Nowadays traveling without a smartphone is rare. The abundance of useful travel apps has completely revolutionized modern travel. From currency converters to language translators, there's an iPhone app for that.
Backpackers have a tendency to collect SIM cards like bracelets as they wander from country to country. While this is great for staying connected, the biggest downside is that your number constantly changes. WhatsApp solves that by giving you one number that never changes, regardless of country. You can also share photos, videos, audio notes and even your current location, making it an invaluable tool when trying to meet people in a foreign country where addresses are not readily available -- or readable. Group chats make it easy to stay in touch with other travelers you meet as you each blaze your own trail through the country, meeting up again whenever -- and wherever -- your paths should cross.
One of the best things about traveling is trying new local restaurants and bars. Yelp has amassed over 70 million reviews, photos and information on businesses, stores and venues worldwide. Their innovative search features make finding exactly what you crave as easy as a couple of taps. Want to know where the nearest open bar is? How about the most popular restaurant with locals? Let Yelp help. But the best part? Their reviews are more honest and contain much more useful information (such as wifi passwords, dish reviews, and recommended employee names) than those found on TripAdvisor.
For less than the price of one of those antiquated pocket translation guide books -- which by the way only work in one country -- iTranslate Voice allows you to instantly speak in over 40 different languages from around the world. Over the last few years the app has consistently gotten better and better and recognizing words and providing accurate translations. It also acts as an electronic dictionary, allowing you to look up definitions for individual words or quick translations for simple phrases. Users can also save important or frequently used phrases to their phrasebook, allowing for quick access to key phrases that might be difficult to remember or tricky to pronounce. As soon as you begin traveling with this app, it becomes indispensible!
Since long before their were even smart phones, I've used XE for all my currency conversions. Their app offers up all the information of their site in a streamlined, easy to navigate way. Check current conversion rates between any two currencies on the planet, even track back through the weeks, months or years to see how a particular currency has performed over time. But beyond all that, with XE Currency you'll never be screwed over by a tricky salesman, dishonest currency exchange shop or shady taxi driver again.
Price: Free (with in-app purchases)
Postagram is one of the coolest apps you've probably never even heard of. What it allows you to do is take any photo from your iPhone -- or Facebook, Dropbox and a variety of other sources -- and turn it into a glossy, professional-looking postcard. This postcard is printed out and can be mailed anywhere in the USA for only $0.99 and is delivered in as little as two business days. Need to mail it elsewhere in the world? That's only $1.99, although delivery can take a couple of weeks depending upon the destination. I have an iPhone 5C with T-Mobile's ultra-fast wireless and with Postagram I can take a selfie while hiking, add a quick message and send it off to friends back home in less than a minute.
Couchsurfing began as a web site that revolutionized the way backpackers travel around the world by putting travelers in touch with locals in 120,000 cities around the world. Locals, many of whom are travelers themselves in between trips, open up their house to foreign guests. Both gain knowledge and information about the other's culture, plus the backpackers get insight and tips directly from a local -- and a free place to stay! Win-win.