What are the best travel apps and websites for travellers?

 

There’s no denying it, we as travellers have it easier than ever to explore the world. Everything is more accessible, language barriers become less and less relevant, and there are relatively few new frontiers that you need to figure out without help.

It is a busier world than ever before, and that requires some extra tools to help us navigate at a hectic pace. Try go without using your phone for a day and you will soon realise how helpful apps and websites are in your day to day life, then try to imagine what you need to do whilst on the road, specifically in organising your ever evolving life.

The best apps and websites for travellers are well thought out, intuitive, and ultimately they help you solve a problem.

I say the best apps and websites for travellers because often each app had a website or vice versa, the two are usually inseparable. I personally prefer a website over an app, purely because I can have multiple tabs, windows and searches going at once and compare everything side by side.

However the apps play an important role because a lot of people will not travel with a laptop, instead having a tablet or a phone for portability.

How do you decide what are the best apps and websites for travellers?

 

Everyone is different, but I think the best way to do it is;

  1. Read posts like this one, or read reviews of each individual app to see if it appears like something that is going to make travelling a simpler process for you.
  2. Download all the apps, or bookmark the websites, and then proceed to have a poke around exploring how to use it, how to search things, how to best navigate your way around.
  3. Sort the bookmarks or apps into folders for easier navigation, for example my bookmarks are sorted into: Accommodation, Flights, Transport, Itinerary, Proof of onward travel, and then some loose apps without parent folders (I will show you screenshots below for clarification).
  4. Use all of the apps as you start travelling, you’ll quickly come to realise that you’re naturally using some apps or websites more than others. Eventually you will be able to do away with certain websites and really tidy up your home screen on your phone of all the apps.
  5. Before you know it you will have your own preferences for the best apps and websites for travellers that you can recommend to other people to make their life easier.

This list will evolve organically as you move from region to region, your favourite apps from Southeast Asia might not help you so much in Europe or North America for example.

For me personally at the time of writing the list is heavily favoured to Southeast Asia because that is where I am currently exploring, but that will change and I will add to this list as I discover new apps for myself, rather than recommending them without ever having tried them.

 

Rating the best apps and websites for travellers

For the sake of this post I will rate every single app and website that is currently in my bookmarks folder, or on the home screen of my phone. These are the two locations that I have sorted everything in a way that makes sense for me to find it easier.

I will add screenshots to show you exactly how I set up my phone and web browser, but your methods will differ I’m sure.

I will give a brief explanation of how the apps work and why I personally prefer a certain app over another, but even if I don’t like a website or app I would still recommend that you try them, because they might be a little bit more relevant to you, your location, or the way you like to view information.

**Click the app name to be taken to the website and click the app logo to be taken to Google Play store and check out some reviews.

The layout that I have chosen for my home screen on my phone to better organise things.

Best apps and websites for travellers for…

Flights

 

The following apps and websites appear purely on their ability to find you the flights you need, and their ease of use.

They’re not being marked on their accommodation, package deals, rental car offerings or any of that garbage that is also available, but irrelevant to this section.

 

The bookmarks tab that I have in Chrome for flights, followed by the folder that is on my home screen of my phone.

Quick Rundown:

Momondo is basically the same as Skyscanner in that they will search other websites to bring you the cheapest deals, but they then direct you to that website for paying.

Owned by Booking Holdings who also own: Booking.com, Kayak.com and Agoda.

Pros:

  • Consistently one of the cheapest.
  • Options to look at: Cheapest, Quickest or Best.
  • Website and app are both easy to use.
  • Can look at flights for the month with colour coding for the cheapest days.
  • Search for + or – up to 3 days of your desired departure date.

Cons:

  • Getting taken to other websites to pay can be a nuisance for some.
  • Keep an eye on your flight in the lead up to make sure nothing changes. Momondo are just a middle man so they won’t warn you of flight time changes.

