15 Essential Travel Apps for Backpackers

From hotel bookings to language tools, these are some of the top travel apps

There are quite a few lists out there of best travel apps, but most of these are for people going on a quick holiday. If you’re going on a longer trip, you may want to load up your smartphone with some additional tools.

The following apps are especially useful if you’re going backpacking, if you’re travelling through multiple countries, or won’t have mobile data everywhere (as many of these apps can be used even when offline).


1. MAPS.me

MAPS.me is an awesome maps app that lets you download map data for a country or region so you can use it even when you have no data connection. This app was a serious life-saver when I was trying to find my way through the infinite windy alleyways of the medina in Fez, Morocco — not to mention many other places!

While Google Maps now also include a downloading function, I like the MAPS.me functionality better. It also lets you more easily star specific locations for later reference.

Download: iOS or Android



2. Google Translate

If you’re on Android, you may already have this. Either way, get this app, and add it to your home screen!

Not only can you translate text by manually typing it in, it can instantly translate a conversation, or render translated text on top of a camera picture. Google recently switched to translations based on machine learning, making the results much better, especially for difficult translations like Japanese to English.

Be sure to download the dictionaries for languages you need on your trip, for offline use!

Download: iOS or Android



3. XE Currency

The best way to avoid getting overcharged abroad (or just making costly mistakes) is to have the latest exchange rates with you all the time. XE Currency doesn’t need to be connected to the internet to work.

Download: iOS or Android

MAPS.me, Google Translate, and Pocket



4. Hostelworld

Hostelworld is the biggest hostel booking site, so if you’re a budget traveller chances are you’ll be using this app a lot. Once you’re already logged into your account, booking your next place to stay takes just a minute. (Psst, I also have some tips for finding the best hostels.)

Download: iOS or Android



5. Skyscanner

The popular flight search engine Skyscanner has its own app, making it easier to search for flights on your smartphone or tablet. Get it for iOS or Android.


6. Momondo

Momondo is my other favorite flight search engine, and like Skyscanner it’s fully independent so it includes as many carriers as possible. Get the most out of Momondo and Skyscanner by reading my tips and tricks for finding the cheapest flights.

Download: iOS or Android


7. Skype

Skype video calls are a fantastic way to keep up with your friends or family back home. But it’s also a great way to make cheap international calls! I’ve found this extremely useful in cases where I had to call the support desk of my bank or insurer while abroad. Just put a little credit in your Skype account and you can call numbers in your home country at local tariffs.

Download: iOS or Android

8. Whatsapp

Okay, this one’s mainly for Americans (I’m European). Whatsapp may not be so known in the US, but it’s the go-to messenging app for much of the world, so it’s often a great way to keep in touch with any locals or other travellers you meet. Fun fact: in Brazil they say zapzap instead of whatsapp, which is super cute.

Download: iOS or Android

9. Pocket

Pocket lets you save any webpage for later reading. Just hit the share icon and select the Pocket icon, and you’ll be able to pull up this article or blog post from the Pocket app later. This is absolutely brilliant for stocking up on reading material before a long flight or bus journey. Pocket now also lets you save videos for later viewing!

Download: iOS or Android


10. Duolingo

What better time to learn a language than while you’re fully immersed in that language on a trip? Duolingo makes language learning fun by adding game-like scoring and progression systems. It’s free and it’s excellent for learning the basics.

Unlock the Flirting pack and you can even learn such useful phrases as “I’m not drunk, I’m just intoxicated by you.” Hello there sexy locals.

Download: iOS or Android


Rome2Rio, Duolingo, and VOLO



11. Trail Wallet

This app makes it easier to track your daily travel budget and expenses. Supports 200+ local currencies, daily budget targets, spending categories, and much more.

Download: iOS only — on Android, try Travel Pocket.


12. Prey

Prey helps you secure your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. It lets you track multiple devices in case it gets stolen or lost, and uses GPS and camera pictures to help you recover a lost device. You can even wipe your devices remotely.

Download: iOS or Android


13. Google Drive

Speaking of data security, be sure to back up your shit. Seriously, I’m sick of hearing travellers tell me sob stories about how they lost all their photos. Make sure your phone is set up to sync with either Apple iCloud or with Google Drive (or with a competing service such as Dropbox or Microsoft’s Onedrive). Google Drive gives you 15 GB for free. I personally use the $2 a month plan for 100 GB of cloud storage, which gets synced accross all my devices.



14. Rome2Rio

This is seriously the most amazing app for finding out transportation connections, even in the most remote places. Type in where you are and where you’re going and you get a list of bus, train, flight, and self-drive options.

Download: iOS or Android



15. VOLO – Your Travel Journal

It’s fun to keep some kind of journal during your trip. While you could easily use the built-in notepad apps, it’s more fun to use a dedicated travel journal app. With VOLO, you can create a kind of scrapbook, including pictures and text, and can even co-author your journey with your fellow travel buddies.

Download: iOS or Android


  1. Ryan Templeton Reply March 27, 2018 at 11:42 am

    No mention of Uber or AirBNB? I guess they are givens now to most people, but after living in Central America for the last 8 months, our 4 lifesavers have been: WhatsApp, Google Translate, Uber, and AirBNB. A good banking app is #5 (we use Capital One 360).

    • Marek Reply March 27, 2018 at 12:25 pm

      Yeah Uber is especially awesome in places that can be a bit sketchy. It was a real game-changer for me in Cape Town a while ago 🙂

  2. Maria Reply February 5, 2018 at 12:52 am

    Surprised not to find Hostellers in this list.
    It’s young but a bunch of hostels where I stayed used it and it was super useful! It’s a must have in my opinion
    (also couchsurfing to meet people around is great :))

  3. Sutikno Gresik Reply March 28, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    I usually use mapsme while travelling and it helps me a lot. but recently I always got problem with this aps since navigation does not run well. It suddently stop navigates me and after a vew minutes running again. It happen many times so i have ever passes the pointed address many times.

    Could you tell me how to solve the problem or you also got the same problem as I do.

    Thank a lot

    • Marek Reply March 28, 2017 at 2:47 pm

      I had an issue with MAPS.me on my older phone where I had to disable ‘Assisted GPS’ for it to work properly. But no idea if that’s the same issue you’re having, sorry!

  4. Wang Reply January 31, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    Amazing post with great Research. Love your site Thank you

  5. Sally Reply January 8, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    Great post!! I use most of these apps.
    People should really back up their photos/videos:)

  6. John Mayson Reply January 3, 2017 at 2:22 am

    Where’s #5? 🙂

    • Marek Reply January 3, 2017 at 10:09 am

      Haha oops, apparently deleted by accident! Will bring it back 🙂

  7. Rasmus Reply March 7, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    Have a look at http://www.comundu.com as well! Such a cool app great for both travellers as well as hostels! I used it quite a few times on an interrail trip in Europe 🙂

  8. Bryan Alger Reply March 21, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    I’m biased since I created it out of my own frustrations with travel research and trying to see all of the sites and have fun at the same time, but check out the “locol” app (www.locolapp.com). Hopefully you can find it useful to find cool stuff to do on the road, and also share your own fun experiences with the nearby community.

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