Travellers seem to love sharing tips and information with fellow travellers. I imagine it lies in the fact that most of us are all trying to find a cheaper way to do everything in order to save the dosh while we travel the world, and it brings us joy when we are able to recommend something that will enable someone else to do just that! I wanted to share the apps and websites that absolutely saved us during our four months travelling Southeast Asia so here we are!
Grab is a Malaysian-born app that is basically Uber’s cheaper cousin. If you’ve ever used Uber, it works pretty much exactly the same. For us country folk, it was quite new as I think I’d ordered one Uber in my entire life before coming away. We were told about Grab by a friend who lived in Bangkok within our first few days of travel and it became our go-to taxi app for our entire travels. It works throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam and it always comes out on top as cheaper than Uber. You can also use Grab-Pay which enables you to put card details into the app so you don’t have to worry about having cash.
Go-Jek is only in Indonesia but you can order bikes, cars, food, the lot through this app. Their website gives a low down on all the services they offer. Again Go-Jek tends to come out on top as cheaper than Uber.
Of course I have to mention Uber as its worth having all of these apps in your phone, and make sure you are registered and ready to go so that it’s quick when you need it. There has been many a time when Grab is too busy so we’ve resorted to Uber to get ourselves places. Uber is usually always slightly more expensive than Grab (and we all know those pennies make a difference on a backpackers budget!) but sometimes they have more availability as they are used more in certain places, i.e. we only used Uber in Singapore.
This app bought to us by booking.com absolutely saved us during our travels as it doesn’t require internet or data to work – amazing! All you need to do is make sure you have the map for that country downloaded in wifi before leaving and you can put your phone on airplane mode and it will still direct you to your destination. You can search for everything you need without needing internet or data or even, a signal! It’s an app made for those who are travelling these countries. It’s interactive so you can add marked points for yourself but also for other people using the app; for example, say you found a really good sushi place that’s cheap you can mark it. I marked ‘the best pad Thai ever’ on a map in Kanchanaburi because after 6 weeks of travelling Thailand I was amazed that there was a Pad Thai that could taste so good (and I’d had a lot of Pad Thai by this point)!
Blue Bird (Indonesia only)
Again, except for areas in Bali that don’t permit the use of online taxi apps, this is a good app to have in Indonesia. We were advised to only use blue bird cabs in Java because they are the only taxis that are registered and viable for anything that may happen. Worth having for Indonesia!
This website is awesome, and reliable! You can book buses, ferries, trains and planes all through this website. It’s really easy to use and great for booking overnight buses, combo tickets etc. You put your origin and your destination in along with your dates of travel and it will provide you will all of the options for that route along with accurate prices, times and journey length. Then you get an email with an e-ticket and you show that email before boarding the bus, it’s really easy and everyone uses it!
Along with the GoPro and our camera, we also take a lot of photos on our phones. Having Google photos linked up to our photo libraries gives us complete peace of mind that whenever we are connected to wifi, Google photos will be working in the background to back up all the photos you’ve taken that day. Anything can happen whilst you’re away and I guarantee if you lost your phone, losing your photos you hadn’t backed up would make you the most upset!
You take some amazing photos when travelling and you can’t wait to share them but sometimes they need a little enhancement. What’s the point in increasing the brightness on a photo so that you can see your faces if you’re going to lose the amazing sunset behind you? Snapseed is a great editing app which enables you to do so much more and helps your pictures reach their full potential! (Don’t get me wrong we don’t do it all the time, only for the really special photos that are worth the little extra time)
Every country we’ve been to, we’ve both downloaded a phrase book/dictionary for the spoken language to our phones which will also work offline. It’s great because it means you can go into places without an English menu or eat from the street food carts because you will be able to translate at least enough to know what you’re picking is rice or noodles or beef or whatever it may be! Apps like this completely saved us when we landed in Jakarta without knowing a word of Indonesian and having to go a hunt for dinner!