Quick Rundown:

The original aggregator that changed everything. As with Momondo, they will search other websites for you and collate all the info, then you get taken to that particular website to make a booking.

Owned by Trip.com.

Pros:

  • As above, they’re consistently the cheapest.
  • Great search functionality and filtering results is easy.
  • Everything runs well, they’ve been in the game a long time.
  • Will show you all the flights for the month if you want so you can pick when to fly.

Cons:

  • As above, sometimes you are taken to websites with poor customer service reputations and you need to book through them, but besides that they’re great.
  • Keep an eye on the flight times and make sure they don’t change, because Skyscanner don’t control the booking they won’t tell you.

Quick Rundown:

Expedia run a little different from the two above websites, but they’re very useful in their own way. They act as a travel agent, so you make purchases directly through them instead of through a 3rd party website.

There have even been times when Expedia has been cheaper than the two listed above.

Expedia is owned by Expedia Group, who also own Trip Advisor, Wotif, and Hotels.com.

Pros:

  • Booking directly through Expedia means you’re dealing with a reputable company.
  • I have sometimes found them to be cheaper than the two sites above, but not often.
  • If booking on the website you can search for refundable flights for up to 24-hours, this is great for proof of onward travel!

Cons:

  • More often than not I find them to be more expensive than the two other options above, but not always.
  • The app doesn’t give you the option to search for refundable flights.

Quick Rundown:

This isn’t for booking flights!!

This is just a handy app for those who want to see where their flight is, or look at cool overlays of planes in the air. They list flight delays, show weather patterns and more.

This app is really good for those with a curious nature to have a look through but not necessary for most travellers. Momondo also have the option to track a flight.

Pros:

  • Just a bit of fun mostly, but can also tell you where your flight is if it is running late.

Cons:

  • Not for everyone, definitely not a necessity.

Hopper (I have deleted this since taking the screenshot of my phone)

Quick Rundown:

Hopper is a little bit different, it is a flight booking app (the website is information only, not a working search engine), but it specialises in finding the cheapest flights for you and telling you when to buy.

Pros:

  • Potential to save money.

Cons:

  • Seems like a waste to me, for the way that I travel.
  • Never ever felt the need to use it.

My thoughts on the flights apps

 

Which is the best?

I prefer the websites over the apps, for the ability to search all 3 search engines in different tabs, for the speed at which you can change things up and for the extra screen real estate on offer.

Also, the Expedia website allows you to book refundable flights, which is great for proof of onward travel, but the option is missing in the app.

For those of you who are travelling the world and booking flights as you go I would not recommend getting Hopper.

I have since deleted Hopper!

It appears to me to really be an app for those wondering about going to a specific area from their home town, or place of work. They might see a benefit from getting alerted to the best time to book, but for those on the road it seems rather pointless.

I don’t actually think you end up saving that much more than you would if you were just smart about the way you booked your flights.

 

Which is the cheapest?

Honestly, at any given time I have seen one or the other (Skyscanner, Momondo or Expedia) beat the others out, so I always check all 3.

I have found Momondo to be the best overall, sometimes offering flights that Skyscanner said couldn’t be done on the date that I wanted, which was very odd indeed.

All in all I’d say I use Expedia the least, but it is still worth a look.

Don’t look at too many other websites! You will waste your time trying to save $5 by trawling through five or six websites when your time is worth more than that anyway. These three websites will have you very well covered.

Accommodation

The bookmarks tab, followed by the folder on my homescreen of my phone.

Quick Rundown:

This is the big daddy of them all and normally I will check here and Hostelworld, that’s about it.

I dislike how many times they show accommodation that is sold out, as if to try and make you feel like you need to rush to make a decision. Give it a rest.

Besides that, this site is brilliant, very well laid out and options galore.

Pros:

  • The way that you can see the reviews left by others and then organise them by keywords is magical. Sometimes it helps to find out if a place is noisy, or if the “free breakfast” is actually just toast.
  • The biggest site there is, you won’t be short of options here.
  • I like the layout of the filters down the sidebar.

