The Effective Apps for Smart Traveling

Did you read Morgan’s post about what to put IN your suitcase? Well, I’m gonna go a step further and tell ya what to put in your phone.

Here are the most helpful and necessary apps for travel! No matter the duration, budget, or reason, you won’t regret downloading these magical creations.

TripAdvisor

For a one stop shop with great deals you want this app. Think of an online Costco, but instead of massive packs of tortilla chips you’re getting the highest rated attractions, food, and hotels. We utilized (buzzword warning) this app every single day while we traveled. The reason for its necessity is because businesses DEPEND on TripAdvisor. You’ll walk around on the streets in a foreign city (especially Asian countries) and see “TripAdvisor Award of Excellence” or “TripAdvisor Top Rated Places to Eat 2017” banners. Even if you don’t want to be attracted to this app’s green flag billowing ever so gently in the wind, you are.

Read reviews, use the filters, and some places offer discounts on your total bill for writing a review. Shout out to GlutenFree Kitchen in Bali for the 15% discount. Yes, we utilized (hit you with that resume buzzword again) that multiple times.

Klook

We would have never found this app if it wasn’t for our students in Bangkok. Download this app no matter where you travel to. As I’m typing this, I’m on a Klook tour to the Bangkok Floating Markets. A full day trip, three markets, two temples, and one van for transportation. All for $36. Although TripAdvisor provides similar services, Klook specifically works with attractions.

This app has affordable deals for all activities across almost every major city in the world. This is how we found the Skyline Luge on Sentosa Island, Singapore. If you’re traveling to Singapore, this an absolute must. Other activities that we’ve booked include Waterbom Bali and a Bangkok Biking Tour. Both activities were highlights during our stay in these cities. We still aren’t sure how to pronounce it but thank you Klook!

Agoda (CheapOAir/Scoot)

You might see a trend with these companies…most help you find great deals. If you’re interested in comparing prices for hotels or flights, use these apps. We used Agoda solely for accommodations. When you think AirBnB and TripAdvisor can’t provide that sweet deal you’re looking for, check out Agoda.

CheapOAir and Scoot are alternative websites/apps to use when looking for flights. Sky Scanner and Expedia generally offer the best flight prices but there are some deals that are unbeatable on these two apps. We used CheapOAir for our flight from India to Thailand and Scoot for almost every flight in and out of Singapore/Bali. It’s impossible to predict what company will provide the lowest price but having more options is the key to saving money.

All of these apps use a rewards system. Take the extra two minutes to set up a free account with your first booking to receive discounts in the future. Even if the next hotel booking is $2 off per night, $19 looks a hell of a lot better than $21. Why does $2 matter…? That’s two Chang beers on a beach watching the sunset.

Uber

Uber has taken over. No matter what outlandish and irresponsible decisions The Kalanick made, the app still works. Wherever you travel to, set up an account and check to see if the app is popular in your area. Regardless of location, if Uber is legal in the country, it will be far cheaper than taxis or other modes of transportation outside of public trains/buses. You probably knew that so here’s some new information.

Uber requires data or WiFi…alright, thanks Kyle. But, what happens if you don’t have a data plan and your WiFi is out of range where the pickup location is? Interested now? When your Uber has been selected, a profile of the driver is given. The most important piece of information is not the stars, awards, or amount of rides given, it’s the license plate number. When you’re on the street, helplessly going car to car, hoping the Uber didn’t just ditch you like an awful prom date at the after party, look at the plates. It will help you when you think hope is lost.

This is the break down of some places we’ve traveled to and the prevalence of Uber based on these factors: Popularity (amount of drivers), Prices (relative to US prices), and Accessibility (will you ever find them…?)

Bangkok: Popularity (High), Prices (Low), and Accessibility (Sometimes difficult with one-way streets, order in advance for important trips like airports and bus stations due to wait times).

Kuala Lumpur: Popularity (High), Prices (Extremely cheap), and Accessibility (Difficult at shopping malls like Suria KLCC but this is similar to any mall. Thankfully designated Uber areas are popping up in popular areas).

Bali: Popularity (Low), Prices (Moderate), and Accessibility (It would help if Uber was legal here…so not the best). Ordering an Uber is simple, the difficult part is getting in the physical car. If Uber is illegal, accepted drivers will contact you through WhatsApp. They will try to charge you a taxi like rate, avoid the app, and attempt to convince you that they’re risking their jobs by accepting rides through Uber. Taxis don’t like Ubers here…what a surprise! It’s true in every city across the world, but here it’s like a hidden scandal.

If your drop off point is on a busy street, the driver will grab your bags and throw them out as quick as possible. They are absolutely terrified of taxis seeing them drop off foreigners. Not exactly sure what will happen if the driver is caught, happy to have avoided that potential disaster. The price difference is as follows: a 150.000 rupiah (~$11) Uber ride is a 500.000 rupiah (~$37) taxi ride.

