These apps and websites make my traveling cheaper, easier and better!
Must-have travel apps
Maps.me is the one app every traveller should have. Download the map of a country or region before your trip, and enjoy offline maps, route planning, navigation and location searches.
Don’t leave home without it!
Microsoft Translator is my choice for on-the-go translations due to its fast and simple interface. Includes voice, text and camera-based instant translation. Google Translate is a good alternative. Make sure to download the languages that you will be using beforehand so that you can translate offline later.
When using Wi-Fi networks out there, keep your online activity private and your personal data secure with a VPN. Widely trusted free options are TunnelBear, CyberGhost and Hospot Shield Free. However, VPN is one of those things worth paying for nowadays.
I use and recommend the paid FSecure VPN.
A must-have if you are planning to visit multiple countries in your trip. It allows you to quickly convert between currencies of any country, and it works offline. Rates are updated whenever you go online according to XE.com rates.
- Wiki Voyage — Part of the Wikipedia project, Wiki Voyage is a free, collaborative worldwide travel guide that anyone can edit. It is constantly updated by users and has more than 25,000 articles on countries, cities, itineraries and travel topics. Its well-structured articles are ideal for quick checks on the go.
- Trip Advisor — Trip Advisor offers the most complete database of places, services and landmarks with actually useful reviews and ratings. They did a great job building an equally huge online community of travelers as well.
- Facebook Groups — And by that I mean every “Backpacking [Country/Region]” group on Facebook, or similar names. Join whichever concerns your future trips, and ask any questions. You will likely obtain useful replies within minutes or hours. For example, I joined the group “Backpacking Central Asia” to get first-hand info regarding some areas I planned to visit in Kyrgyzstan in low season. I was replied with priceless information that ultimately allowed me to save lots of money and time. Additionally, once you leave a country, remaining in such groups is a way to keep all your memories fresh!
- Wiki Loc — A must for travelers who wish to hike everywhere. Wiki Loc is a database of trails all over the globe. It includes routes for 50+ types of sports; the main categories being trekking, hiking, cycling and climbing. Every trail info section includes a satellite map with the route and relevant points, basic data like uphill and downhill gain, a personal account of the experience by the user, pictures and nearby trails. Since the content is introduced by the users, a quick search may return multiple entries for the same trail, which may different in the path taken, season, difficulty, et cetera.
- The Best Time To Visit — Check when to go to every country and avoid yourself rainy seasons and below zero winters.
- iVisa — One of many websites that provide global info on visa requirements. Wikipedia is also a reliable source for this, it has individual articles for the visa policies of each country (see complete list) and summary of visa requirements for each nationality (see complete list).
Whenever I start a new flight search, I switch to incognito mode on my Internet browser (to hide my activity and avoid price increases) and then I search the flight on at least these sites below. Typically, this is just to see which airlines fly where I wish to go. Once I have found the cheapest ticket of all or have an idea of the airlines that are cheaper for the desired destination, I make sure to check the airline’s official website to see if they offer cheaper fares (usually they don’t), and then finally buy the most affordable option of all.
- Adioso — People like Adioso for its natural language search (“Middle East for one month”, “Paris any Friday for two days”), which is also fun to play with as it diverges from the typical way of searching. Great tool to find cheap roundtrips if you are flexible.
- Momondo — I love Momondo because its searches are as good as Sky Scanner’s, but its minimalist design makes the experience simpler and faster. Extremely user-friendly. Cheapest-Quickest-Best shortcuts and the Flight Insight tool are powerful features to optimize your search.
- Sky Scanner — Most used flight search engine throughout the globe. Sky Scanner is a mandatory place to consider for initial cost comparison. Not so useful for intracontinental flights in Europe or North America, great for intercontinental flights and the rest of the world. It offers several time-flexible search options for finding cheap flights.
- Google Flight Search — Powerful tool with multiple options to search your flight. The “Explore Destinations” option maps flight prices for multiple destinations on a world map. Google’s behind the website, so it is inherently free of advertising, extra widgets and dubious links to third-parties that make the experience somewhat annoying or tiresome in many other sites.
- Seat Guru — Look at the seat configuration for any flight with a few tips on which seats are best. I use this website religiously for every new route I fly.
Accommodation and life on the road
- Booking.com — Booking.com has taken over every other hotel and hostel booking website out there. It is the one and only for me when it comes to remote villages. The app contains just about everything you would need, including an option to display the address of the place full-screen so that you can ask locals for directions. Sometimes HostelWorld beats Booking.com’s price for a specific hostel, but not usually.
- Hospitality exchange communities — As part of the whole exchange experience between travellers and locals, hospitality exchange communities provide free accommodation for budget travellers. CouchSurfing is the biggest one; lesser-known ones being Hospitality Club, BeWelcome and the younger TrustRoots. You can read about my CouchSurfing stories here.
- Airbnb — Another “must check” website when looking for accomodation. I found yurt stays in Kyrgyzstan offered here, so you just never know.
- Hitchwiki — Collaborative wiki with useful hitchhiking tips and directions for many countries and cities around the world. For every place, the articles provide information on how and where to hitch rides for every direction in and out. Additional information on staying safe and sleeping for free, and general hitchhiking tips, are also available.
- MeetUp — Great site to find events happening in your area, organized by local MeetUp groups that you can join for free. Its popularity varies from place to place.
- Carpooling communities — This link includes a list of the most popular carpooling communities in every country. Carpooling, or ride-sharing, consists in the sharing of car journeys so that several people can travel together in the same car, typically sharing gas expenses.
- Sleeping in Airports — A database of practical (or rather, survival) information for all the airports out there. It rates the in-airport sleeping conditions for budget travellers and discusses the best areas of the airport to have a comfortable sleep in long stopovers. It has expanded to also include complete reviews of major airports, tips on food and activities, reviews on lounges and other services and travel hacks of all sorts.