Cons:

  • I HATE their filtering of budget, the lowest option is “0-80 AUD” and this is just ridiculous. As if someone on a budget considers that an acceptable range.
  • I find then, because of this it takes me a bit longer to find what I want, setting a desired review score, then organising by price and working from there.
  • Annoying sales pitches like “only 1 more like this left on our site” make the whole thing seem tacky.

Quick Rundown:

Hostelworld is one of my favourite two apps to use. It is by far the easiest to navigate in my opinion, it seems less clustered, with bigger pictures and less annoying distractions.

It does also offer hotels and guesthouses and the like but not the high end hotels that cost multiple hundreds of dollars.

Pros:

  • Simultaneously show the price of dorms and private rooms right in the search results.
  • Easily the most simplistic and easy to view of the lot.
  • Everything just works well and is intuitive.
  • Great filtering options exact to the very dollar of your budget.
  • Often the cheapest.

Cons:

  • Can’t seem to filter reviews for keywords that you might like to know about.
  • Sometimes the search options don’t allow you to be as specific. For example, trying to search a particular area of a city sometimes won’t work, so you need to search the whole city.

Quick Rundown:

I don’t really use this often, I prefer staying in hostels, but it does have some good points to it. For those wanting to stay somewhere for a bit longer you can get some good deals.

This is basically people sharing their homes with other people. The host and guest both rate each other in an attempt to weed out the bad people but the system is a bit broken.

Pros:

  • Some hosts offer discounts for those who stay over a week, or for a month or more which means it’s great for digital nomads.
  • You can often find more privacy with Airbnb by getting single rooms for cheaper.
  • If you like to meet locals, your host might be good to hang out with if you don’t want the privacy.

Cons:

  • There’s some horror stories out there of poor hosts.
  • Airbnb does nothing to tighten security on who can become a host.

Quick Rundown:

Agoda is my least used of all of these apps, I dislike the layout which seems to be harder for me to navigate to what I want to find. This can come down to personal preference though.

It all seems a bit cluttered but they have a large amount of reviews for each place and the results can be heavily filtered to your taste.

**EDIT**
Agoda has since proven its value with its discounts. I still use Booking.com for reviews and filtering but always check Agoda to see if there are savings to be had!

**UPDATE 24/04/2020**
Make sure Agoda is showing the total price for the night, inclusinve of all taxes and fees, because by default they will only show the base rate so it looks cheaper than it is.

This applies to both mobile and desktop. Click on the currency display in the top right corner of the website and select “Total Price Per Night” in the dropdown.

In the app to make the change go to More > Price Display > Total Stay.

Owned by the same company who owns Booking.com.

Pros:

  • Can have BIG discounts.
  • Gives you full control over your budget per night, to the exact dollar.
  • Can sometimes be a good way to find home-stays with the option of “show homes first”.

Cons:

  • My least favourite of the website layouts.
  • Targeted more to those who want hotels.

 

My thoughts on the accommodation apps

 

Which is the best?

This will depend on what you’re after. For me, who is looking for hostels it is Agoda and Booking.com, with the others being there for the few times I need them. Hostelworld has begun to irritate me with their poor review layouts. Booking.com is my number one choice.

For staying somewhere long term then Airbnb can be good value, but often in areas like Southeast Asia you can simply talk to people in person, or view listings in the street for really good long term discounts as well. So I find Airbnb to be quite a poor option, especially when they force minimum prices on the hosts.

 

Which is the cheapest?

This changes all the time, you need to check all of them but they’re generally within a few dollars of each other. In Southeast Asia it is good to look at Agoda for a deal (don’t believe that a place is 55% off though, that’s just marketing rubbish).

Don’t go looking at Trivago, Wotif, Expedia etc. 

Don’t waste your time on holiday looking to save minuscule amounts of money, when you’re in hostels you will be paying a pretty standard rate.