When drivers message you through WhatsApp, either don’t reply or ask for the same price as Uber charges. If they don’t agree, cancel. You’re gonna flirt with that cancel button more than once. Good thing it’s only 10.000 rupiah (less than $1). You will find an Uber eventually (especially for longer rides) so be stubborn, it works in your favor.

Little hint, if you like your Uber driver, grab their business card before the drop-off. Avoid the future uncertainty and call the driver up when you’re in need. Look up the estimated price on the Uber app and tell the driver this is what you’re willing to pay for your future rides.

Singapore: Popularity (High), Price (Moderate), and Accessibility (Easy). Singapore is the most developed country in SE Asia. This means it’s also the most expensive. The cheapest way to get around is the MRT, but sometimes you’re tired of the unbearable humidity and need a relaxing A/C break that drops you off right in front of your hotel. Although it’s the highest priced Ubers we experienced, they’re still cheaper than the US. Use the UberPool option, that’ll save you a couple dollars and help you meet some interesting people.

Melaka: Popularity (Moderate), Price (Cheap), and Accessibility (Easy). Uber has some serious competition around the world. It seems like new ride sharing apps are popping up everyday. That’s better for us because options create comparable opportunities. We used Grab while in Melaka because the locals prefer it and it was cheaper. If your budget is tight, do a simple search of predicted prices using Uber and Grab to the same destination. It’s a way to escape those annoying surge prices now and then. While one company is short on available cars, another might have a couple drivers just leaving a Starbucks or having just dropped off their kids at soccer practice.

I could write on and on about Uber but I’ll spare you. Last tip is to remember that you have the option of paying in cash or card. Card is simple, especially for people trying to save cash for cash only attractions/accommodations. If you’re on a budget, I would recommend using cash as much as possible. The ATM fees may be difficult to swallow, but losing an average of $10 per withdrawal (international + personal bank fee) is worth knowing exactly how much money you spent at the end of each day. It also avoids those jaw dropping moments when you have the courage to see your debit/credit balance. Uber and other modes of transportation add up. Especially those late night McDonald’s runs.

Instagram

Photos. Photos. Photos. You know what this is. Another Zuckerberg creation. I was pretty late in the game…23 years old and I’ve had it for 10 months. But, if there was ever a time to start one, why not while I travel through Asia? The most helpful advice I can give is to use Instagram to find places to visit. We discovered at least 10-15 locations in Bali that were absolutely remarkable, only because of an Instagram photo. Look at the location and go on an adventure.

If you want “Instagram worthy” photos of popular tourist places, hope you don’t enjoy sleep! You’ll need to go early in the morning if you want to avoid that crowd of people scowling at you while they wait their turn. There’s not much to say that you don’t already know about this app. Use the filters, follow Morgan and I, and try to solve Morgan’s mystery for each photo…what do you do with your arms?

GoPro

This app is a necessity to see the footage from the GoPro camera. Although there are issues with the cameras (the WiFi doesn’t work on ours anymore so we’re not able to access the photos unless we use our computer), the photos and videos you will take provide life long memories. Our videos range from playing “Welcome to My Crib” at Angkor Wat to watching newborn baby turtles swim for the first time on the Gili Islands, Indonesia. You’ll be happy to have this app.

BofA/Venmo/PayPal

Alright, you can’t go 10 months of constant travel without learning how to manage your $$$. Our advice all comes from using our BofA debit/credit cards. No matter how frequently you travel, you will be forever grateful for a travel rewards credit card. It will save you from the ridiculous international fees and they will accumulate, trust me.

Besides the travel card, you will be facing fees when pulling out money with the debit card. No matter what country you travel to, cash is king. You will want to always have cash on hand from the second you leave the airport.

Any bank’s app seems like a “shoot your eye out” kind of Christmas gift. With all the credit card scams and security breaches happening in US companies, it seems unreliable to trust your phone with sensitive bank information (Apple…what is happening?). But hopefully you can see past these issues because I’ve personally never had a problem (or heard of any issues) and can’t stress enough the value of having access to your accounts whenever and wherever. Your bank’s app is essential when you travel.

If anything, BofA’s security is too good. Our cards have been put on hold at least two times each for potential fraudulent transactions. The bank maybe thought a double chocolate cheesecake cookie Oreo milkshake charge in Georgetown, Malaysia, wasn’t mine…but if you follow Morgan’s Instagram stories, you’d know it was mine. To avoid those issues, set travel notices on the app or enable the once a day WiFi location setting.

On the other hand, if your card was lost or stolen, the app allows you to put the card on hold or cancel it within seconds. Not being able to call your bank is one of the most annoying parts about traveling abroad. This is why the app is crucial. Instead of lamenting over a stolen card for an entire day, you can fix the situation easily. Think of the app as an insurance policy…but it’s free.

