A few years ago technology on the road was a rarity. Everyone still carried around worn-out paperbacks passed from hostel to hostel, used fold-up maps to navigate their way around unfamiliar cities and queued up to use the hostel’s sole computer that took the better part of an hour just to load an email from home.
These days everything has changed.
Technology is as much as part of the travel life as ever and it’s not uncommon to see travellers laden with every kind of device on the market. Our Lonely Planets sit alongside hundreds of other books on our e-readers and our memories are stored on Instagram rather than a scrapbook or a journal.
While we believe an over dependence on technology can detract from the overall travel experience – we’ve all been to that hostel where everyone is glued to their screens or you have to fight off the army of selfie-sticks just to see the view – but there are also a number of ways technology can improve your trip.
These days there are plenty of apps for booking sites and trip organisation, but our favourite Apps are the ones that have helped us stick to our budget, find our out-of-the-way accommodation, avoid getting lost late at night, kept us entertained for hours on long transport legs and allowed us to hike into the wilderness when we found no other resources to show us the way.
These are the apps on our smartphones that have become a staple in our day-to-day lives on the road and help us to travel better.
If you’re travelling long-term with a limited travel fund, you’ll want to keep track of where your hard-earned dollars and dimes are going.
Accommodation, food, transport, activities and especially the little things you treat yourself with on the road all add up. While we are believers in throwing the budget out the window when we feel it is justified (sometimes you just need a little splurging right?), it would be impossible for us to travel long-term without sticking to our planned budget.
XpenseTracker has been indispensable for us on our travels, especially in the more expensive countries where we had to be even more aware of and frugal with our spendings.
This App allows us to enter every penny spent, divides it into relevant categories and tallies them into a daily spend. You can also arrange your finances by category so you can easily tell where your money is going and what areas you might need to cut back on. Logs can be exported to a spreadsheet and photos of receipts saved with each entry.
Back in Australia, when we had unlimited mobile data packages and flawless reception just about anywhere, we used Google Maps on an almost daily basis. But, after spending months in places where decent wifi is a rarity, we’ve discovered it can be just as useful when used offline.
Simply save an area of map for the city you’re in or the one you plan to visit next and add markers for your hostel, transport hubs, other landmarks you might need or restaurants you want to try out. With live GPS tracking you’ll always know where you are when you get a little lost following the labyrinthine streets of a historic city or when the bus dumps you at completely the wrong end of town.
While it doesn’t have the transport, walking or cycling navigation of the online version, it does have the car routes so if you have saved a wide enough area (or several overlapping areas), you can also use it as your GPS navigation when travelling with your own wheels.
If you’ve read a few of our posts you’ll probably know that we love taking to the wild and going for a hike. In some areas though, where tourist infrastructure is limited and information on designated walking paths is non-existent, finding the actual trail to the place we want to go can be near impossible.
Trails shows a GPS track of where previous hikers have been before and specific landmarks or viewpoints along the route. Although it did lead us astray on one occasion, it has allowed us to find many trails we otherwise would never have made it to and provided a map for the routes that are poorly sign-posted. Similar Apps exist for well hiked areas but we have found this one to be most useful in areas that receive less visitors like parts of Eastern Europe.
For all those 10 hour bus trips, overnight train journeys and long-haul flights where the screen in front of you doesn’t work, you’ve finished your book and you’re sick of listening to the same playlist over and over again, another form of entertainment is key and Podcasts have become our favourite way to help pass the time.
What began as a few sceptical subscriptions on our iPhones has ballooned into a library of hilarious life hacks, philosophical debates, real-life murder mysteries and pure comic relief.
Whether it’s listening to your favourite radio show from back home, brushing up on world news, learning a new language or solving crimes, once you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole that is the world of Podcasts there’s no going back. But honestly, you won’t want to.
We’re always on the lookout for new and interesting things to listen to so if you have a favourite Podcast we’d love to hear from you!