I’d only recommend looking around in great detail for long term stays, or if you’re splashing out for something high class for a few nights.

Trasnport

As you can see, some of the “transport apps” are bundled into a different folder on my phone for all things travel planning.

Quick Rundown:

Ever wondered if it’s possible to get from some random “point A” to an equally random “point B”?

These guys combine so many different forms of transport, compare them all, give you the time, path and rough cost as well.

They’re often the first point of call for me, because they will show local bus routes that most other websites don’t know about.

Pros:

  • Great visual aid showing where you need to go, as well as the time to get there.
  • Will include cheap local bus routes as well as more common tourist coaches.

Cons:

  • Sometimes it comes up with some pretty crazy routes, but there’s no competition to compare it to, with even Google Maps often lacking data for non-first world countries.

Quick Rundown:

For anyone wanting to book a train, ferry or long-haul bus in Southeast Asia.

Pros:

  • Finally a central location to book ferries, buses and trains.
  • You can check out the leaving times of different trips in advance to plan your stay in each location.
  • Simple to use, never had any issues.

Cons:

  • Due to the fact that this is a booking service, you won’t get things like local bus information or times because they can’t be pre-booked.
  • They let you choose a seat but it never appears on the ticket when they send it to you.
  • Booking trains in Thailand requires you to physically have the ticket, which means picking it up or having it posted to you.

Quick Rundown:

These guys are the main ride sharing app in Southeast Asia.

They operate in: Singapore, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines and Vietnam.

They’re good for booking, or just for checking the value of a drive. Paying by card is sometimes easier than using cash.

Pros:

  • A good way to get pricing information even if you just take a normal cab, you will know how much the trip is actually worth.
  • Avoid getting ripped off by dodgy taxi drivers who don’t use the meter.

Cons:

  • Any app having a monopoly is not a good thing.
  • Sometimes unclear about surcharge rates, not displaying how much it is exactly.

 

 

My thoughts on the transport apps

 

Which is the best?

This doesn’t really apply here as they all serve different purposes. I’d recommend you have all 3 of these for travelling throughout Southeast Asia.

Rome2Rio you should have no matter where it is that you plan on travelling. It’s beautifully designed and easy to use.

Itineraries

I have only two apps/websites that I use to create itineraries.

Quick Rundown:

Kayak is a search engine that can help you book flights, accommodation and cars, but for the sake of this section we’re looking specifically at the itinerary making functions only.

I have also written a more detailed comparison between these two, that was a little too large to fit in this post about apps.

Pros:

  • Has never failed to read an email that I have forwarded, including when the information is in an attachment.
  • Has a neater look to the website, looks more polished.

 

Cons:

  • Was more complicated and less intuitive to sync with Google Calendars.
  • No phone widget available to have on a home screen.

Quick Rundown:

Tripit is designed specifically for this purpose. You can email your bookings to them, then they create an automated itinerary which you can view.

See the full comparison for more details.

Pros:

  • Easy to sync with Google Calendars.
  • Has a great widget that you can use on your phone.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t seem to read email attachments as well as Kayak does.
  • It has twice read a correct check in booking but missed the check out date.

 

My thoughts on the itinerary apps

 

For more information on these apps see my comparison post, in which I dive deeper into why each is good in its own way and show how to set them up with Google calendars.

Proof Of Onward Travel

These three are legitimate websites with a proven track record of delivering. Don’t go trying to save too much money and get scammed!

BestOnwardTicket.com

Quick Rundown:

The highest rated of all these websites is this one right here.

They have a great track record, they book real flights and there is some flexibility on offer.

Pros:

  • Receive email within 5 minutes of booking.
  • Tickets can be extended.
  • You can receive tickets later for a small fee.

Cons:

  • If you want to add a destination or ask to receive tickets later, there will be an extra fee.
  • Tickets not valid for quite as long as Onewayfly, however they can be extended if need be.

