A curated list of the best travel apps, from the latest tools that keep us connected to old favourites we’ve used for years
As travel writers who have been to over a hundred countries, we are often asked about the best travel apps that we can’t do without.
For a long time, we stuck to old and reliable apps that performed basic functions like looking up locations or booking accommodation. These classics still serve a purpose but as technology has advanced, we’ve discovered a number of new apps that provide unique services perfect for travellers.
If you’re looking to refresh your travel apps, have a look at our curated list, gleaned from a hundred countries of travel and updated for 2024.
Best travel apps: our latest downloads
When we first started travelling, many of these travel apps didn’t exist. These days, we use them just as much as the golden oldies.
1. Nomad eSIM
Connecting to reliable and affordable internet on the road used to be a convoluted and potentially costly ordeal. Secure hotspots can be few and far between, data roaming can be eye-wateringly expensive and pocket wifi devices can be impractical.
Nomad eSIM eliminates the headache of buying a physical SIM card and is much cheaper. It works remotely, meaning you don’t have to remove your current SIM card so there’s no risk of loss or damage or losing your number. Instead, once you’ve chosen your package, all you have to do is activate a pre-installed eSIM profile on your device via their mobile app and you’re good to go.
Nomad eSIM works in over 165 countries, offers regional plans including Europe, North America and Asia among others and comes well-reviewed on Trustpilot. Most modern phones are compatible with eSIMs but you can check specific devices here.
Viator is the leading marketplace for tours and activities with over 300,000 experiences available via their app. This includes everything from simple day tours to more extreme multi-day adventures.
As well as tours and trips, the app also features access to tickets offline, the ability to modify or cancel bookings and a messaging service for communicating directly with guides.
We have tried GetYourGuide but had bad experiences with them including a missold tour, poor customer service and refusal to issue a refund. Personally, we believe Viator is more reliable – something that is reflected in its Trustpilot rating.
We follow a plant-based diet so find HappyCow really helpful when we’re travelling. Founded in 1999 as an online resource, the app now helps people on the go find vegetarian and vegan food options at over 200,000 restaurants, cafes and grocery stores around the world.
It’s easy to search for eateries using the various filters as well as connect with other users and get inspiration for your own recipes. There are over one million reviews to help you make your choice with more than 1.5 million user-generated photos.
Covering over 100,000 trails and with 3.5 million downloads, AllTrails is one of the most popular hike-planning apps available. The free version allows you to create your own trails with GPS tracking, photos and text, and save or share them with others.
The annual membership gives you access to the premium version which allows you to save routes offline and design and print custom maps.
If you’re travelling in a group then Splitwise is the easiest way to share expenses with friends and family and stop worrying about “who owes who”.
It’s super easy to add shared expenses such as meals and taxi fares and then at the end of the trip, the app works out who owes whom what. With integrated payments such as Venmo, PayPal and Paytm, you can quickly transfer what’s owed.
The app supports seven languages and over 100 currencies and is used by millions of people. It can also be used to organise shared bills for households so has the potential to be useful at home too.
What3words is the easiest way to communicate your location, especially if you do not have phone reception. The app provides a human-friendly way of giving the same information as a 16-digit GPS number or grid reference. If you are lost, for example, it’s much easier to remember and quicker to say three words than geographical coordinates.
The app works by dividing the world into 57 trillion three-metre squares, each with a unique three-word address making it more accurate than a street address. Its success has led police in the UK to urge everyone to download the smartphone app which they say has already saved several lives.
Perhaps not everyone is as obsessed with mountains as we are but this app still has broad appeal. PeakVisor instantly recognises the name of any mountain peak that comes into view using a combination of your phone’s camera, location tracking and a high-precision 3D mountain panorama.
It provides a detailed profile for each peak including altitude, topographic prominence, mountain range and the national parks or reserves it may belong to, as well as photos and relevant entries on Wikipedia.
8. Weather Live
Weather Live is probably the best weather app available across both platforms, particularly when it comes to the outdoors. Some of the best features are the stylish live weather scenes that reflect real-world conditions and the fully customisable layout.
There is the standard meteorological data including wind direction and speed, humidity, precipitation, pressure and visibility as well as the very impressive satellite worldwide cloud and rain maps enhanced with animated weather radar (US only) allowing users to quickly see what weather is coming their way.
Duolingo was founded in 2011. Since then, it has become the most popular way to learn a language and one of the world’s most downloaded education apps. In 2023, it was even named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential companies.
Duolingo has over 100 language courses for 42 distinct languages. Courses cover the world’s top five most spoken languages as well as smaller, endangered languages such as Hawaiian, Navajo and Scottish Gaelic. Its bite-sized lessons can be completed in just five minutes and include reading, writing, listening and speaking exercises.