I love booking.com, I find their app so user-friendly and I love the interface and how easy it is to use and find what I need. It also allows you to save hotels in different folders so you can plan destinations and a choice of hotels ahead of your arrival. Also if you use the app quite frequently like we did, you’ll get Genius advantages which includes secret deals, 10% discount and priority early check-in on lots of hotels/hostels! If you’re not registered to the app already, get a friend who is to ‘refer’ you, they get £15 and you get £15 – easy!
I always used this alongside booking.com, even though I tended to lean towards the latter. I find hotels.com app a bit clunky to use but I did occasionally use it if there was a better deal or a nicer hotel – they often advertise different hotels in the same places so its good to use both and weigh up your options. Additionally, hotels.com give you 1 night free for every 10 qualifying nights you book through their app which always feels like a lovely treat!
Because we really have been that desperate sometimes! Airbnb is usually known for coming out a little more expensive than the above two and we always tended to lean towards staying in a hotel as we found it easier with check-in, luggage storage, free breakfast etc. But most of the time I’d always check out Airbnb as a third option to see if there were any nice places for cheap and you usually get the luxury of a kitchen if you fancy cooking yourself!
XE Currency coverter
Exactly what it says on the tin! It’s good to have a rough idea of the currency conversion in your head but this app also helps you work it out to the penny!
A friend told me about this app. It’s a way of reporting markets where there is wildlife for sale, be they dead or alive, especially so if you think they are endangered animals or it is illegal to sell them. It’s a way of protecting endangered animal species from eventualities by reporting it so it can hopefully be stopped. Thankfully, we haven’t had to report it yet but it’s an app I keep on my phone just in case we ever encounter anything to report.
Refill / tap
This is the every day struggle in Asia – the fight against plastic. There is often absolutely nowhere to refill water bottles but these apps enable you to find them if they are there and add refill stations if you find one that no one else has yet marked. We tended to find refill stations mainly on the backpacker islands where there was enough of a western influence for people for care about the issue. However, on the mainland it’s often not the case. In Malaysia and Thailand we sometimes came across the drinking water machines on the streets where you literally pay less than 10p for 2 litres of water, keep an eye out for these! Otherwise, when we were staying in a place for 2 days or more we would buy a 6 litre bottle of water and decant into our own water bottles, not the best but better than buying six 1 litre bottles. Luckily here in Vietnam, we have free drinking water included in our rent, but the fight against plastic is real people!
This may cause some controversy among friends but I feel the need to put it in. Granted, we have only used this app for a matter of days here in Vietnam but I believe it works all over the world. When we were travelling Glen and I were never apart for more than a matter of minutes, whether it be a walk to the shops, a beer run or a separate moto taxi. It was never important for us to have an app like this. However, now we are living in Vietnam, going on separate interviews, going to the gym, going for meetings, shopping – we come to be apart for more than a few hours at a time sometimes. This app is not for either of us to monitor each other and it’s certainly not a trust issue either of us have – we downloaded it together purely for peace of mind when I was going out of the city to a factory to meet a client I was doing some freelance work for. At the end of the day, we live in Vietnam, people can disappear, the police would most likely be useless and we are all alone out here – it’s not like home!
I feel like this app could be useful for both solo travellers and those travelling with friends/partners. It eliminates the losing each other in a market and eliminates the worry when you don’t know where that person is or why they have been so long. And ultimately, it enables you to find them (their phone) if something ever happened. It’s not a nice thought but it’s a discussion I’m glad we had and for peace of mind, its a good app. You can add as many people as you want to your ‘circle’ so you can even add your family back home so they can see where you are in the world! Your call, we felt it useful, not so much for travelling but especially if you are staying in one place for a while – Asia can be a crazy place!
And there you have it, all the apps and websites I can think that helped us! If I remember any more I will update this post – similarly if I haven’t included any that you used during your travels, let me know as we are still always looking for a deal!