There are some great options for taking your phone with you on your trip. Rely on the surprisingly and incredibly abundant free wifi in South East Asia or unlock your phone and get a cheap SIM card in each country you visit to have limited calling, texting and data.
We did not have data or calling potential on our phones at all. We both suspended our phone plans to save money over our four months of travelling. We only brought our phones (iPhone 4s for Alex, iPhone 5 for Devon) and left our laptops at home. Due to all that convenient wifi, we could FaceTime, upload pictures to Facebook to let our mothers know we were still alive, and research hostels, cool places to see and how to get there all on our phones easily. It also saved us from having to worry about our laptops being stolen, as a lot of times you need to leave your bag in fairly insecure places while you’re out exploring. Below is a list of some must have apps to have while travelling around. So clear off all of your 8 year old photos, Spice Girls music and fantasy sports apps to make room for your travel photos and shiny new travel apps!
MapsMe – MapsMe literally saved our lives multiple times in SEA. We told everyone about it and were absolutely amazed when we found out people had been travelling for months without an offline maps app like this one. It allows you to download countries into the app, and once it’s loaded you can find hostels, restaurants, and even map out routes while on the move without needing wifi. Your location finder doesn’t require wifi, so you can use the app to show you where you are on your offline map. This came in handy many times when we were skeptical of where our shady taxi driver was taking us. We just had to take a quick look at the app to relieve our fears. It’s also useful when you’re figuring out if you can walk to your next hostel or if you should take a tuk tuk, especially when it tells you you’re two kilometers away when the drivers are telling you it’s ten.
XE Currency – XE Currency is a must, especially if you’re jumping from country to country as fast as we were. As soon as you finally get used to the exchange rate, you cross a border and have to learn a new one. And we’re not talking 75 cents to the dollar, or 1.5x whatever. The Canadian dollar is worth 16,322 Vietnamese Dong. Doing those calculations in your head while trying to bargain with a shop owner for some sweet elephant pants is not easy. This app allows you to save your commonly used currencies on your phone and compare them to your home currency easily. Once you upload the rate on wifi and add it, you can use it offline. It will also update to the current exchange rate if you open it again while you have wifi later. It’s super helpful while you’re trying to budget whether you can afford that Big Beer Lao that costs 15000 kip (psst go for it, that’s like $2, and it’s huge!).
Booking.com – Booking.com was really helpful for us travelling as a pair because it shows you the prices per room, not per person. Staying in private rooms in guesthouses or hostels was often cheaper for us if we split it in two, as opposed to each buying a bed in a hostel dorm. We often used mapsme to scout out hostels and window shopped when we arrived in a new location, as booking a place in person was usually cheaper during the low season. When we were arriving by bus anytime after 10pm we always made sure to have a place booked beforehand, and that’s where booking.com came in handy. The nice thing about booking.com is that you don’t have to use your credit card through the app to pay, it just reserves the room and you can pay in cash when you arrive. Booking.com was also an awesome way to check out hostels in the area before we arrived to see which areas to window shop even if we weren’t booking them through the app.
We seriously could not live without these apps so give ’em a try and make travelling that much easier (also do it because they’re free).