Best travel apps for backpackers

apps As a techy chick, many people asked me what sort of gadgets I was bringing along for a four-month trip. I could have brought lots of things but I only planned to bring my smart phone (no phone service, just as a wifi access device). This response surprised quite a few people and was followed up by tons of questions: Don’t you need a Kindle to read books? Don’t you need a laptop to Skype home? Don’t you need a USB drive with your important documents? Nope, don’t need any of it.

Here’s how to get by with just a deactivated smart phone and a few sweet apps:

1. Find a place to stay – HostelWorld and Agoda
Both HostelWorld and Agoda allow you to search, price check, and book accommodation through the app. No local phone calls, no mobile-unfriendly websites – all you need is the app and a wifi signal. Typically, I would book 1 day in advance or day-of so I had plenty of flexibility. It helped when you arrived in a new city to have an address for a tuk-tuk driver. HostelWorld works great for hostels and Agoda works great for hotels (when you need to splurge for a nice shower).

Get HostelWorld for Android or iPhone

Get Agoda for Android or iPhone

2. Store your important documents offline – Google Drive
When traveling alone, access to a few documents provided some peace of mind. I wanted to store scans of my passport and the phone numbers for my debit and credit cards in case any of them were lost or stolen. I also wanted to store my visa for Vietnam, my flight details, addresses for postcards home, notes from other travelers, etc. Most importantly, I wanted access to everything offline so I wasn’t dependent on a wifi signal. Google Drive does all this and more.

Get Google Drive for Android or iPhone

3. Call home – Viber
Viber makes international calls and text messages for free, all over a wifi signal – genius. Call quality wasn’t the best, but it was a great way to make short phone calls to stay in touch. The user you’re calling must also have the app installed, so this doesn’t work for local phone calls. A paid Skype account is still the best option for that.

Get Viber for Android or iPhone

4. Read up on your destination offline – + Pocket is the best travel guide you could ask for. The information is up-to-date and updated by fellow travelers. I used the “Get In” sections to get my bearings in a new place and avoid common scams. Pocket is an app that converts webpages into documents that can be read offline. I used Pocket to store pages on my future destintations so I could read them offline while I was on a bus or at the airport. The combination was a life saver!

Get Pocket for Android or iPhone

5. Read ebooks – Aldiko Book Reader
Aldiko Book Reader reads .epub files all from your smart phone. I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of charging another device like a Kindle or any other e-reader, so I opted for Aldiko. At first, I wasn’t sure if I would like the small page size, but I ended up really liking it – the text was large enough and a small device was easy to hold in one hand.

Get Aldiko for Android

6. Negotiate like a boss – Easy Currency Converter
When you show up in town with a backpack on your back, all the street vendors see dollar signs written all over you. A quick currency calculation can save you some moola when you start negotiating for goods/services. I used Easy Currency Converter, but any currency app will do. I liked this one in particular because it updated the exchange rates in real time (with a wifi signal) and it saved your favorite countries for quick reference.

Get Easy Currency Converter for Android

Fellow travelers: Have I missed any?