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10 best travel apps to download before you take off

Updated: Feb 17, 2021. Walter Ray.
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There’s no denying that apps have changed the way we travel. Some more than others. Let’s take Google Maps for example. We now almost never stop to ask for directions, or check with people which subway to hop on to or best walking routes or even a suggestion for a nearby tapas place.

Strange as it may seem, that was not the case a few years back. Not long ago, you couldn’t travel without wasting hours figuring out directions, local transport etc. Or worse, getting conned by the hotel for an overpriced cab.

That brings us to another big revolution for tourists - Uber.

However, apart from Google Maps and Uber there are several other not-so-common apps that can change our travel experience forever.

Let’s have a look at our list of best apps for travel.

An online phone number

Having a local phone number handy before you start packing for a new country can be very useful. For reservations, forms, restaurants to call when your table is ready, sharing with locals and strangers etc.

So far Localphone has been my favourite app for that. And I have tried many.

You can get a local incoming number in almost any country and forward it to any number worldwide or just answer it on the app.

And they are pretty cheap also. I generally end up paying $1 to $3 per number per month.

eSIM Apps

Edit: This section has been updated with information provided by Airalo

Buying a local sim card is so last year. If you have a phone that supports eSIM, you can download eSIMs for any country in a matter of minutes, right from your home.

eSIMs bought online are generally data only. However, we have already solved the phone number issue (see recommended app above).

Flexiroam and Airalo are two great options.

Both offer you local data, regional data plans and global data plans at very competitive rates. e.g. 3$ for 1GB in some European countries.

There are three primary differences between both services:

  • With Flexiroam, you download an eSim once and then add data plans to it. Airalo makes you download an eSim for every new country you are visiting. With Airalo, you can either download a sim per country (better rates if you are visiting one or two destinations) or you can pick up a regional or global eSim for multiple destinations in one.
  • Flexiroam also has an option for a physical sim whereas Airalo is eSim only.
  • Airalo is a bit cheaper and has a far better app and overall experience. With Flexiroam, you have to pay for their eSim (or a regular sim) starter kit. With Airalo, you pay only for data.

Cashback on hotels, flights etc.

We talk about hotel promotions a lot on Milescop. Bonus Points, Discounts, Upgrades etc is pretty much what we are all about.

Then there are cashback apps that let you earn extra cash back over and above all these promotions.

Out of all the apps I have tried over the years, I have stuck with Top Cash Back (ref link). I find them reliable and transparent about all my purchases and cashback.

You can earn anywhere from 5-65% cashback on hotels, flights, shopping, online services etc. If you remember to use them for all your online shopping, the cashback piles up pretty quickly.

Local trips and activities

Local sightseeing, activities, shows, experiences etc are an important part of travel. And, as you probably know already, booking them through your hotel or cabbies-turned-tour-operators is rarely a smart thing to do.

Klook is by far my favourite. And for whatever destinations are not available on Klook, there is Viator.

VPN for travel

We all connect to public WiFis while travelling. And if you are not using a VPN, you are opening your devices to cyber attacks. That’s primarily the reason I got a VPN for.

However, watching shows from back home is primarily the biggest use of VPN. Yeah, I do watch shows while traveling. Judge all you want. :)

I must have tried 6 to 7 VPN providers in the last 10 years. Most of them turned out to be pretty useless (unusable speed primarily).

But for the last 2 years, I have been using NordVPN and really haven’t felt the need to look for an option. Every country I can imagine connecting to, decent speeds, good apps and excellent prices. More than enough for me.

Banks for travelers

Travel is probably one of the costliest hobbies we can have. Not that gardening is cheap. But you get the point.

But what’s worse is the charges, fees and then taxes on those charges and fees you pay to banks while traveling.

Thankfully, we have a lot of choices now. There are credit cards with 0% forex fee and forex cards with similar benefits. And then there are entire banks (may be not exactly) built with travelers in mind.

Completely online account opening, low or no fee globally for spending and at ATMs, worldwide online transfer, completely app based, multi-currency support, discounts and offers for travelers etc.

Revoult, N26 and Monzo are some of the popular ones.

Maximizing your travel

Travel can be pretty rewarding. Not the experience, learning, expanding your horizon rewarding. But offers, points and discounts rewarding.

For best prices on flights, Skyscanner and Hopper are your best bet.

Hotels - well, that’s our expertise. Choose your favourite hotels and subscribe to MilesCop newsletter for faster free nights, lots of reward points and higher elite (read red-carpet) status at hotels.

You can also join our just launched telegram channel.

If you travel solo mostly, check out Couch Surfing. It lets you stay with locals for cheap or for even free at times. However, it comes with safety issues you should be aware about.

And if you travel with family or in a group, of course, you probably have AirBnb already installed.

Car rental

Services like Uber, Lyft and Ola have made it pretty easy to move around the city and intercity, in some countries.

However, car rentals are still great if you enjoy driving or would like to exchange the hassle of coordinating with cabbies with the hassle of looking for parking spaces.

If you are an elite member with any hotel, you can probably get a good membership and rates options via them. There are some car rental promotions available here.

Airport Lounge Access.

The world lounge is so deceptive. I have waited in long queues just to enter one, have shared tables with strangers, struggled to find a quiet place to read and waited for food to be refilled for over several minutes at a stretch.

However, it’s still the best place at an airport to wait out till your boarding call. And of course, free food is free food.

If you travel often, you most likely have a credit card or a forex card or a debit card that offers you free or discounted lounge access at airports. Check them first.

If you don’t, try to get an Amex or Diners (some Master and Visa might also offer it) card with global lounge access. It’s cheaper.

If nothing else works, you can directly purchase a membership with Priority Pass or Loungebuddy.

If you want to book a lounge for a single trip, Lounge Pass might be a better bet.

App for splitting expenses

When you are traveling in a group, keeping track of individual expenses is very important. Knowing who owes whom and exactly how much can save a lot of unnecessary hard feelings on a trip.

Of course, there is an app for that. I have been using SplitWise for years, trip after trip, and it has never disappointed me.

Whoever pays for meal, tickets or anything else, just needs to enter the amount (you can even add a picture of a bill) and the app splits, calculates and notifies every group member of their share.

It’s free to use on Android, iOS and web as well.

App for keeping in touch

There are tonnes of communication apps out there and all of them work. However, the way one app changes how you communicate while traveling, it’s - Telegram.

Along with regular chats and group chats, it has encrypted voice and video calls. You can install it on multiple devices (3 phones, 1 iPad and 2 laptops? Bring it on!) and hence have access to your messages if you lose the primary device or if the battery runs out.

You can even install it on a new phone without access to your number or sim card (unlike Whatsapp and Signal), provided you have at least one device handy with Telegram already installed.

It saves a lot of headache while traveling.

App for working while traveling

Having an office in 1000s of cities across 100s of countries for less than a good meal’s cost per month. Well, it’s a Digital Nomad’s dream come true.

Regus Business Lounge service lets you work from any of their offices worldwide or hold meetings for a monthly fee.

You get a desk to work, Internet and tea/coffee as part of your membership.

If you like traveling, you would love our travel tips, insights and money saving ideas. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter.

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