The latest mobile phones are a versatile tool for travellers. Yes, we possibly use them too much, but with the top backpacker apps you’ll have instant access to essential info. But what’s the best backpacking app?
To answer this question let’s look at six backpacking needs: navigation, transport, language, accommodation, community and safety. From this we can get closer to working out the best apps for backpackers.
Top 13 backpacker apps
Backpacking means different things depending on where you are in the world. In North America it means hiking with a backpack carrying all your gear to camp overnight.
But in the rest of the world backpacking means to travel, usually for a prolonged period, with all your clothing etc in a backpack. For this article we are going with the broader travelling definition of backpacking.
So whether you’re going to Thailand for a month, taking a year out in Africa or doing a round the world trip these are the apps you should download. Not only will they make your travels easier but also more fun.
Navigation and mapping
There’s three main contenders that will be useful Google Maps, MAPS.ME and Citymapper. Before you even start using them remember: you don’t need to have Wi-Fi access to find your way around.
With Google Maps you can download city maps for 30 days. Before you leave get as many as you can and cover all the obvious routes – and those for day trips you fancy. MAPS.ME offers similar offline functionality, but is ‘lighter’ in that maps won’t take up as much space on your phone.
After having praised Google Maps for access off line, when it comes to getting around a city it’s just clunky.
When using Wi-Fi Citymapper is much better in showing you the most important piece of information you need when finding your way around: Which way you are facing! You’ve also offline access where you can save your journeys and it pulls in public transport options in a simple interface.
What’s the best backpacking app for navigation at a street level? I’d say Citymapper has it.
Transport and connections
As a backpacker you’re a nomad. As much as you might like a place, you’ll soon be moving on. Rome2Rio does a great job of quickly sorting local and international travel connections. It also helps you book them.
Currently it’s only selling tickets in 15 countries (mainly European countries) but expect this to increase (coming soon are South America and Australia).
You can also see hotel recommendations – just in case you want to treat yourself.
There’s many to choose from but Rome2Rio is definitely one of the top backpacker apps out there.
Language and Communication
Duolingo is an easy way to learn a language before you leave. Forget dull language classes at school it’s way more interactive and visual.
Still, what if you’ve not had the time or are just staying in a place for a short period of time? Google translate is indispensable. One of the best functions is the ability to photograph text and then have it translated.
Everyone likes to share their travel adventures. What’s interesting is there are new ways to do this that are specific to backpacking and adventure travel.
Alpacr App allows you to publish mini reports of your recent adventures and connect with local adventurers. This second function is key to backpacking, especially if you’re on a solo trip or just want to get more social.
Not only will you be able to see how far you are from other backpackers, you can also quickly spot their range of adventurous and sporting interests – and read up on their recent trips in your new destination.
The best backpacking app for sharing with a community? Alpacr App has it.
Accommodation and Booking
There’s lots of booking apps, but these are arguably the top backpacker apps for finding budget digs. With Hostelbookers there’s over 30,000 hotels, hostels and BnBs all with reviews for you to check out before you book. Hostelworld has been updated more recently and claims more reviews and locations.
As these two get all the press I need to mention some of the others, especially the lesser known Dorms.com which focuses on youth hostels and the website only Hostelz.com. Other booking apps are also worth considering, you just need to work with them to find budget accommodation.
What’s the best backpacking app for accommodation? Mmmm, there’s no clear favourite here.
For personal safety it’s essential you let people know where you are, or routes you will be taking. Just as important is the ability to message anyone at anytime.
To be fair, most social media platforms have this covered. But check in advance if the country you are heading to has any restrictions on social networks.
To help you quickly contact authorities in other countries, take a look at TripWhistle Global SOS. It has more than 70 emergency numbers covering the essential emergency contacts across the world. At a touch you can call and store your location and co-ordinates.
If you’re concerned about online security it’s worth looking more closely at VPNs. A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. They have been around for some time but often overlooked. The best backpacking app may still not encrypt your data whereas a VPN adds an additional level of protection via an encrypted connection.
Not all countries have secure internet – and even those that do often like to grab your info from public Wi-Fi. On the flip side, it’s not always legal to use a VPN so read up before you decide. VPNs are all generally paid and there’s a few to consider including Nord VPN and Surfshark.
The best backpacking app?
Well, there’s never going to be just one. There’s a load of top backpacker apps and it’s worth thinking more about your general needs, than hoping just one will do it. So get downloading!
If you re interested in getting adventurous then check out our article about the best adventure travel apps. Also take a look at our adventure holiday discounts as you could save a fortune on your next trip.