10. First Aid by British Red Cross
The British Red Cross First Aid app teaches users vital first aid skills that could be useful when travelling, particularly if you plan on taking part in winter sports or other higher-risk activities.
The easy-to-use app works offline by providing pre-loaded content with access to safety information and expert advice. There are videos, diagrams, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice to help users deal with and prepare for a range of emergencies.
The best travel apps last the test of time and for good reason: they work. We’ve been using the following for years now and expect to be using them for many more to come.
11. Google Maps
This old stalwart is a must-have for any traveller. There are other navigation apps out there but none – not even Apple’s own mapping service – come close to matching Google Maps.
Over 220 countries and territories have been charted along with hundreds of millions of businesses and locations. There is real-time GPS navigation, traffic and public transport options as well as the latest information on businesses, pharmacies and institutions including business hours and user-generated reviews.
Features such as offline maps to help you navigate without an internet connection and indoor maps to quickly find your way inside big places like airports are particularly useful for travellers.
12. Google Translate
Google Translate has everything: text, visual and voice input atop one of the more sophisticated translation offerings on the market. The app can translate 133 languages using a range of smartphone features including the camera, microphone and pre-existing photographs.
Travellers can download a language pack onto their phone for offline use, translate speech simultaneously using the ‘Transcribe’ function and translate text in images instantly by pointing their camera.
It may not be a travel app per se, but WhatsApp is essential when we’re on the road. On our last big trip, we spent a month travelling through Central America where we used WhatsApp almost daily to organise tours, transport and accommodation.
Using the messaging service in conjunction with Google Translate we were able to rent a golf cart in Belize, arrange our cross-border shuttle services to visit the Maya ruins of Copán in Honduras and warn our hotel in Tikal that we were running late.
14. XE currency converter
With over 70 million downloads worldwide, XE is the universal currency app of choice. With the ability to monitor up to 10 currencies, set rate alerts to receive notifications, access live exchange rates and historical charts and transfer money internationally, it offers more than enough for the casual user.
We have found it easy and reliable to use during our trips around the world. The only downside is that you (still!) need to remember to download a specific currency when you have an internet connection. Otherwise, it won’t work.
We’ve been using Booking.com for over a decade and, as such, make the most of discounts and upgrades via the Genius loyalty programme. We have tried other accommodation apps but with a simple interface, comprehensive listings and a reliable review system, it’s our favourite way to book accommodation.
A range of handy filters, 24-hour customer service in more than 40 languages, mobile-only discounts and no credit or debit card fees make Booking one of the best travel apps going.
If you’re on a budget or just looking for more social digs, then Hostelworld is a safe bet. It is the world’s leading travel app for backpackers. As well as the 16,500 hostels in 180 countries, the latest iteration of the app has friend-making features to make it easier to meet other like-minded travellers.
Features include functions to connect with fellow hostelers such as the ability to join local chat groups based on your interests, view travellers’ profiles and see exactly who will be at your hostel during your stay.
Skyscanner is our go-to app for booking flights. We have dabbled with other platforms but have never found anything as intuitive as Skyscanner.
The app features smart filters to sort by flight duration, airline, number of stops, travel class, departure and arrival times. We also find the calendar view and price alerts particularly helpful. You can also book hotels and hire cars through the platform although we’ve not used either.
There is no denying Uber has made travel more convenient. It is the world’s largest ride-hailing company and is available in over 10,000 cities in 70 countries. There is no haggling with pushy drivers or struggling to find the right change. Instead, you know exactly what you’re paying and it’s all done electronically. Safety features such as the ability to share your trip details are also good for travellers.
However, the company is not without its controversies and has come under fire for evading local regulations and wage disputes among other offences. On the plus side, the company has committed to becoming a fully electric, zero-emission platform by 2040. The company has also branched out into food delivery and electric scooter hire.
Bolt is essentially Uber but not as widespread and often cheaper. In some destinations, particularly in Eastern Europe, it may be the only ride-hailing service available. Founded in Estonia in 2013 by 19-year-old college dropout Markus Villig, the app has turned into an unexpected success by challenging Uber’s dominance in Europe and Africa.
Bolt still has some catching up to do as it’s currently only available in 45 countries but in those countries, it is often the primary ride-hailing service. Like Uber, it also offers scooters and food delivery.
Peter jokes that Kia has an unwavering and unwarranted faith in TripAdvisor. However, it was the Star of India restaurant in La Paz, Bolivia, that first proved her right. Despite numerous terrible reviews we decided to risk it anyway – and it was indeed terrible.
Two months later, we ate at a paella place in the tiny town of Aregua in Paraguay. The morally dubious owners charged us double what they had quoted for a paella (which ended up costing $40 USD). Later, we checked TripAdvisor and at least five people had commented on a similar experience!