice to give the Sat Nav directions. If listening to your own voice in a 3 hour journey doesn’t sound too fun, download some of the apps hilarious voices such as “boy band” who will sing the directions or Football team who can cheer you along. You choose your own icon and can see other Waze users on your route as well as unlock new features as you pass certain milestones. Far more entertaining than a usual Sat Nav and also completely free!
One of the best apps for backpackers to save money on transport
What does it do: Book a taxi-like service.
Why we can’t travel without it: Although due to disputes on pay meaning Uber has been earning a bad rep recently, it is one of the best apps for backpackers to save money on expensive Airport Transfers. Uber is a great way to get from A to B when you are a bit short of time and is usually much cheaper and safer than taxis. In the way taxis can rip you off, take expensive detours or simply be impossible to find one in the first place – Uber solves all of these problems. Drivers are rated, price agreed before you get in the car and routes can be tracked and shared through social media.
When attempting busy public transport with backpacks in 30 degree heat just won’t cut it, book an Uber which will take you door to door instead. Even easier it’s a cashless system and bonus points often awarded to the Uber drivers who give you local recommendations or let you choose the music. Just be careful not to use in countries where it is illegal, like us in Bucharest (you can read about that wee incident here).
Why not sign up here and get a discount off your first ride, saving you even more money!
One of the best apps for backpackers who want to stay somewhere unique
What does it do: Allows you to book quirky accommodation and live like a local.
Why we can’t travel without it: Hotels can be expensive and let’s face it, sometimes a tad boring. Instead, rooftop pools in Hollywood, glamping in a Tipi in Brighton or a jungle hut in Hawaii all sound far more fun and all of which, we have been able to do thanks to Airbnb. Offering much more unique accommodation options than a hotel, allowing you to live like a local and explore their neighbourhood instead. Often hosts offer local recommendations, meaning you find hidden gems off the beaten track, we even had a host in Budapest give us a bottle of wine on arrival and we learned to fire dance with our host in Hawaii!
We have used it for both short term and long term bookings with long term offering amazing discounts! Hosts as well as guests are reviewed and you can choose an entire property or simply a room. Best of all, some apartments can still be found last minute if you’re on the road and often are so much cheaper than hotels.
The app now includes a great experiences feature, offering surf lessons in Bali, street art tours in San Fran or cooking lessons in Italy. Local experiences ran by local people to truly indulge in the country’s culture and away from the usual tourist traps. Download the app and join here to get money off your first booking!
Although Airbnb’s are usually cheaper, we always check hotel prices using Hotels Combined as they usually offer the cheapest hotel prices online. When looking for bargain accommodation (and not necessarily fussed about that “wow” factor) definitely take a look at their website.
One of the best apps for backpackers to create a bucket list
What does it do: Create itineraries and bucketlists, navigation and more.
Why we can’t travel without it: But wait…didn’t you say Waze was better? We believe that Google Maps deserves a mention on here, as it has some amazing features which aren’t just helping you get from A to B. One of the best apps for backpackers as it is the best travel itinerary planner we have ever used and the ideal way to have your bucket list in one place.
During our Workaway in Hawaii we were introduced by our host to the stars feature of Google Maps, you can watch his full review on YouTube here. How many times have you seen somewhere amazing on Instagram or Pinterest and then forgotten where it is? Basically, the star function allows you to star all the places you want to visit in a place and then creates a route. This means you can track your bucket list in one app and tick them off as you go. Before this we were hunting through screenshots from Instagram or endless Pinterest boards as we constantly forgot which must-see places we’d saved.
Best of all, if you search for the best attractions in a place, for example “Venice Top Attractions”, then Google will recommend these on a map so you know if any attractions are nearby, give you the reviews from other users and also allow you to star them there directly. It also shows you how many miles you’ve travelled, number of cities you’ve visited and so much more. At times a little shameful (surely we didn’t go to McDonald’s THAT much) but very useful when trying to retrace your steps and remember the name of that restaurant in Vienna with the best Schnitzel and so on. This app will save so much time and effort, making travel planning so much easier.
One of the best apps for backpackers on a budget
What does it do: Keep track of your expenses.
Why we can’t travel without it: Ironically, money manager is the only app which we have paid for during our travels, but is one of the best apps for backpackers on a budget! The hardest part about travel, with so much amazing places to stay, eat and explore is how to afford it all. This app, allows you to keep track of your expenses by storing your receipts and create graphs automatically to show where your biggest expenses are (looking at you cheese & wine.)
I know this all sounds very exciting, but if you’re serious about travelling then you need to know how to budget and when to cut out those ice-creams. At first, in all honesty it was a bit of a faff typing in each time we purchased a coffee and so on. However, it quickly became habit and those satisfying little pie charts made it worth it to see where the majority of our money was going.
We are all about those bargains, so if you’re backpacking on a budget, take a peek at our resources page for more budget advice, discounts and money saving travel hacks! As well as our post on how anyone can afford to travel the world.
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