 

 

Onwardticket.com

Quick Rundown:

These guys are real, their system works 24/7 and doesn’t require someone to be making a booking in office hours.

Pros:

  • This system works 24/7 so your ticket will be almost instant when you book.
  • Also a real ticket with a PNR number for the airline to look up if need be.
  • Sometimes valid for longer than 48 hours.

Cons:

  • Validity is a minimum of 48 hours, not as long as the 14 days offered below for those who prefer that.

 

 

Onewayfly.com

Quick Rundown:

I feel like these guys have gone up in price recently, as I am sure they used to be much cheaper.

I’d not use them with the new price when the options above are cheaper, unless you like the 14 days validity.

Pros:

  • Ticket validity is for 14 days.
  • Get your ticket between 30 minutes – 12 hours after booking.
  • It’s a real ticket that you get with PNR numbers.
  • Can “buy now receive later” so the ticket is only valid at the date you want it, but it is all sorted for you well ahead of time.

Cons:

  • $19 US for the same basic service as offered by the above websites.
  • Some bad recent reviews on trustpilot (but then those with bad experiences are more likely to review).

 

 

My thoughts on the proof of onward travel websites

 

BE CAREFUL WHO YOU BOOK WITH, THE 3 MENTIONED HERE ARE PROVEN TO BE REAL AND NOT SCAMS, BUT BE WARNED THAT SCAMS EXIST!

 

Which is the best?

Bestonwardticket.com to me appears to be the best option with the best reviews on trustpilot.

For a deeper look at proof of onward travel, I have written a little about the 4 best methods of providing proof of onward travel, with instructions on how to do it for free!

 

Which is the cheapest?

The two “onwardticket” varieties are both $12 US for a ticket, whereas the Onewayfly website is $19 US.

Essential Travel Tools

A mixture of apps used for various different purposes.

XE Currency Converter

This app comes with a handy widget so you can quickly glance at your phone to receive the conversion rate of the country you’re currently in. You can set your own list of currencies, so chooser a bunch for the region of the world you’re in and simply swap the primary currency as you cross the border.

If you open the app you can quickly type in the local currency and it will show you the equivalent price of your home currency so you can avoid trying to do quick maths on the street.

Google Translate

Google translate works offline with 59 languages, all you need to do is download the files for the translations before you need it and keep it on the phone.

You can take pictures of text for translation for 37 languages and there is “instant speech” between 32 languages. This app is a must have!

MAPS.ME

Download maps offline so that you can walk around without internet connection but still know where you’re going. See information about points of interest and follow ready set itineraries based on your preferences.

Google maps offers the same option of offline maps, but many people prefer the layout, look and ease of use of MAPS.ME

It is also highly regarded by hikers and is said to have more detailed hiking tracks than Google Maps. You can bookmark places, create your own guides or download other guides.

I personally have used this for the following hikes already and it never let me down;

Google Maps

See points of interest or read reviews of restaurants, cafes and bars. Download a map to use offline and look at street view to make sure you’re in the right spot.

See the opening hours of businesses or updated travel congestion times. There’s a lot that Google Maps can do and not a whole lot that it can’t do. The effectiveness changes depending on where you are in the world.

I use it frequently with my phone when riding a scooter, I put the phone in the front compartment and using earphones I can have the directions read out to me as I ride, so I don’t need to pullover to look at the phone.

My Maps

This one is a bit of fun, it is essentially Google Maps but you can design your own map, with different pointers, your own descriptions, upload your photos and truly make it yours.

See some examples that I made pre-travel to get my imagination flowing. It really helps when you’re planning a rough route that you want to take, to visualise everything and see the distances involved is something amazingly useful!

Customise it however you want and share it with friends.

Tripadvisor

Although you can book flights and accommodation through Tripadvisor, I have never bothered.

I use this app as I originally discovered it to be, which was a place to review, or read reviews about activities. That’s what I find it best for, reading reviews about activities cuts through the advertising fluff to see just how much people really enjoyed something.

