7 Free and Essential Apps that you need for Traveling the World

Zoe off the Road!

Our Zoe Kinsella  headed off on her very own Outdoor Adventures! 

Unfortunately, that adventure was cut short by the Covid-19 Pandemic.  This is her last blog from the road and a list of all the Apps that we will need when we get back on the road again. For now, you have the  time to look at the wistfully and make plans for the future!

Welcome Back Zoe.

Going traveling? Download these free travel apps before you jet off!

With so many apps available out there for both Android and iPhones, how can we know which ones are worth the space they consume on our smartphones especially when every megabyte counts these days? Before I set off on my travels I had no idea of the array of travel apps that were available to me. Check out these 7 FREE travel apps that will have you wondering how you ever travelled before without them.

Essential Apps for Travelling the World

1. XE Currency Exchange

There are plenty of currency conversion apps out there, however, XE Currency is at the top of its league. Choose whatever currencies you’d like to convert between and the one you’d like to use right now. Select an amount and the equivalent will show in all of the other currencies you selected. You only need an internet connection initially to download rates when you first select a currency and after that, you can use offline. 

2. Google Translate

Probably one of the handiest apps you’ll download for your trip. Not all areas we travel to are used to tourists so they might not speak English.  Google translate is the perfect travel companion. You can download a language pack ahead of time and use it without needing to be connected to the internet. Simply type in what you are looking to say, choose your language and off you go. You can also take a photo, handwrite and voice record words or phrases to be translated. 

3. Google Maps

Where would we be without Google Maps? By far the best mobile navigation app available, you’ll find yourself using it daily, especially while you travel. Although you’ll need an internet connection to find new locations you can save maps for later use while offline. Google Maps allows you to star locations so while you’re out and about you can pull up your offline map using the GPS signal in your phone and see your starred locations. 

4. Trip Advisor

If you are like me and you love to read and also leave reviews of accommodations and attractions, then you just have to download the TripAdvisor app. The app is much more than a place to leave reviews. It provides all of the information available about accommodation, restaurants, activities, and flights. Its forums include information about worldwide destinations and different travel themes such as bargains, business, weddings, ecotourism and so much more. 

You can book through the app and also save what you like for later use.

5. Booking.com

Similar to TripAdvisor, Booking.com allows you to book accommodation at the lowest price. You receive further discounts and perks the more you use it too. Booking.com helps you make the most of your trip from finding great deals, renting cars, booking airport transfers, reading reviews and also supplying travel articles to help you make the most of your trip. 

6. Rome2Rio

Traveling can be daunting and no matter how much research you do you can often feel lost. Rome2Rio is one of the best apps I have learnt about while on the road.  Simply pop in your starting location and your intended destination, and it will pull up all of the different routes with times and pricing. The app highlights which routes they recommend. The fastest and the cheapest too! When traveling as a backpacker you can be in a different country every other week if you wanted so this app is a lifesaver in helping you get from place to place efficiently. 

7. Hopper

Who doesn’t love to bag a bargain when booking flights? That trip of a lifetime doesn’t have to cost a fortune and usually the most expensive thing is the flights. Here’s where Hopper comes in. Pop in where you are flying from and to, choose the number of passengers and Hopper will let you know what dates are the cheapest to fly on. You can also choose to watch a trip, so it will notify you when prices have gone up or down and will advise you on the best time to buy. 

Traveling the world and seeing new places is exciting but it can also be a bit scary and intimidating.  Help yourself out and download these apps so that nothing will stand between you and your perfect trip! 

The troubles with technology while traveling

Zoe on the Road

Our Zoe Kinsella has headed off on her very own Outdoor Adventures! 

Having assisted all kinds of travellers to access the very best in back-packing gear, she took to the trail herself.  Currently backpacking through South East Asia, Zoe shares her thoughts, musings and travel adventures with all of us poor folk left at home.  Thailand brought beautiful beaches & clear blue skies and fellow travellers with their noses stuck in phones.

Enjoy the sun Zoe!

