There’s no disagreeing that travel has become so much easier over the past decade. Can you imagine getting around without Google Maps? Or finding hotels through a physical listing? That’s why travel agencies used to be so popular back then.
Thankfully, technology made it possible for people to explore the globe on their own by making everything we need accessible at our fingertips. With apps, we can now book hotels in advance, order food, and find things to do in each location with just a few taps on our smartphones.
Apps are a great tool to research and explore destinations before you travel, as well as to plan your trip AND to get by in a completely different country. So, if you’re planning on hitting the road to Southeast Asia soon, make sure to download some of these useful apps to make your travel experience that much easier.
Essential Apps to Help You Plan Your Trip
When we decided on our one-year backpacking trip to Southeast Asia, we had no idea how much work we would have to put into planning each destination before we hopped on our one-way ticket flight. Planning such a big trip can get super overwhelming! Here are the apps that made our life so much easier during this step:
Notion is a note-taking app you can use to study, work, or just organize your thoughts. We both used this tool on our previous job so it was an easy transition to create our own Notion space with everything travel-related. The learning curve can be a bit difficult at the beginning, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll never look back!
For our trip, we created single pages by country, with information regarding Visas, transportation, currency, costs of living, and all of the things to do and see per region.
Is there a way to cross from Malaysia to Indonesia by ferry? Is it possible to go from Bangkok to Siem Reap by bus? The easiest way to find these answers is by downloading Rome2Rio. It gives you all of the transportation options from place to place, as well as the estimated price and the company that operates the route.
Probably the most popular app to research flight prices, Skyscanner is indeed amazing! The best part about it is that you can set price alerts for specific destinations, which works wonders when planning a big trip.
Bonus – Useful Websites
- Check drone laws in each country using Drone Laws.
- Check the cost of living in each country using Numbeo.
- Discover what to do and see in each country using Google Travels.
Essential Travel Apps for Travel in Southeast Asia
Besides Bookings and Airbnb which are the most obvious choices, there are a few other apps where you can find great accommodation for really cheap while in Southeast Asia:
• Agoda: a booking platform that offers great discounts and a fidelity program that can make prices drop significantly as you use the app. Although Agoda is more common around Asia, you can use it anywhere in the world!
• HostelWorld: if you’re backpacking, this is the app for you! HostelWorld is a booking platform dedicated to hostels, with reviews and good prices.
• Couchsurfing: if you’re really looking into stretching that budget, staying at a local house for free might be just what you need. Couchsurfing is a paid hospitality exchange service where you can find local hosts who can have you for a free short-term homestay.
💳 Global Bank Account
Having a global or international bank account with a debit card from which you can withdraw local money easily anywhere in the world, with zero to no fees is a huge game changer! We personally recommend the following:
• Wise: with an international debit card from Wise, you get 2 free withdrawals per calendar month and a very low fee of up to 0.50 euros if you’re from Europe and 1.50 dollars if you’re from the United States, after that. You can check all of the withdrawal rates here. On a separate note, Wise also enables you to open bank accounts in different countries and store different currencies. We have used Wise for years now and it’s our favorite travel card!
• Revolut: another great option for travel! Revolut has a standard fee of only 2% for ATM withdrawals, with the first 5 withdrawals or £200 per month being free.
There is just so much to do around Southeast Asia! The best apps to find really good activity deals are:
• Get Your Guide: an online marketplace for tour guides and excursions, Get Your Guide is our favorite app to book authentic experiences around the globe! Some of our favorite activities we have done with Get Your Guide include visiting a floating village in Cambodia and snorkeling in the remote Surin Islands in Thailand.
• Klook: another great place to look for activities when traveling! Klook is very similar to Get Your Guide and also offers amazing prices.
• AllTrails: for hiking lovers, this app is amazing! With AllTrails, you can search trails around the area and even download the map to use it offline. The GPS precision on their map is unbelievable!
😋 Food Delivery
You’ll probably eat out most of the time, but whenever you’re too tired or just need a cozy day inside, here’s where you can order your food:
• Grab: probably the most used app in Southeast Asia! It’s available in Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam.
• GoJek: also a great app, but only available in Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
• Foodpanda: this one is mostly used in Cambodia and Laos, but it’s also available in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Myanmar.
