The apps and services I use the most while traveling
Hey friends! As I’ve been traveling, I’ve been talking to a lot of people at length about some of the online tools and services that they use while traveling that provide value to their trip. There are a few that have been really useful to me thus far, so I figured I’d share in the case that they provide value to anyone one else.
Here’s my short list:
Ah. The venerable Couchsurfing. Though it has lost favor with travelers as of late, it still remains a good resource for meeting up with locals and fellow travelers. I rarely actually couchsurf anymore, as I find it to be difficult to coordinate with hosts — but I find the service to be extremely valuable.
If you are traveling alone (as I was at the beginning of my trip) nothing calms the occasional lapse into homesickness than sharing a pint and a laugh with fellow humans. For newcomers into a city, the events posted to Couchsurfing allow you to immediately jump into things and make some quick friends.
I’ve met some really cool people on Couchsurfing, and I’d say it’s one of the more valuable resources I’ve used when traveling.
This really depends on where you’re traveling to. If you’re traveling to New York or San Francisco, just forget it. The average prices for a room in either of those cities is about 250 USD, so you’re better off trying to find alternative accommodations. On the other hand, if you’re in a city like Prague (I’m going to use Prague as the example for most of these, as it’s the most pertinent to me at this moment) an entire apartment can cost you less than a stay in a shared room at a hostel.
I stayed at a small apartment a short distance north of the city center in Prague for about 24US/night, and a few days later, I paid the same rate for an 8 bed dorm at a hostel (granted, it was last minute).
It’s worth it to check it out before you head out to see what prices are like. Most of my hosts have been really helpful and friendly and have directed me to places that I might not have found otherwise, so that’s an added benefit.
If you haven’t signed up for Airbnb, do it here and we’ll both get $25 to use on a future booking.
So I know this might not be everyone’s favorite service — the company has made some serious gaffes in their treatment of drivers, privacy issues, and their occasionally totally absurd pricing. However, it can still be an extraordinarily valuable tool to have as a traveler.
In Prague, for example, cabs are notorious for being scammy and foreigner-unfriendly. When I landed, I logged into Uber on a whim and discovered that Uber had been in place here for about 8 months and carried a generally lower fare than the cabs. Additionally, since you are able to preview the route and the estimated amount beforehand, you’re never surprised by the bill.
Compared to the horror stories I’d heard about cabs here and there’s a pretty obvious winner in terms of service.
If you don’t already have Uber, sign up here! Both you and I will get $20 of credit, which makes everyone happy.
In countries with public transit, this is pretty invaluable. Google generally seems to know both routes and times for public transit in most major cities. In addition, I’ve noticed that the map routes are cached once you’ve started the route, so even if you close the app and reopen it you won’t lose your directions. This one is super handy, maybe my number one in terms of sheer utility. You can also use it to find landmarks.
For keeping in touch with people back home, and for coordinating with people in your current location when you don’t have a local number or any other way to keep in contact. Messenger, in particular has the handy (or creepy) feature of letting you send your location to others automatically, so you can find your friends if need be.
Funny enough, I didn’t ever use foursquare at home. I used to only think of it as an app where you checked into places and became “The Mayor”. The app has gone through a serious redesign recently and has become more focused on discovery. My primary use of the app was to find out where local people ate. Most of the reviews are from locals, so you can find some real gems. Last night I ate a small hole in the wall Czech restaurant that I’m pretty sure I would have just glanced over. It was amazing! So props to Foursquare for making their service so much better.
One thing it’s not super useful for is landmarks — but you can’t have everything, eh?