What’s the most difficult part of a backpacking trip?
Visiting multiple destinations makes planning more difficult than, say, spending one week at the same hotel in Paris.
These days, a huge aspect of planning a trip is downloading all the necessary backpacking apps. If you always have access to information at your fingertips, your journey just got a lot easier.
From learning local languages, to booking transportation, to finding a place to stay in each city—these apps have you covered!
But before you decide which backpacking apps are right for you, you should think about what kind of trip you want to take.
Define the Parameters of Your Trip
Are you traveling with friends or backpacking alone?
What places do you want to see? What types of experiences do you hope to have?
Figure out the necessary parameters of your trip to maximize your time abroad.
Once you decide what you want out of your trip, access technology that will help you achieve those goals. Little things like smartphone apps will often save the day.
Decide Where You Want to Go
There are countless destinations and types of journeys for backpackers!
Plan a rough itinerary so you can transition from one place to another with relative efficiency.
Because wherever you are in the world, it’s important to make sure you have everything you need prepped and ready to go.
If you still don’t know where you want to go, some of the apps on this list can help you decide and book transportation to those places.
Decide What You Need for Your Trip
Do you need bug spray? Sunscreen?
Do you need a bathing suit or a sweater?
There’s one thing you’ll definitely need that won’t fit in a backpack: Apps. Many backpackers forget to download essential backpacking apps while they still have access to stable Wi-Fi. Don’t overlook this!
Many places in the world don’t have access to stable Wi-Fi. Download all the essential travel apps right now while you still can!
Backpacking Apps: 14 You Should Download Before Your Next Adventure
Click here to join our team!
Best Backpacking Apps for Language
Obviously, you don’t want to look like a fool as soon as you step foot in a foreign country.
FluentU is a fun and authentic way to learn language for traveling. It offers a unique teaching style based on movies and TV shows. This way, you not only learn the language, but you learn about countries’ cultures before you visit.
There’s a wide variety of videos on topics like soccer, Disney musicals, TV shows, music videos and even magical realism, as you can see here:
Each video is captioned, and the words are annotated. That means you can easily see meanings, definitions and example sentences for all vocabulary just by hovering over the word. If you click a word, you can even see how it’s used in other videos on the platform.
What’s more, FluentU offers a unique learning feature that incorporates video clips, pictures and example sentences into exercises and flashcards.
FluentU even learns with you! The learning algorithm takes learner history into account when presenting questions and builds on what you’ve already learned. This makes FluentU ideal for any level of language learner, from beginner to near-native.
You can learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s Quiz Mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
Plus, practicing speaking with FluentU is simple—all you have to do is enjoy great videos and speak along! You can listen to native speakers, then try to repeat what they said. Have trouble remembering the words? Rewind and read the subtitles. Unsure if you spoke correctly? Listen to the video and try again.
By using FluentU to practice your speaking, you’ll pick up real-world accents from native speakers all while enjoying entertaining, authentic videos.
And the best part is that one FluentU account gives you access to nine different world languages! Download files for offline use so you can study French on the train ride from Spain to France.
I won’t say Google Translate is the best translation app, because there are tons of great apps to choose from. But it’s extremely versatile and has one of the most complete libraries of languages available.
It’s easy to use, has speech translation options and has a phrasebook where you can store particularly useful expressions you hear during your travels.
You can also download most language dictionaries to use the app in an offline setting if you aren’t connected to Wi-Fi.
Best Backpacking Apps for Living and Making Friends
Couchsurfing Travel App
Couchsurfing is one of the best non-dating apps for meeting people on the market.
With Couchsurfing, locals offer living arrangements to travelers so that when tourists come to the area, they have a place to stay.
Aside from living arrangements, the app also connects locals and travelers who want to make new international friends. This way, residents can take backpackers on an in-depth and off-the-beaten path tour of their home city.
Couchsurfing also has resources for travelers to find and meet travel companions.
Tinder gets a bad rap for simply being a way to “hook up.” But Tinder is really just a great way to meet people.
Lots of natives hang out on Tinder and are looking to meet new friends. Find some locals to meet for coffee or a meal. They’ll be happy to show you around and give you a taste of their culture.
You can also connect with expats and fellow backpackers on Tinder to find out more about the country from a fellow outsider’s perspective.
Don’t believe the marketing hype that Tinder is a just a hookup app.
If you want to stay in a hostel or hotel, Hostelworld is the most up-to-date, reliable and informative app out there.
It comes with a great ratings system and in-depth reviews. Make use of its easy-to-use search features and local city guides.
You can take advantage of the app’s inbuilt booking system. It comes with a full guarantee and great customer service.
Best Backpacking Apps for Managing Logistics
XE Currency Converter
It would be nice if everyone on Earth used the same currency. But that’s not how the world works.
XE Currency Converter is a simple app that does one thing really well: Converts one currency to another currency.