You can also use Grab and GoJek to book a ride by car or scooter! Both are considered super apps, and you can even shop for some other essentials and book other services through them.
For longer journeys, we recommend:
• 12Go Asia: the one app that we used for every single long journey we had while in Southeast Asia. 12Go Asia is considered the best budget travel service in the region and you can book bus, ferry, train, and even flight tickets through it. We highly recommend it!
• EasyBook: another great option is EasyBook, which besides offering bus, train, and ferry tickets, also offers car rental and tour booking across Southeast Asia.
Destination-Specific Apps for Travel in Southeast Asia
The above-mentioned apps are usually available in most countries around Southeast Asia, but some countries have specific apps you should know about:
• Explore Singapore MRT Map: this is Singapore’s best metro map, which has all the metro lines, a route planner function, and works offline!
• GetGo: a carsharing service where you can rent a car in minutes, with no deposit or membership fees. Similar to the famous GoTo in Europe.
• Via Bus: allows you to know if a bus is at in real-time. We found Google Maps not to be the most accurate with the bus schedule, especially in Bangkok, so this app saved us several times.
Note: you can totally trust Google Maps to get around the MRT. It works pretty well!
• Line: just like WhatsApp, this is the most used communication app in Thailand! If you want to keep in touch with your new local Thai friends, downloading Line is the way to go.
• Loca: while you can get around in most countries with Grab and GoJek, Laos has its own ridesharing app called Loca. It’s extremely cheap and although we could not register our credit card on the app, we were able to pay for all journeys in cash, which worked just fine!
• Angkor Wat Smart Guide: if you’re heading to Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat, this app is a must! There is so much history behind the temples and while you can opt to pay for a guide, this app offers audio explanations in several languages, that autoplay whenever you reach an interesting place. Such a great app!
• VeXeRe: Vietnam’s largest online bus ticketing platform. We prefer 12Go Asia, but most of our bookings in Vietnam got canceled and we started buying our bus tickets in person to avoid stress. Now that we left the country we discovered that the most used platform to book bus trips is called VeXeRe.
Pro tip: traveling long distances by bus in Vietnam is an adventure on its own… If you want to avoid terrible experiences and travel comfortably, look for the Limousine type of bus. They’re a bit more expensive but super worth the extra bucks!
• Booky: although both giants Grab and Gojek also operate here, Booky is the most used food delivery app in the Philippines!
• Angkas: want to avoid getting stuck in traffic? You can download Angkas for a motorcycle ride to reach your destination as fast as possible. Note that Angkas only services cities in Metro Manila.
• Sakay.ph: if you plan on using public transport in Manila, you should download Sakay.ph! This app will give you step-by-step directions with fares and the estimated time of travel for any destination within the cities of Manila.
Here are a few other local taxi apps for specific destinations in the Philippines:
- Hirna: for the Mindanao provinces such as Davao, Cagayan De Oro, and Iligan.
- MiCab: for Cebu, Baguio, Iloilo, Davao, and Metro Manila.
• Schedules by Trafi: if you’re visiting Jakarta, this app might come in handy. Trafi connects and compares all of the public transport available to give you the fastest and/or cheapest option.
• Go Car: similar to GetGo in Singapore, and GoTo in Europe, Go Car is a carsharing service where you can rent a car in minutes and pay a fixed rate for a specific amount of hours.
• Oway: the largest taxi service available in Myanmar! Oway is available across Mandalay, Yangon, Bagan, Pwin O Lwin, and Mawlamyine.
• GoMamam: this is Brunei’s most popular food delivery service! GoMamam offers over 100 restaurants, live tracking, and low delivery rates starting from $3.
• Dart: Brunei has its own ridesharing app called Dart. It offers competitive prices compared to the local taxis with the convenience of booking through your phone.
🇹🇱 Timor Leste
• GoTimor: Timor Leste is probably one of the least visited countries in Southeast Asia but traveling here is much easier with GoTimor – a mobile application that features all of the many great experiences the country has to offer.
• MyTimor: the first transportation app in Timor Leste, launched in December 2020! MyTimor works just like Grab or Gojek, although it’s currently only available around the region of Dili.