As I walk the white sandy beaches of Koh Samui, Thailand soaking in every ray of the 34-degree heat I can’t help but feel lost in the moment. My head clear, my worries non-existent and my heart full. I can’t help but think of how lucky I am to be here. As my gaze is pulled from the clear blue ocean to the droves of people resting on the beach, it’s evident that while I seem to be one of few lost in the tranquillity of the island, others are lost in endless scrolling on smartphones.  Ignoring those next to them, their conversations stagnant and with the occasional tilt of a phone to show the other what they are looking at in order to show that they are acknowledging their existence and not out rightly ignoring them. 

This had me thinking of my trip to Thailand 6 years previously when I used to call my Mam on Viber on my iPod Touch whenever I got to a place with half-decent Wi-Fi. There was no lying on the beach scrolling through social media. Mainly because you couldn’t connect to Wi-Fi and this was before you could get a sim with data on it for next to nothing. The sad reality today is that people seem uninterested in each other’s company until a phone is taken out for a picture or video to post on social media. And this, to make people feel as if they are missing out on the ‘fun’ or that their lives are inadequate. Feeling as if you’re missing out is far more prominent nowadays because of posting on social media. People have become so obsessed with getting that Instagram picture or video that will make others wish they were them. But, have we become so consumed with this façade? As I look around the beach groups of friends sit together scrolling through their social media pages, not acknowledging each other until one shouts “get in a video” and all of a sudden everyone is animated, laughing, singing, dancing, and looking like they’re having the time of their lives. Designed to spark envy. In reality, they are doing the exact same thing as those at home except they’ve spent a fortune to sit on a beach leeching off terrible Wi-Fi to do it.

When I envisioned traveling, I imagined people would be chatty, almost intrusive, but in a way that backpackers can traditionally be. Conversations without inhibitions or fear of rejection. Don’t get me wrong, these people still exist but it can be harder to approach others if their heads are buried in their phones. You cut yourself off from meeting new people and instead feel more connected to your phone. Think about it, when was the last time you went for a coffee or out for a meal by yourself and didn’t have your phone in your hand as an armour of some sort, and to make you look less sad for being alone? 

One thing that has stood out while traveling, is the extremes people will go to bring along their phones and cameras on excursions in order to document the whole thing. Waterproof cases, dry bags, and selfie sticks certainly have their uses in keeping these safe and dry till you absolutely need them. It seems as if nobody can live in the moment anymore, mentally capturing images instead of physically recording them. Visiting some of the world’s natural wonders and unbelievably beautiful sights can really reset your state of mind but instead of realizing how fortunate you are to be there, tourists queue up to take the same photo one after the other to boast about on social media. Put the camera down and enjoy the moment. 

Technology isn’t all bad.

Besides the aforementioned, it has many positives especially while traveling. From maps to Netflix, online banking to booking accommodation and of course being able to Face Time your loved ones or chat instantly on WhatsApp or social media, technology takes the distance out of traveling making it easier to spread your wings without the feeling of being homesick or not knowing if that postcard from home will arrive.

troubles with technology while travelling

According to new research published by the communications watchdog ComReg, Irish people spend 4 and a half hours on their smartphones daily and only 10% of that is spent talking. Balance would seem to be the key.  If you are a solo traveller or even if traveling in a group, why not set certain rules regarding phone time. Try to stick to set times where it’s okay to be on your phone guilt-free and others times where phones aren’t allowed.   Meal times, for example, although this means forgoing the ubiquitous pic of your meal!  The key to reducing the amount of phone time and increasing the amount of time you spend living in the moment, is to acknowledge how much time technology is spent second screening your experiences and how much is spent actually experiencing!   Why not make the facade a reality. Stop pretending to have fun and actually have it! Lose your inhibitions, leave your phone at home, make memories and capture each moment with your hearts.

As for me, I am about to leave this screen time and soak up the sun, the sights, the sounds and the wonders of traveling abroad.  Just don’t expect any selfies !!!