Leave a review yourself to help others out if you feel like you did something amazing, or that the operator could improve in some way but try to be constructive.

Wifi Map

I’ll admit it, I never EVER use this and it is close to being deleted. (EDIT – I have since deleted this).

The idea is that people upload wifi passwords of restaurants or cafes for others to be able to always be connected. It is a good enough idea in principle.

However, I find that if I’m ever anywhere for long I buy a sim card, which is for times I really need it. The remainder of the time you’re generally at a cafe, hostel or hotel that has free wifi.

Google Authenticator

I rarely use this but whenever it is possible it is best to have two factor authentication that is done over an app, rather than an SMS code.

This applies to travellers because you’re often using a different SIM card or are unable to receive SMS messages overseas for two factor authentication.

Not everybody supports App based authentication but hopefully the list keeps growing for those who do want to use it overseas.

Closing thoughts

 

So there’s a lot to take in there, but consider some of the types of apps that I haven’t covered, apps such as;

  • Last minute hotel bookings
  • Refillable water bottle locations
  • How to get into airport lounges and how much they cost
  • Budgeting apps
  • Apps that tell you where to go
  • All the different ride-share apps under the sun
  • Packing list apps
  • Yelp like apps for every region (food and restaurant ratings)
  • Jetlag managers
  • Language learning apps (Duolingo, Memrise)
  • Every form of online messenger app available (messenger, whatsapp, instagram etc)
  • VPNs
  • Password managers

Now I skipped a lot of these because, well they’re stupid.

Jet lag managers?

For fuck sake just sort yourself out, it’s not that big of an issue.

 

Apps that tell you where to go and have fun?

I prefer reading blogs, or asking people in location, I don’t want to be in my phone all of the time and often people in hostels know best.

 

Packing list apps?

Again, just sort yourself out, if you take too much you’ll just adjust or you’ll throw stuff out (or better yet donate it to some locals).

 

Budgeting Apps?

I’m all for budgeting and being smart with your money. However you don’t need to count every penny and categorise your spendings. Be smart about the way you spend money, that’s all you need to do.

I personally can’t see any point in these apps. If you didn’t regret the purchase at the time, will you look back later and change your mind because you spent $40 more on train tickets than you had planned?

I’d find it mildly interesting at the end of a holiday to know where my money went, purely as a statistical analysis to show friends;

See I spent $1,200 on women’s underwear, how crazy is that guys!! …. Guys!?

If you’re spending the afternoon adding up the days expenses then you’re not having a lot of fun.

 

Some of those apps I do have.

I happen to have a password manager as well as a VPN, but they’re not really travel specific, I already had them just in my general day to day life.

As for messenger apps, use whatever you like the most and where all your friends are, it’s an easy one to figure out.

 

The best apps and websites for travellers are …

In no particular order:

  • Flights;
    • Skyscanner
    • Momondo
  • Accommodation
    • Booking.com
    • Hostelworld
    • Airbnb
  • Transport;
    • Rome2Rio
    • 12GO (Southeast Asia Only)
    • Grab (Southeast Asia Only)
  • Itinerary;
  • Proof of onward travel;
  • Maps;
    • Google Maps
    • Maps.Me
  • Language;
    • Google Translate
  • Currency;
    • XE Currency Exchange

These are the essentials for those in Southeast Asia, the rest is just added flavour depending on your style. The only thing that will change in regards to essentials is your local travel apps.

Don’t get overburdened with travel apps, half of them are not really that useful, some are tailored towards first world countries more so than the places backpackers want to go, and some are just ridiculously excessive.

Don’t spend three hours trawling through websites to save $6 for one night’s accommodation, your time is worth more than that. Try to limit your comparisons to two or three apps that you enjoy and just be happy that eventually you’ll naturally have the best apps and websites for travellers, because it will happen organically.

 

Safe travels 🙂

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