Top 20 apps for Backpackers

The Top 20 apps on every seasoned backpackers phone

Apps you don’t leave home without 

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Here is a list of my TOP 20 Apps that are paramount during your travels. This list encompasses affordable accommodations, options for offline entertainment, free financial transfer and visibility, offline maps and more. If you feel have left anything out please make use of the comments below.  

  1. Hostelworld – Every backpacker’s resource for finding and researching hostels. Find all you need to know about hostels here.
  2. Airbnb – Is to hotels what uber is to taxis. Community-based accommodations where you can rent a bed, room or entire apartment or house for an agreed duration. Often cheaper than hotels and sometimes cheaper than hostels.
  3. Couch surfing – Everyone has that friend who will let you crash on their couch. Couch surfing is an app you can use to find a couch to crash on all over the world. As well as amazing people along the way. Free accommodations!
  4. TripAdvisor – This app needs no introduction. Where to go to hear real experience and reviews as well as find exciting things to do.
  5. Maps.me – A new addition to the arsenal that I love. This is the perfect solution for those who travel without cellular reception and rely on WiFi, or just traveling through a dead zone… Maps.me allows you to download the map of your area and view your location while not connected (many people are under the impression you need cellular/WiFi to view your GPS location but this is untrue.) Not only can you view your location, you can easily bookmark locations, share those locations and get directions to and from with a couple of clicks. Like Hostelworld, you’ll find few backpackers without this helpful app on their phone.
  6. Skyscanner – A great resource for finding budget-friendly flights. Search by month view to see the cheapest flight possible given flexible dates. Set up email alerts for when the price drops considerably.
  7. CheapOair – I consistently find the cheapest flights on CheapOair (even when compared to Skyscanner) always cross-reference the two to find the best deal. I found a round-trip flight from Quito to Galápagos for 400 bucks and a one-way ticket from Medellin to Rio for the same price.
  8. Paypal – It’s always recommended to bring several sources of cash along with your journey. Paypal is a tried and true solution that many people feel comfortable using, even hostels. I say open up a Paypal account in the event you need to transfer cash or receive cash instantly for a very nominal charge. This service is free if you choose to send money to “friends and family”. I seriously recommend getting the debit card for it as well which can act as another source of cash in the event you lose your debit or credit card.
  9. Mint – If you don’t already know Mint is the business when it comes to the insight of your finances. Track and categorize transactions throughout multiple accounts. You can even view your credit score and pay your bills… all from one place. Makes taxes easier too. Set up your accounts before you leave so you are never surprised or suffer from the overdraft, late fees, and dings to your credit from missing your payment!
  10. Cash app – Similar to Paypal, completely free. Uses your bank account and is quick and easy to set up. You can set it up so that money is automatically redirected to your account after it enters your cash app account. You can make it instant for a fee. Otherwise, it takes 3 business days. You even get a digital card you can use to make online purchases. Made by square so you trust it’s validity!
  11. Speedtest – This one is a little geeky but stays with me. With Speedtest you can check the speed of the WiFi or cellular signal you are on. This is helpful when you want to find the best bed in the dorm, best dorm in a hostel, the best network between hostels or comparing cellular carrier data speeds.
  12. Audible – Great audiobooks for long bus rides, or drowning out partying hostel roommates.
  13. Kindle App – eBook and Pirated Lonely Planet Reader (Jk)
  14. Spotify – A great way to discover new international music by following playlists of your newly acquired friends.
  15. WhatsApp – The universal, international messaging app everyone unanimously agreed on, seemingly. No matter where they are from you can expect they have WhatsApp.
  16. Uber – Works well in larger cities (Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, don’t know about Cali but assume so. Usually around half as cheap as a taxi. Do not take uber from airport, my driver got busted by the policía, more on that here<- link>
  17. Find friends (Location Sharing App) – Great way to make sure you are never separated and can always find each other. You can allow the family to track your location as well, for peace of mind. You can revoke privileges whenever you want.
  18. Find my iPhone (Lost Phone Recovery App) – Allows you to track, lock, wipe, display a message or play sound on your iOS device. This literally saved my a** in palomino, read this amazing story here.
  19. Duolingo – To learn the fundamentals of the language of wherever you are headed to.
  20. Google Translate – The best translation app. Use voice or images to translate as well.