Every time you open the app, the currency rates update. You can even save rates to your phone so the app will work offline.
This app is simple, effective and incredibly useful for backpackers traveling through multiple countries.
Rome2rio is an incredibly useful tool when you’re trying to figure out the best way to get from one city to another. Should you book a plane ticket? Hop on a bus? What if you need to do both?
This app is a multi-modal transportation guide that combines flights, trains, buses, boats and cars to get you from point A to point B.
It syncs up with ticket suppliers so you can search for a route and buy all the plane, train or bus tickets you need to get you to your destination.
Skyscanner is the best way to find cheap flights.
It’s not a ticket booking website. Instead, it’s an aggregator, so it collects all the prices from different websites to give you the best and cheapest options.
There are many apps like this out there, but they don’t have the history, positive reviews and reputation that Skyscanner has.
When my friend and I were hiking around a remote mountain range in China, we lost the trail.
My map app had no idea where we were and told us to follow along a road that was clearly not the trail.
My friend was using MAPS.ME, and this app told us to go back and cut along an unmarked stretch of land that would meet up with the path. Sure enough, within a few minutes, we were on the correct route!
MAPS.ME is hands down the best offline map. It’s often more accurate than Google Maps and other similar apps.
There’s GPS tracking, navigation and a robust search function that takes you where you need to go, all offline!
But be warned that the map data files can be large, so only download the areas where you know you’ll be to save space on your phone.
Best Backpacking Apps for Communication
Whether you’r instant messaging people across the world or across the street, WhatsApp Messenger is the most popular messaging app in the world.
People in countless countries use this app to message each other. The biggest exceptions are Japan where they use Line, China where they use WeChat and the USA where they use the phone carrier’s built-in messaging app.
When you receive a phone number in a foreign country, you’ll probably be expected to message that person on WhatsApp.
With this app you can also make voice and video calls, as well as send pictures, gifs, documents and location information.
One of the best things about WhatsApp is its powerful end-to-end encryption method. Everything you send and receive on WhatsApp is highly secure.
Facebook is the world’s most popular social network. This means most online users have a Facebook Messenger account.
Messenger hooks you up with Facebook friends whose contact information you wouldn’t otherwise know.
It’s also a great fail-safe when meeting a fellow traveler who hasn’t read this post and doesn’t know that WhatsApp is how most people communicate abroad.
A huge plus of Messenger is that it’s connected to the robust social network of Facebook. WhatsApp, Line and to some degree WeChat aren’t great at being social media platforms.
Marco Polo Video Walkie Talkie
Marco Polo is a video message app that allows you to send videos to certain contacts. It’s a bit like Snapchat but less social media-focused. There’s more control over who sees your messages, and videos don’t disappear.
With Marco Polo, all videos are stored on the app’s cloud server, so there’s no strain on your phone’s storage.
It’s a fun way to show friends and family your explorations while you’re gone, something Marco Polo (the person) could never do!
Best Backpacking Apps for Staying Safe
Dropbox is the world’s best-known cloud storage app, and for good reason. It was one of the first and most powerful cloud storage apps to let you sync your files across all devices.
Backpackers are some of the most skilled people at losing their phones. When your phone falls out of your pocket somewhere in Seoul, you don’t want to also lose all your photos, videos and important documents. So back them up!
In the event that you do lose your phone, with Dropbox, you can do a remote device wipe so that no one else can access your data.
Dropbox is cheap, with 2 GB of storage for free and a whopping 1 TB of storage for only $10 per month.
Internet privacy is a rare thing these days. But when you browse the web with a VPN (virtual private network), you can stay anonymous and safe.
It’s always recommended to use a VPN when dealing with any public or semi-public Wi-Fi spots.
The administrators of those networks can—and frequently do—see all your online activity. This includes entering passwords, buying things with a credit card, making video calls, sending messages and doing other sensitive tasks.
This kind of monitoring is especially prevalent in countries where internet laws are unregulated.
But aside from the safety offered, VPNs allow you to bypass government internet filters. I’m not suggesting you do anything illegal, but you can use a VPN to view websites that only work in your home country while traveling abroad. This is helpful when you’re feeling homesick and need to access something familiar, like Netflix or Twitter.
NordVPN is one of the fastest, most secure and cheapest VPN providers out there.
Part of being a backpacker is knowing which tools to use to make sure that you stay safe, connected and able to have one of the best experiences of your life.
With these 14 backpacking apps, you can ensure that your time abroad is met with maximum efficiency and comfort.
Once you have the logistics covered, go out there and explore!
Eric Michelson is a nomadic, philosophizing, peace-minded pluralist. He hopes to help bridge the divide between the diverse factions of the world by exploring various perspectives brought on by personal experience. You can follow Perspective Earth to learn more about him and his work.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn languages with real-world videos.