Southeast Asia is a backpacker’s paradise due to its vibrant culture, beautiful scenery, and all-around low cost. It’s no surprise that the countries comprising Southeast Asia have seen a huge increase in travelers over the last few years. Thanks to smartphones and their associated apps, backpacking foreign countries has become much more accessible. For Southeast Asia specifically, there are a handful of apps that are essential to ensuring you have a safe and efficient trip. Continue reading below to learn five of the most useful smartphone apps for backpacking Southeast Asia.
Figuring out the cheapest and easiest way to navigate the major cities of Southeast Asia can be tricky at first. There are sometimes several options that you’ll be confronted with upon arriving at your city of choice. Taxi drivers are often the first people to hassle you when getting off your bus or plane, but they can be expensive, as their rates are dependant on the amount of time spent driving. Tuk Tuks, or motorbike carriages, are also a very popular mode of transportation, but they are relatively expensive because they have more of a novelty appeal to tourists. Both Tuk Tuks and Taxis are also in a good position to rip off unsuspecting tourists by finding ways to charge more. For instance, a Taxi driver can take a longer route to your destination so that their meter charges more, or a Tuk Tuk driver can name a price much higher than the average rate. Instead, one of the easiest ways to ensure your prices stay reasonable and consistent is to use the ride-hailing app Grab.
The way Grab works is very similar to popular services like Uber or Lyft. You simply load up the Grab app, select a destination and pick-up point, then wait for a driver to accept your request. Once a driver is chosen it will display their photo, name, car model, license plate number, and rating. A good tip is to always make sure the information on your app matches up with the car that arrives so that you don’t get scammed.
Prior to confirming your pick-up, you will see what the price of your ride will be. There is also a way to change what type of vehicle to be picked up in, and some options will be cheaper than others. For the most part, the price of your ride is fixed, but sometimes the driver will tack on small fees such as highway tolls or airport checkpoints. These fees are usually very cheap, but make sure you are aware of the possibility.
When signing up with Grab you’ll have the option of adding a payment method. Unfortunately, for many countries (including the U.S.), most digital payment methods may not be accepted. Grab does allow cash payments though, and this is the option that majority of travelers end up going with.
While Grab is easily the most convenient way to navigate the cities of Southeast Asia, it is not available everywhere. In the more rural or smaller cities, your only options may be to either walk or utilize Taxi and Tuk Tuk services. This is completely fine as long as you are aware of any potential scams.
Finding the right accommodation can also be an overwhelming task. In most cities, there are hostels and hotels aplenty, but sometimes the hard part is knowing which one to choose ahead of time. Agoda offers an intuitive and efficient way to find accommodations just about anywhere you go. You can perform a general search of a specified area and toggle some of the filter settings to hone in on exactly your type of lodging. All of the accommodations presented in Agoda have pictures, user ratings, and reviews. These can provide fantastic insight into things you otherwise would not have noticed at first glance.
Another great perk of Agoda is that it often lists the cheapest available prices. When compared to other methods for finding accommodations, Agoda almost never fails in providing the best deals. This is why the app is great for backpackers who are traveling on a tight budget. Agoda also accepts a wide range of payment methods, including PayPal.
Staying within budget and saving money is crucial to backpackers who either don’t want to be stranded in a foreign country or would at least like a little money to come home to. If this is you, then Trail Wallet is an excellent addition to your backpacking app arsenal.
Simply put, the app allows you to define a range of dates for your trip and set a budget for it. Throughout your trip, it is your job to input everything you spend into the app. It may seem like a daunting task to record every purchase you make, but it quickly becomes an effortless habit. As you continue to feed the app data, you will get to see additional metrics such as the percentage of your budget spent, your daily average spending, and how much money you have remaining for the day. Several different currencies are supported so you don’t have to worry about converting each purchase into a single one. Also featured in the app are graphs and pie charts which offer a more visual way to view your budget data, including a breakdown of each of your spending categories.
Being aware of exactly how much your spending each day is a great money-managing habit in general. Trail Wallet will allow you to backpack through Southeast Asia in a financially informed way.
One of the very first things you’ll need to do when entering a new country is dealing with the currency exchange. Backpackers who are trekking through multiple countries in a single trip will have to learn a new currency multiple times. Knowing the exchange rate of the local currency will allow you to effectively navigate the mercantile world and not look like a fool.
Due to the low cost of travel between Southeast Asian countries, it is very common for backpackers to visit several of the region’s countries in one go. XE Currency is a simple way to keep track of the exchange rate of each country as compared to your native currency. All you need to do is search the app for the currencies you will be encountering during your travels, including your native currency. On the main screen, you will see a list of the currencies you’ve selected. At the very top of the main screen, you can set a primary currency, and this will be the currency your conversions are based on. Altering the amount of the primary currency will show you the equivalencies of the other currencies on your list in real time.
Whenever you’re presented with a large bill that you cannot easily convert in your head, just pull out your smartphone and load up the XE Currency app to do the conversion for you. This will not only save time but will empower you to understand how much money you’re really spending in reference to your native currency.
With so much to see and do in Southeast Asia, it’s hard to filter through it all and decide on what exactly to do. Between choosing restaurants, deciding on an activity, or just looking for second opinions on anything, it’s nice to have a go-to source full of user-generated information. Arguably the best all-around travel app out there, Trip Advisor is essential for backpacking Southeast Asia.
Searching for places to eat is one of the hardest things to do while backpacking. Relying on local recommendations and hearsay can be very serendipitous, but sometimes it’s nice to just know that where you’re about to go is good quality. Trip Advisor allows you to conduct wide searches of eateries within your vicinity and will show you user ratings and reviews to help you narrow down your choices. All of the restaurants that appear on the app are categorized by the type of cuisine they offer, the price, and what dietary restrictions they cater to. These categories can be used to filter for the types of food you’re in the mood for in that moment. And for all of the vegans and vegetarians out there, this is a great way to discover hidden gems that meet your dietary needs.
Aside from restaurants, Trip Advisor is also a great way to search for what other travelers have to say about certain activities or hotels you’re considering. The forum section is a useful place to ask general questions pertaining to just about anything. Trip Advisor also has a strong social media aspect to it that incentivizes you to tailor your own reviews and connect with other travelers in different ways.
With these five apps as starting points, you are ready to begin your journey backpacking through Southeast Asia. Be sure to supplement these apps with anything else you may find useful. Happy travels!