Dan Rather once said, “If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.”
Traveling the world is challenging. In fact, it can be downright scary!
When we travel, we need be prepared to face those challenges.
For many globetrotters, one of the scariest parts of traveling is managing finances. It’s not an easy thing to do!
Thankfully, there’s one thing you don’t have to spend money on for your big trip: amazing travel apps.
That’s right. There are plenty of travel apps out there that will make your trip easier and more fun. And they’re free!
How Can Free Travel Apps Help You?
Thanks to the magic of technology, we’ve developed a seemingly endless number of mobile and web applications that simplify our lives.
These travel apps help us overcome some of the more annoying hurdles associated with traveling in three main ways.
Mingling with the Culture
Exploring a new and exciting culture is often the best part of traveling.
While outside of our home countries, we’re faced with new and unique cultural experiences that take us far outside of our comfort zones.
Traveling can be quite expensive. That’s probably why you’re looking for free travel apps!
You need to pay for things like transportation, food and travel excursions. Many people who don’t keep track of their funds wind up paying way more than they wanted to.
With a variety of helpful free travel apps, we can find information about the best local discounts and transportation deals, and we can keep track of our finances in a smart and efficient way.
Getting from point A to point B is hard enough in our home countries!
And when we’re traveling, getting around can sometimes be a complete nightmare.
There are several free travel apps out there that will find routes for us to take, plan out the best ways to get from place to place and offer us helpful ways of managing the logistical hurdles we’re bound to face.
There’s a (Free) App for That! 11 Free Travel Apps for Your Next Trip
Free Travel Apps for Mingling with the Culture
FluentU is a language learning app that teaches you in an effective and surprisingly fun way.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. You can watch all these fun videos while simultaneously learning how to talk like a native!
Each video has an interactive quiz at the end to make sure you understood the vocabulary and grammar included in the lesson.
FluentU takes the hard work out of learning and makes it fun for people of all skill levels to quickly learn how to become conversational in a new language.
The best part is that one FluentU account gives you access to all nine of its languages. This means that if you want to work and travel in China today, visit the most beautiful places in Japan tomorrow and go skiing in Switzerland next week, you only need one FluentU account to learn Chinese, Japanese, German, French and Italian!
Note: You can use FluentU free for 15 days. If you decide you like the app enough to keep using it after your free trial, you do have to pay for a subscription.
Google Translate is a necessary app in any budget traveler’s toolkit.
You’ll very likely find yourself in many situations where you don’t speak the local language… or at least not well enough to get your point across. With the help of Google Translate, you can communicate in over 100 languages quickly and easily.
While there are hundreds of translation apps out there, Google Translate has managed to stay on top with features like camera translation, conversation translation, handwriting translation and a “tap to translate” feature for websites and apps that are written in a language you can’t understand.
You can even download the dictionary and translation features for many of Google Translate’s languages so you don’t need to be connected to the internet when using the app.
One of the best things about Google Translate is the ability to store words and phrases into a phrasebook. This is essential if you’re trying to have daily conversations with the locals and need to quickly access the most commonly used phrases.
TripAdvisor is a well-known review app for travel destinations.
It lists travel attractions and points of interest, and it gives ratings based on reviews from other travelers.
You can easily find hotels, restaurants, scenic areas, wildlife centers and anything else that might be interesting as you tour a new country or city. You can explore these locations based on reviews, ratings and various categories catered to a particular kind of experience.
Many of these reviews come with videos and photos from other travelers so you can visually see if the place is something you’d be interested in.
TripAdvisor also helps you find deals on airfare, hotels, restaurants and travel services like shuttles and buses.
This app is like a personal coach for your travels to make sure that you get to do everything you want to do with ease and efficiency.
Couchsurfing is an app that helps you find locals around the world who are willing to let you stay with them for free.
This cuts out the need for expensive hotels and lets you mingle with and learn about the local culture.
Couchsurfing is also a great way to connect with locals who want to meet up and show you around, even if they don’t have the capabilities to host you. They could become your new tour guide, your new drinking buddy or even your new travel partner!
The platform also has a section for other travelers to meet up and go out on local excursions together. This is a fun way to find fellow nomads who are just as excited about traveling the world as you are!
Simply sign up with Couchsurfing and plug in your destination and the dates that you’ll be traveling. You’ll be greeted by a list of people who want to hang out with you during your selected dates.
Free Travel Apps for Saving Money
Groupon is a well-known coupon app that helps you save up to 70% on all purchases made with coupons on the platform.
It helps you find all the deals you need to save money, both at home and abroad. Available in many countries around the world and soon to be expanding to more, Groupon is perfect for travelers looking to save money on various travel experiences.
Find huge deals on restaurants, products, travel excursions and various other services like spa treatments and gym passes.
An added bonus of Groupon is that it gives you the ability to discover new hotspots of the country that you never would have known about otherwise. Find a recently opened pizza place or a top-rated yoga studio in a hidden corner of the city that just happens to provide discounts through Groupon. And the best part is that all of these top-notch services come at a discount!