8 Top tips for being environmentally conscious while travelling in third world & developing countries

Zoe on the Road

Our Zoe Kinsella has headed off on her very own Outdoor Adventures! 

Having assisted all kinds of travellers to access the very best in back-packing gear, she took to the trail herself.  Currently backpacking through South East Asia, Zoe shares her thoughts, musings and travel adventures with all of us poor folk left at home.  Thailand brought beautiful beaches & clear blue skies but unfortunately the amount of wasted plastic is of huge concern!

Travel well Zoe!

Environmentally conscious travelling

8 Top Tips for being environmentally conscious while travelling in third world & developing countries:

As I sit here getting lost in the sounds of nightlife creatures overlooking a peaceful pond at my hostel in Pai, Thailand I am struck by the disparity in lifestyles all around the Globe. Let’s face it we are all guilty of having an ‘I’m on holidays’ attitude while we’re away. From the amount of calories we consume to the lack of exercise we do. Regardless of whether we eat too much or move too little, we aren’t harming anything other than our bank accounts and our waistlines. The huge influx of tourism in third world and developing countries means that although they are flourishing in areas such as accommodation, food and drink and retail it also means that the level of waste and pollution being produced is taking a toll on the ecosystems of these countries.

In Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, Maya Bay, made famous in the 2000 movie “The Beach” featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, has been closed since June 2018 and is set to remain closed for a further two more years due to tourists flooding the beach and destroying the ecosystem. The closure of Maya Bay is part of a rejuvenation program aimed at reviving the area’s decimated corals. 

If we are being honest we have become too accustomed to blaming developing countries as the prime cause of plastic pollution due to their non existent recycling programmes. In reality, wealthier countries send their recyclable waste to developing countries branding them the cause of plastic pollution. Although, as a single traveller we cannot fix the world’s recycling issues or rejuvenate beaches whose coral have been diminished we can make simple changes on a personal level to help reduce the amount of waste we accumulate while travelling.

My top tips:

  1. Reuse your towels. Conserve water and reduce electricity and gas costs by reusing your towels. 
  2. Bring a reusable shopping bag away with you. These bags can be flat packed or stuff sacked to take up literally no space and can have a huge positive effect on plastic waste. 
  3. Ask for no straw or bring a reusable one with you. Can we please think of the turtles?!
  4. Bring a water bottle with you. Many airports now have refill water stations where you can refill your bottle to save some money and also save you from buying a single use plastic bottle. Win, win!
  5. Bring a Knife, Fork, Spoon set away with you. Okay, let me clarify, if you are boarding a plane do not, I repeat do not pack the knife from said set in your carry on luggage. However, the fork and spoon are 100% acceptable on board a flight. Yay!
  6. Ladies, get yourselves a menstrual cup. According to Menstrual Health Alliance India, one sanitary pad could take 500 to 800 years to decompose as the plastic used is non-biodegradable and can lead to health and environmental hazards. Reusable menstrual cups are durable and can last anywhere between 6 months to 10 years with proper care. 
  7. Although, it is cheap and easy to hop in a taxi and you tell yourself it’s too hot to walk, if it is within walking distance then walk it! You’ll thank yourself in the long run and so will your waistline and wallet.
  8. Get yourself some shampoo bars and bars of soap. Not only will you reduce the amount of plastic being wasted on packaging but you also reduce the risk of spillage in your backpack that could potentially ruin your year long’s wardrobe! The other handy part of bars of soap is that they smell delicious so store them in your shoes or throughout your rucksack to keep it smelling fresh. Check out the Irish company Suds Johnson who specify in natural handmade soaps and zero waste products.
Environmentally conscious travelling

Trying to reduce your carbon footprint can be a daunting task at the best of times. If you try to take on too much you can feel overwhelmed and as a result you’ll more than likely just give up. So, take it at your own pace and start by doing what you can and encourage others to follow suit. As for me, I will be stepping lightly, very lightly on this planet as I navigate the road between South East Asia and Indonesia while contemplating the responsibility we all have to ensure not just the survival, but the celebration of this wonderful world.