Where to go in Thailand

Typically you will want to hit the big 4.

Chang Mai – North Thailand, featuring beautiful, lush manicured rice patties field on topographic landscapes that stretch as far as the eye can see.

Bangkok – Needs no introduction, I dive deeper below

SouthEast Coast – Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, Koh Sumai

SouthWest Coast – Phuket, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi

Mainland

Bangkok

Hard to choose right? Well, it comes down to what you are looking for. If you want to live a “Hangover 2” fantasy and sip vodka at the Ice Bar. Buy extremely affordable knock off beats headphones at Khao Son road and have your mind blown regarding the extended abilities of the female body at something called a “Ping Pong show” then Bangkok is the place for you.

All kidding aside Bangkok is a stark contrast from most of SouthEast Asia with its SkyScraper Buildings and sophistication compared to the rest of country. It really is the New York of SouthEast Asia. Littered with Tuk-Tuk in lieu of Taxis. Flashbacks of drivers always shouting “TUK TUK” rings in my ears. Like New York, Bangkok doesn’t seem to sleep and is what many would consider a “BeeHive” of activity and entertainment.

What you’ll find:

Tourists, Night Life, Cheap food, Great Hostels, Amazing Bars, Luxury, Excitement, Oddities, Pingpong Show, Ice Bar, Cosawn Road, Old crumbling Temples in the middle of the city.

Chang Mai

Chiang

I can’t speak at great length about Chang Mai since I have not personally been there, the matter has always left a hole in my heart. People typically make an effort to travel Chang Mai to embrace the serenity and seclusion. If you are looking for a getaway… the other side of the coin from a place like Bangkok, then this is your refuge.

The Islands – MY FAVORITE

SouthEast Coast of Thailand (Thailand Gulf)

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Koh Phangan – The party island

Howl at the Full Moon Party. This island is the mecca of all sorts of insanity and mischieve. Made popular in a movie called “The Beach” featuring Leonardo DiCaprio in the early 90’s. Where a group of teens finds a map to a hidden island in Koh Phangan.

What makes Koh Phangan so fun is the people it attracts. I describe it as the “The Cancun of that side of the planet”. Between the recent “Uni” graduates and traditional vacation time of certain countries, you will find plenty of English speaking people to talk to.

Koh Tao

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Said to be the “The Most affordable place to become a certified diver in ideal Paradise”.

Trip Advisor: Bans Koh Tao

I paid roughly $680 I believe (in 2015) That included a free stay for 4 nights and my open water training and Certification. Below is a video of my Dive and the experience you can expect diving in Koh Tao.

 

Koh Phi Phi

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Koh Phi Phi Island Tour

I spent almost 2 weeks in Koh Phi Phi. I look back on it as the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. The place is my idea of paradise. A roll-a-dex of pleasant memories come flashing to my head. This island is SO SMALL that you won’t find a motorbike on it. The accommodations are surprising, there is a variety of food from all cultures. As a picky eater, I never had a hard time finding a great meal here, pasta, American breakfast (or English), and tacos were easy enough to find.

In Conclusion

If it were up to me, I say don’t dare leave Thailand without checking out the beautiful islands. Bangkok is great for 3-7 days. Chang Mai is good for a little longer. The islands will make you consider never leaving. Every year that goes by Thailand will become more industrialized and inflate in price. Right now I would have to say it’s still a hidden Gem.

I intend on adding an in-depth blog post regarding places I stayed, restaurants I enjoyed and the things I enjoyed the most about each of the islands in future posts. Please let me know what you would like to know more below.