THE BEST TRAVEL APPS FOR ASIA
I’ll be forever grateful I’ve had the marvel of technology at my fingertips to use while travelling.
On my first few trips to Europe and Costa Rica over 10 years ago, I remember toting around maps, and asking for directions to each place before we left.
It meant our sightseeing was often rigid or based on the recommendations of hotel staff or a travel publication. Instagram didn’t exist yet, and forget about the robust forums or handy apps that I’m quick to reference during today’s adventures.
I’ll admit I do enjoy a random wander, and exploring a place without an agenda, but there’s no denying how easy technology has made travel.
Apps in particular have changed the travel game for me.
Whether it’s saving offline directions, translating words in another language, or checking currency conversions, apps have given me confidence to explore places I’ve never been on my own, knowing I have a world of information at my fingertips.
I’ve shared 12 apps I can’t travel without before.
Some of the tried and true go-to’s, like Google Translate, Skype, WhatsApp, Foursquare, Google, Google Maps and XE Currency still hold true, but I’ve found myself downloading a few more apps to help explore different countries across Asia. And, thus, a guide to travel apps for Asia you should download before your trip.
Five Travel Apps for Asia You Need to Download Before Your Trip
All hail the Uber of SE Asia.
Grab has been an actual lifesaver in situations where taxis were limited (airports), and in getting me from place to place without difficulty. And, usually, Grab rides are cheaper than taxis.
Although, there are situations where this isn’t true. For instance, sometimes, in Bangkok, taking a metered taxi is much cheaper for a short trip.
In addition to taxis, Grab also offers motorbike bookings in a few countries, namely Vietnam.
Scooting around on the back of a bike was a cheap, quick way for me to cover a lot of ground in Hanoi, Da Nang, Hoi An and Sai Gon.
To make it even better, Grab offers food delivery or discounts in a few countries- I’ve used it in Vietnam and Malaysia.
Some countries also let you earn rewards, which then convert back into discounts for food or rides. While in Vietnam, I earned enough points to cover over a week of free Grab bike rides. Budget travel win!
Similar to Grab, Go-Jek is a popular bike booking app in Indonesia, where Grab and Uber are less favourable.
Some people argue Go-Jek is no better, but it’s less taboo because it’s mostly bike bookings. Instead of letting people drive cars through the app, it partners with the a major taxi provider, Blue Bird. Which, essentially means, drivers don’t end up missing out on as much revenue as they would if it were Uber or Grab.
Although, you do need to be careful using Go-Jek. It’s still a bit controversial since quoted taxi rates are fixed, which means drivers miss a chance to determine pricing. Better for tourists, but arguably not great for the community in which you’re visiting.
The Indonesian taxi debate is a complex one with history, but basically boils down to communities not favouring ride share apps because it takes away from the money taxi drivers earn and contribute to their families and their community.
I used Go-Jek a few times in Canggu before I learned how to ride a scooter, and appreciated how cheap and easy it was to use. It’s a good option if you’re making a longer errand, as I did once to Denpasar, and don’t want to drive that far on your own.
However, be prepared to wait upwards of 10-15 minutes for your Go-Jek, it’s not overly present in Bali, and often takes riders time to get to you.
And, I’d only advise using Go-Jek in Canggu or Seminyak. There are way more signs across Ubud, warning visitors to not use the service.
Local Taxi Apps, like My Blue Bird in Bali
I’ve always been a fan of booking taxis in apps vs. hailing one off the street. Even if it ends up taking more time because you have to wait for the driver, you minimise the risk of driver not understanding where you’re heading, and often get a better rate because it’s fixed cost than having to haggle for the driver to turn on the meter.
Do a quick Google search before you visit any country in Asia to see what’s standard. If Grab isn’t, they’ll likely have a local taxi app you can download to use.
Often, you will need a local number to validate your account. If you don’t have your own SIM, try asking your hotel or Airbnb host if they’d let you use theirs- in my opinion, never hurts to ask.
I bank online with Revoult (as well as offline with Barclays in the UK and Chase in the US) , but prefer to use my Revoult card when travelling for card purchases and cash withdrawals.
The exchange rate is better, it’s often free to withdraw, and I feel safer using it, knowing I control how much money goes in and out of the account since it’s essentially a top-up model. Read: Nearly impossible to skim since I never keep much money in it at any given time.
Another reason I love Revoult is their three day worldwide card replacement feature.
It’s perfect for long-term travel- already in Asia, I’ve used it twice to get new cards in Thailand and Indonesia after I accidentally left a card in an ATM, and then had a card stolen.
There are plenty of online banking options out there, so I’d recommend researching a few and finding one that works for you.
Local Telco App, like MyTelkomsel in Bali
If you’re travelling with an unlocked phone, make sure you research which SIM card provider is best before you enter a new country. Sometimes, they’ll all be similar, and other times, there’ll be a clear winner.
In Bali, MyTelkomsel has the best 4G coverage of the island, and other spots in Indo- there’s no comparing XL or the others.
As an added bonus, My Telkomsel has as a great app that lets you check usage and top up your plan on the go.
What are your favourite travel apps for Asia? Have you ever downloaded an app specific to the country or place you visited?
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