Groupon also has lots of travel coupons for hotels and cultural excursions that will let you secure the best deals on just about any amenity you need during your time abroad.
You can set up the app so that it sends you notifications about local deals in your area. This way, you can explore the best spots in your new city, all for cheaper than you’d expect!
Hopper is a flight scanner app that claims to save travelers up to 40% on flights and hotels.
This way, when you go to book a ticket, the app will give you a recommendation on whether or not this is the best time to buy the ticket and secure the cheapest fare. If it thinks the price might become cheaper in the near future, it tells you to wait a certain amount of time before buying it.
When Hopper thinks the ticket is at its cheapest, it sends a notification to your phone or email address and tells you that you should book your ticket now. After you receive the notification, you can book your ticket directly through the app.
Apart from tracking prices, you can also receive personalized recommendations about travel destinations, find out about exclusive deals and get travel tips catered directly to your itinerary.
The best part is that Hopper comes with 24/7 customer support, so if there’s an issue with your travel plans, you’ll be able to talk to someone immediately and get it all sorted out.
Uber is a ridesharing service that exists in over 600 cities around the world.
This app is a super easy and convenient way to get from point A to point B, and it very often costs substantially less than a traditional taxi.
The app picks up your location via your phone’s GPS and locates a driver in your area who’s willing to take you to your destination. You can pay either with a credit card stored on the app’s database or with cash directly to your driver.
There are even options within the app to split the fare with multiple passengers.
While this is the most ubiquitous ridesharing service in the world, you should always check for local ridesharing services wherever you are. For instance, Uber was replaced by Grab in Southeast Asia and DiDi in China.
Note: While it’s free to download Uber, you need to pay money to ride.
XE Currency Converter
XE Currency Converter provides all the currencies of the world and their respective conversion rates in an easy-to-use and intuitive interface.
Simply select the two currencies you want to convert and enter the amount. You’ll see an updated and accurate conversion based on the latest exchange rate. XE even includes a few precious metals like gold and silver!
All the rates are updated as soon as you open the app, and you have the option to re-update the exchange rate to see any moment-to-moment fluctuations.
You can also see the historical fluctuations of the currency as far back as 10 years.
XE will let you monitor up to 10 different currencies at a time and send you alerts when those prices fluctuate. This helps you determine the best time to exchange your currency.
As a traveler, it’s extremely important to understand and frequently check the conversion rate of the local currency and compare it with your home currency. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself frequently overspending.
Note: XE Currency Converter is free, but there’s a paid version that lets you track up to 20 different currencies, save historical rates and gives you daily market analyses on various world currencies.
Free Travel Apps for Getting Around
Rome2rio tells you how to get from one spot to any other place in the world.
All you have to do is enter where you are and where you want to go. You’ll see every kind of travel option available to get you there—by train, plane, bus, boat or foot.
This information is a godsend for travelers on a budget. When people face the typical frustration of navigating local bus and train schedules, they tend to opt for the easier but more expensive options like planes and private taxis. But Rome2rio explains convoluted public transit systems to you so that you can feel comfortable taking these cheaper modes of transportation.
And when you finally find your way to your next destination, you can search for and book a hotel right on the app.
MAPS.ME is a free mapping application that’s perfect for frequent travelers who need to get around but don’t want to spend a lot of money on a local SIM data plan.
This app downloads offline maps to your device, and these maps can give you directions in any number of ways—by driving, walking or biking, and some cities have bus and train directions. MAPS.ME even offers turn-by-turn navigation.
Search for a business, location or other point of interest via the offline interface and get immediate, detailed directions that are updated with OpenStreetMap (OSM). The use of OSM helps MAPS.ME locate many places that other mapping applications can’t.
And if you’re thinking about taking a trek through nature, MAPS.ME also has maps of hiking trails for you to download for offline use.
TripIt is a free schedule organizer for all your upcoming trips.
Whenever you make a booking or reservation online, simply email your travel plans to TripIt and it will organize your entire itinerary.
This is perfect for travelers who need help staying structured and just want all their travel information—like hotels where you’ve made reservations and names of shuttle companies—in one, highly organized place.
You can even send your full travel itinerary to one of your online calendars or share it with a friend or colleague who needs to be aware of your travels.
One of my favorite things about this app is that once you email your travel plans to TripIt, all the information is stored offline. This way, you can access your itinerary easily and quickly and without the need for Wi-Fi.
Note: TripIt is free, but there’s a paid version that adds functionality like securing better travel deals, sending specific information about airports and giving real-time flight alerts.
Traveling doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it can be one of the best things you do in your entire life!
Knowing where to go, how to save money and how to utilize the tools at your disposal will help you overcome most of your paralyzing fears about travel.
And you can always use these 11 free travel apps to stay on track, stick to your budget and be smart about getting the most out of your travels!
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 him at Perspective Earth to learn more about 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.