Many things became easier and cheaper in the age of the internet. Travelling and a nomadic lifestyle are no exception. Therefore it only makes sense to show you my top 10 applications for travelling on a low budget.
Many of these apps are mentioned in my book ‘Travel More – the Field Guide for Travelling on a small Budget‘. There you can also find a more in depth description of how I use them.
One more thing: I use Android, so I cannot guarantee, that these apps will work just as well on the iPhone or any other operating system. I have, however, tried to find the same – or a similar app for iPhone users.
Many of these services can also be used from the web browser. That’s why I linked those to their web destination rather than to the download page.
Whatever app you are using, most of them require an internet connection. As somebody who travels on a really small budget myself, I know that paying that one cup of tea everytime you get internet from a café can add up quickly and get really expensive.
That’s why I find Wifi Map so amazing: It’s a global community, sharing their knowledge about quality WiFi spots and their passwords. Just open up the map, let it find your current position (GPS luckily is free these days) and see all the WiFi spots near you. Usually the information is quite good and you can use these spots for free, standing in front of the (for example) café without actually having to consume anything.
I was about to set up my own app for this kind of service, since it’s really hard to find an app that does this internationally.
Especially when you live in the van, it’s great to know where you can find drinking water and public toilets. This map provides you exactly with this service. With a similar system as WiFi Map it’s a collaborative database of drinking water springs and toilets around you.
The only thing you need to have is internet, since there is no offline mode integrated yet.
Dedicated low budget travellers know Couchsurfing.com already. This community is mainly focussed on finding and providing free accommodation. The local experience included. But not only a sofa for a few nights you can find in this community, but also new friends. Frequent events, organised by the users will give you the opportunity to meet fellow travellers and locals.
If you are into more privacy and can afford to pay a little more than nothing, you might be interested in Airbnb (aff: Get 23€ off your first booking by using this link). Here you can rent rooms or sometimes even apartments (or how about an igloo or treehouse?) from non-corporate people who’d like to earn a little pocket money with it.
Either way, I have made great experiences and friends with both services.
Once you have found a free WiFi Spot, sometimes you want to know how far the signal reaches. For me this is ingenious, since I can test if it makes sense to wait for a parking spot to get free in front of a café or restaurant.
Yes, you’ve read correctly. This amazing app shows you the very near future weather prognosis and lets you know if there’s rain approaching, so you always know whether it’s better to check into a café, rather than go on a hiking trip.
Also, if you are out in nature, you will always be warned in time before the sky comes down on you and you should be looking for shelter.
So far, the prognosis was almost always correct and I’m happy I downloaded it. Careful, though: High data usage!
Not only for travellers, this website and app is great for finding new friends who are into the same things as you. Looking for language exchange? A Le Parkour group? A book club? Meetup can connect you with groups and events in your current area.
Get it here on Android or
Especially cool if you travel by car, this GPS navigation system tends to be rather reliable. Exactly what I was looking for, in my van adventures.
Navigator is the free version of the even better TomTom (Android, iPhone). Both don’t require the internet once you have downloaded the countries you are about to travel in and the navigation voice is very calm, which is kind of important to me personally.
However, these days you could also use Google Maps, since they have integrated an option to download your maps to the offline storage of your phone too.
While Google Translate can be a great source for fun projects we all have to admit that it has come a long way. The translations are not always spot on, but if you are in a country where you don’t speak the local language you are happy about even vague translations of what you are about to eat or sleep on.
While I also use other online dictionaries that can give me better definitions of a word or two, Google Translate can download language databases directly to your phone to be used offline and aims to translate entire sentences as well as signs you point your phone’s camera at.
If hitchhiking still feels too unsafe to you, you might want to check out BlaBlaCar. With this app it’s easy like never before to find people who’d like to share a ride for a small fee. For the fuel share you get from point A to point B and can see beforehand, if a person has been trustworthy to other people before.
If I know that I stay in a country for at least one month, I tend to get a SIM card to have some mobile internet with me. Usually, though, prepaid SIM cards have a very limited amount of GB or even MB that you can use within a month. After those are used up, either the internet becomes unbearably slow or your provider starts charging you crazy amounts for every MB you are overdue.
To avoid this situation, I use this app, that tells me when I’m getting close to my data limit. Also, it calculates my daily maximal usable data volume and reminds me when I get over that as well.
This way I’m always save from overly expensive charges or super slow internet.
There you have it! My list of favourite vanlife apps. However, this list is ever growing. So make sure to stay updated.
Do you know any helpful travelling apps? Tell us in the comment section below.
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