Gone are the days of vagrant backpacking with just a few changes of clothes and a sleeping pad to unroll anywhere warmer than freezing that the cops weren’t looking. Today’s backpackers are well-equipped with technology to make their lives easier. Here are five excellent, free mobile apps to download before your next trip:
1. XE Currency conversion
Next time a shopkeeper has you convinced that you’re getting a great deal, try actually knowing what you’re being charged before you agree to it. This app updates its conversion rates regularly to give you the most accurate information. When you’re making purchases large or small, know what they’re really worth, in any of 20740203 different currencies.
If you’re at all like me, your accounting skills are less than stellar and money has a tendency to disappear from your wallet. If you’re having trouble keeping track of how much you’re spending on what, or sticking to a daily/weekly/monthly budget, or just want to be able to look at trends in your spending and adjust accordingly, this is a perfect app. Enter in your expenses each day under categories you can edit. Look at graphical reports of how much money you’re spending on beer compared to food. Drink less, accordingly. The free version is good for a few hundred entries, after that you must buy the full version for $5. It’s worth it.
3. Google Maps
Stop spending so much time wandering around lost (unless you enjoy that mode of exploration, which is totally valid). Get a decent maps app (iPhone 4 users know what I mean) and take advantage of it. Cities across the world are hooked into Google Maps and other databases, and you can save a lot of time by comparing a real map with the jumbled mess of streets in front of you. Protip: don’t bother showing the map to a local; in most countries outside of the West it will be of no help whatsoever.
Of course you brought a headlamp. It’s just always buried at the bottom of your pack in your hostel anytime you actually need it. Enter the Flashlight app, which turns on the flash of your camera phone or iPod until you find your way up the stairs or through the sketchy alley. It drains your battery quickly, but it can be a real lifesaver.
Most people think of Skype as a useful computer program, but not as many take advantage of it as a mobile app as well. Having Skype on your phone or iPod can allow you to make cheap international calls without needing to carry around a laptop, which is a big boon for many backpackers trying to watch the weight of their bags. Skype is free to use when calling someone else with an account, and quite inexpensive to call mobiles and landlines in other countries. Having it on your phone gives you the portability and ease without adding much extra expense.
See? Doesn’t that make life just sound easier already? Go forth, and download.