Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself. - Harvey Fierstein
Many people have wondered how I’m able to travel to so many countries without having an unlocked iPhone, which I purposely wouldn’t pay for a prepaid SIM card in each country anyways because I never know when I’m picking up and leaving, plus there are so many great communication and other various apps to utilize for free on Wi-Fi or offline that I’ve found it quite easy to get by and continue to save money by not adding this to my expense list. So in no particular order these are a list of 12 free (keyword being FREE) apps that I have found to be extremely useful as a backpacker and budget traveler, please note that all logo icons are © if their respective companies:
Extremely invaluable app to use when traveling internationally and it doesn’t matter if you are going to one country for a week or traveling through multiple countries. As you are able to connect via Wi-Fi you will receive the most accurate currency conversions and when you are deal with things in comparison to the U.S. Dollar and are looking to calculate ₡500 (Costa Rican Colons) to $1 or ₩1,062 (Korean Wons) to $1 this will assist you greatly in bartering or just knowing what you are spending or should be paying for things. For me, I never enter a country without having an idea of what the international currency exchange rate should be or is.
Exactly what it is described as, and while any translation app is not perfect it is a valuable tool to have. I also suggest downloading free versions of other more specific translation apps depending on the area of the world you are in. For example I had a number of English to Spanish dictionary and translation apps while in Latin America and have changed them out for others while in Asia.
This is great on a number of levels and most people are familiar with it so there’s really not a lot to say about it, other than useful. Period.
I’ve noticed that while HostelBoookers also owns HW, this app is better as it tends to show more hostels and the navigation function is better in my opinion. For whatever reason I have checked both HB and HW on a number of occasions and have noticed that HW shows more places that are listed at cheaper prices, and also feel that more hostels are on this site.
Anyone familiar with this app understands the usefulness, and while traveling knowing that you can save or retrieve secure documents is always a welcome peace of mind, especially the fact that it uses a 256-bit AES encryption and two-step verification.
Once again this is an excellent resource to search for hosts or social meetups and activities while traveling. This can be utilized either while you are in the area or prior to arriving and since the idea behind CS is a global network of hosts and surfers connecting for free it will certainly save you money on your traveling.
This is by far one of the best apps when it comes to finding cheap flights. As I mentioned in early blog topics about saving money–always taking time for research days–this app or website allows you to search from a broad origination location (an entire countries aiports) to the entire world as your destination. It also does not limit you to search for flights within a plus or minus 3-day period but you can search for the entire month or the entire year. This is how I realized that the cheapest time to fly from LAX to Thailand was the third week in August, but again I took the time to compare against every other travel site (Kayak, Travelocity, Expedia, even specific airline websites, etc).
This has been used multiple times, whether I’m packing up early in the morning and try not to turn on the light in the dorm waking everyone else up or when the power goes out (which occurred often in Central America).
The best overall international communication tool I feel since it can be used both for video (when the Wi-Fi signal is strong enough in both locations) as well as for just talking by turning the video function off.
Once again most people I’ve met traveling have Facebook but this app is great as it just loads the necessary communication aspect and doesn’t take the unnecessary time to load all of the ridiculous notifications and game requests.
An extremely valuable resource as Wi-Fi hot spots are not always the easiest to locate, especially in some of the more underdeveloped countries I’ve spent time in as well as First World countries that have an abundant of Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the metro areas.
There are a handful of other communication apps out there (WhatsApp, Kakao, Viber, Voxer, etc) but for me I enjoy Pinger and Google Voice because they provide me with a dedicated U.S. phone number. The difference is that Pinger is similar to Skype as you can add monetary credits to this app to make calls, however I use it to text family and friends back home to organize a time to Skype. As long as you use the app (Pinger) at least once in a 30-day period you will maintain this dedicated number. Google Voice is great but MUST be setup while in the United States. Also I’ve noticed that there are a handful of other communication apps specific to areas of the world that are free, such as Kakao in Korea (everyone uses this), but in order to download it for free you must have a number to receive the SMS code to actually use it, which is the case for other apps and other things. So a must have in my opinion.
My alarm is blaring that absolutely atrocious sound right next to my ear, as I didn’t want to miss my 6am wake-up call since I was meeting my mom and Soon-Young, our volunteer translator, at their hotel at 7am. Still groggy and sleep-deprived I crawl out of bed and head directly for the shower. I can’t tell you how thankful I am to be in a First World country that has running hot water in abundance, especially since it is Autumn here and the mornings and evenings can be quite nippley. Yeah, I figure showing up to meet my mother looking like I’m smuggling peanuts through my shirt wouldn’t be the best morning impression. Even giving myself almost 45-minutes before I need to leave Mugunghwa house for the 15-minute walk, I still feel as though I am frantically running late. I do the standard double-check of my things since I have my overnight bag with me to stay in Iksan over the weekend and after a quick cup of coffee I’m out the door. The cool morning air wakes me up even more, and the quiet street leading down our small neighborhood to the busier main road is a serene feeling. Even as the sun is shining and there are few clouds to disrupt the clear blue skies, I already can sense that today is going to be a great day.
When I arrive at the hotel, I enter the extremely small lobby where no one seems to be present and walk up the very narrow staircase to the third floor. As I get to her room, I notice that she is staying in room #303, and think this is only fitting, as this number is the area code for Denver–my hometown. Represent B! While their hotel room is the typical Asian-size of being small, there is a nice pillow-top queen size bed, large flat screen television, and a full bathroom and they have told me that they are well rested, unlike myself, and enjoyed the hotel. Looking at our bus ticket that departs at 8:40am, I begin to calculate our route to the bus terminal on the best free subway app in Seoul, Jihachul. According to the information it will take us around 35-minutes to reach our destination with only one subway line transfer and passing through 12 stations. First, we have about a 10-minute walk to the Hognik subway station and when we arrive at the bus terminal we have little options for breakfast, and are left eating McDonalds, since we know it will be 6-hours or more before we arrive in Yeosu–the city I was born in.
The next place we visit is also hard for her, but she shows me the area where she and my birthfather lived for some time, which is also nearby his parents home. She tells me that if they were still alive, particularly my birthfather’s mother, that she would certainly want to meet me. At a loss for words with so much of my past being answered, the translator does tell me that my mother is glad that I am not asking questions about my birth father. I tell her that out of respect from what I had learned, primarily from our first meeting on Tuesday, she preferred that I did not try to make contact with him, and with that I had decided I would continue to respect her wishes. I know that I am leaving many things out, it’s just that it’s a very personal and emotional situation that I like to keep private, but I still enjoy sharing what I feel comfortable with doing. Our last and final stop for the evening, since our train departs from Yeosu at 6:54pm, is the area that I was born. Unfortunately since there has been an overhaul of new construction, the existing medical facility is no longer standing and even mores so after more than 30-years it is difficult to even pin point exactly where the structure may have stood. While many people know where they were born and had these answers for the entirety of their life, as adoptees, it’s very difficult to not feel certain about some of the most basic pieces of information, but this day has been a very important one that has brought a significant part of closure in my life.