Other necessary financial apps are Venmo and PayPal. The latter is more universal.

Although Venmo still has its training wheels, it’s growing. It’s now accepted as a form of payment for popular retailers. Venmo’s original purpose was to enable money transfers (without fees) between friends or known contacts. This will help when traveling with groups. I wish there was a way to automatically pull money from accounts when someone owes money…but sometimes you gotta realize you’re just never going to get reimbursed for that dinner at In-N-Out. You can annoy them with reminder notifications though!

PayPal is like Advil, it will reduce headaches. On both ends, this app helps you live life while traveling. If you work while abroad, you will likely receive your salary through PayPal. If you want to pay for attractions like the Elephant Sanctuary in Phuket or XOTours in Vietnam, you’ll use PayPal. If you don’t already have this app, it’s not only useful for travel. It makes your life a lot simpler.

GoogleMaps

Oh the things you will find. For the simplest directions that include every single detail, you will want this app. As mentioned in previous posts, you can use this app without WiFi. Start the directions before you leave WiFi range and you’ll have no problem arriving at your destination. Thankfully, the directions are previously loaded.

In addition, if you’re looking for something to do or trying to find the nearest public transportation, pretend like you’re playing Pac-Man and get that blue little dot to your desired location. Watch out for the ghosts which would be the lunatic taxis.

Airbnb

There’s a whole separate post about this app in order to justify its importance. Please read it because there’s no way to summarize the post without leaving out important information. If you travel, you will need this app.

Netflix

First off, you need a Netflix account. If you’re still skimping off your college roommate’s account or that ex you feel like “owes you this”, get your own to avoid the embarrassment of displaying what shows you watch. With the relatively new feature of downloading episodes/movies, it enables you to get through those long plane and ferry rides with ease.

With the use of Google Chromecast (which requires the Google Home App), we were able to mirror our Netflix app on our smart tv. We’ve watched almost every episode of Blacklist (Reddington is a badass), Friends (we think we’re like Chandler and Monica), and House of Cards (stopped watching that one…), to name a few. Also, props to the new show Dirty Money (shame on you Volkswagen).

Be aware that Netflix’s database depends on the country you’re currently in. You’ll probably try a VPN but it won’t work. Netflix is too sophisticated now. If Friends isn’t available, you’ll have to find an equivalent background noise maker that you can watch over and over again without ever losing interest. It’s almost impossible.

Communication Apps:

All are free to download.

WhatsApp: Guess who owns this one? The sandal wearing, plain t-shirt rocking, billionaire…Zuckerberg. Out of every city we’ve traveled to, not one local we’ve communicated with didn’t have WhatsApp downloaded on their phone. You’ll use it to stay in touch with the friends/family back home and the new friends you make along the way.

WeChat: popular among our Chinese students through our online teaching app LokoTalk. This app is the main form of communication in China and we were required to download it by our company. If you’re traveling through China, you’ll be using WeChat to communicate with locals.

LineID: this is the Thai version of WeChat. Every single Thai person uses LineID. It took us awhile to get used to communicating through this app. You’ll quickly realize that a normal conversation in Thailand contains at least 10 emojis like smiling brown bears or animated phrases with bubble letters. If you’re planning on staying in Thailand and getting to know the locals, you’ll need this app to stay in touch.

WhatsApp is by far the most important of the three apps listed above. Downloading the other two will depend on duration of stay.

NFL/Yahoo Fantasy

Had to fit these apps in. It’s difficult to stay up to date with American Football while abroad. If you’re a fan and play fantasy, these apps will help you see if the Patriots will win that year…and then watch Nick Foles wipe the floor with the Patriots’ Defense when it counts. If you have Verizon, you’ll have access to Thursday Night Football on the NFL app. Although you’re supposed to have access to multiple games per week, it’s different in Asia. If you want to watch live games you’ll be staying up late! For reruns, search for local bars that play the games. We were unbelievably lucky to be located right next to Sportman Bar in Bangkok where we watched a couple reruns.

It’s difficult to maintain a fantasy team when you can’t watch the games, but it’s an entertaining way to stay in contact with those friends in the league. Those weekly side bets and trash talk might escalate if a continent separates you apart. Morgan and I’s side bets usually consisted of us dressing each other up for the gym.

All in all, Tom Brady is a GOAT and I severely dislike Malcolm Butler. Go Hawks!

You made it through the list! Feel free to comment about your favorite app you use while traveling. If you know of an app that wasn’t mentioned, let us know! Morgan and I would love to hear about other apps we could download to make our lives more efficient abroad.

We hope you enjoyed the list. Follow the blog for future posts and our Instagram accounts linked below. Dream big, pack small.

– Kyle

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