Your phone is a powerful device for travel planning, saving money, and communicating with fellow travellers thanks to the incredible range of apps available. How did we ever travel without one? Solo travellers, in particular, benefit thanks to the ability to find cheaper hotel rooms without single supplements, meet other people travelling alone, and break communication barriers
This is what my apps folder on my mobile phone looks like. This is a pared-down version from what it used to look like – two or three email apps with 50 travel apps. Here are some of the best apps for travel that I’ve discovered over the years.
Google Translate is invaluable in situations where there’s a language barrier and hand signals and miming doesn’t work. Of course, these kinds of situations can lead to some great travel stories and sometimes it won’t matter if you’re not understood – a smile and you’re on your way. But at other times, like when you’re booking an important train journey, trying to find your bus among hundreds of others, or ordering food that is actually cooked, Google translate can save you time, money, and even a trip to the doctor.
There are other advantages too, like the potential for learning a new language or improving a current one.
The first thing a traveller contemplates upon arrival at an airport is how to get to from the airport terminal to their final destination in the city. If you’re like me, then you are a little suspicious of taxi drivers hawking business outside of the terminals.
You also probably know that sometimes the going rate for a cab from the airport is inflated by the taxi companies in the terminal. This isn’t a hard and fast rule but one thing’s for certain, Grab taxis are always cheaper than taking a cab at the airport or hailing on on the street. Like Uber, Grab is THE taxi app for Asia
I don’t see the problem with eating alone. Sometimes, I welcome it. But there’s nothing like sharing a meal with good people. Although EatWith can’t guarantee “good people”, it can offer a shared dining experience for people visiting new countries. For solo travellers, group meals like this are great for not only meeting new people but for making meal times a social activity that doesn’t involve hanging around a bar and drinking too much.
EatWith bills itself as a food experience and thanks to the great app, you can easily find a meal with new friends that will turn your solo travel dinners into group events.
Like EatWith, BonAppetour takes the concept of connecting travellers with local hosts for dining experiences. Most of the events take place in the homes of local people who love cooking for visitors. The cultural experience of meeting people over food is worth more than the entrance fee.
BonAppetour is only available on iOS currently.
“We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf.”
Agoda is one of the few online booking services that tries to get you cheaper rates as a solo traveler.
You can also book airport transfers, car rentals, ferries, flights, and things to do (partnering with Get Your Guide – see below)
If you don’t find what you want on Agoda’s airport transfers service, try KiwiTaxi. It’s a fast-growing platform for booking taxi transfers securely to and from airports and hotels.
Travelling alone can be, well, lonely. And while many people enjoy the freedom and solitude (myself included), it’s great to be able to meet up with like-minded individuals. Meetup is the perfect app for finding your tribe in whichever city you happen to be in.
If you care about air quality then this app will help you avoid days of heavily polluted air in cities around the world. Air Visual can be a life-saver (literally) in places like Hanoi, Bangkok, Beijing, Jakarta, most of India, parts of East Africa and the middle east. You can set up personalised alerts for when pollution levels rise above levels that are hazardous to health.
Google Maps is pretty good at showing me how to get from one place to another. But it’s really only suited to journey’s involving one form of transport. What if the fastest, best, or cheapest way of travelling between two places is by car, ferry, and train? This is where Google Maps is limited in usefulness. Rome2Rio, on the other hand, shows you all of the different ways to travel between two locations on the globe. It even provides links to train, ferry, and airlines timetables and booking systems.
Of course, no journey would be complete without the ubiquitous Google Maps. There are a few contenders to the site of best maps app for mobile phones. But it’s hard for them to compete with Google’s resources.
This app might look like a direct competitor to Google Maps, and in a way it is. But it takes the concept of the map and adds a new layer on top. Map information is also sourced from the crowd-sourced OpenStreetMap, a type of Wikipedia map.
Maps.me is an alternative map resource that you can use in conjunction with Google Maps to plan your journey and discover new attractions and routes while you travel. Maps.me offers extra information on attractions, tourist routes, and things to do. Anyone can contribute and there’s no spying on your movements. It’s easier to label places and create travel itineraries on this app than on Google Maps.
Tripit is a travel organiser app for web and mobile. TripIt organises your travel arrangements in a neat, easy to read, and consistent format. It’s like the now-defunct Google Trips product but it has some extra features that make upgrading to Tripit Pro worth it.
The app offers seat tracking, alternative flight options, cheap flights monitoring, automated travel itinerary imports, and more.
Don’t leave home without it!
If you’re looking for locals to guide you around the city, ShowAround should be one of the first places to look. Most of the service providers are amateur locals, so prices for tours and city guides are lower than similar services by professionals. But what makes it interesting is that you can often find people with interests in music, architecture, wine, or food that will happily introduce you to the important landmarks in their city related to your favourite subject.
I’ve used this service in places like Ukraine and Georgia and recommend it highly. Rates are per hour and some are even free. Perfect for the independent solo traveller who would like to meet locals and not break the bank.
Available on the App Store and Google Play
Get Your Guide
Tours are often much cheaper for groups. Single travellers get poor deals because they must organise tours by themselves or join other groups and sometimes wait for the other members to do whatever it is they have to do. But there’s a solution. GetYourGuide offers a á la carte menu of tours in thousands of worldwide destinations. GetYourGuide is essentially a marketplace for experiences (similar to Airbnb’s “Experiences” offering).
Ever found yourself wandering around a city with a huge backpack with nowhere to leave it? Envious of couples when one person sits with the bags while the other walks up flights of stairs or scouts the location for eateries? It’s hard to do when you’re travelling solo.
Well, stashing your bags in a safe location is easier now thanks to Stasher. Use the Stasher app to book on-demand storage for your bags in a growing number of worldwide cities (over 1000 currently). Your bags and valuables are secure and insured. Why did nobody think of this before?
Like a mixture of EatWith, Get Your Guide, and ShowAround, WithLocals aims to provide travellers with the best private tours and activities with locals. WithLocals focuses on private, personalised tours. The company is attempting to move people away from mass tourism and into more immersive and intimate touristic activities.
Available on the App Store and Google Play
Solo travellers are often single people. It goes with the territory. Maybe it’s the lifestyle that keeps them single but there’s help at hand for people that would like to find long-term relationships with other like-minded individuals. If you love to travel and are looking for a soulmate that loves to travel, check out FairyTrail app.
Marketed as the thee best dating app rated by digital nomads and travellers, FairyTrail connects solo travellers with other travellers through group adventure activities. Small group adventures lead by top travel guides are key to making the experience not only enjoyable but safe for all parties.
While not strictly speaking a solo travel app, Eighty Days appeals to travellers who like to make spur of the moment travel plans and move fast. The app finds you incredibly cheap multi-flight itineraries around Europe. Combing the power of low-cost connections with a powerful search function, you can find multi-stop open-jaw trips for the price of a single flight across the continent.
When you’re travelling solo, you also don’t have to worry about buying two seats on a plane or train. This makes the app even more suitable for grabbing those bargains.