1) Grab

Grab is the Asian equivalent of Uber, and is a really handy way to get around. The taxis in Southeast Asia can be notoriously difficult to negotiate with, so Grab takes the stress and guesswork out of your journeys.

We found Grab to be efficient in the big cities, and (unless you’re a top negotiator) almost half the price of a standard taxi fare. All our drivers were friendly, passionate about their city and driving environmentally friendly cars.

At the time of writing Grab is available in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, though you can see an up to date list of countries and cities Grab operates in on the link below.


2) GlobeConvert

With different currencies in use across Southeast Asia it can be really confusing to keep track of exactly how much you’re spending.

GlobeConvert makes working out the price really easy.

The interface is simple, and it loads incredibly quickly. All you have to do each time is delete the previous figure, and type in the new amount you want to convert. Easy as that!

When you are connected to WiFi, it will update the conversion to the latest rates, so you always have an accurate figure.


3) Maps.Me

There are no two ways about it, Maps.Me is an essential app for travellers.

It allows you to download entire regions to you phone, meaning you can use the maps offline, which saves hefty roaming bills when you get home.

The maps are open source, meaning users have added everything from great restaurants to local landmarks. You can also save points of interest to build your own itinerary the  you get to a destination.

We used this multiple times a day on our sabbatical, even using it to navigate us on a 300k road trip around Northern Thailand. It didn’t let us down once.


4) Google Translate

Google Translate is incredible useful to have on your phone for travel in Asia.

Whilst we learnt a few key phrases in each language, and English is spoken widely, there are times (especially in rural areas) where you will need some help. This is where Google Translate is a lifesaver.

You can even download languages to use off-line, which makes it even more helpful whilst on the road.

This app got us out of trouble when we were at a guesthouse in the middle of mountains and there was no water. It also allowed me to have an entire football related conversation with a cab driver who spoke very little English, which made both his and my day!

When you do have WiFi you can also use the camera feature, holding over text which will convert it back into English in front of your eyes. Incredible!


5) TunnelBear

I debated whether or not this app was a ‘must-have’, but I have found myself using it surprisingly often whilst on our trip.

TunnelBear is a ‘VPN’ or ‘Virtual Private Network’, that allows you to divert your internet connection to another place in the world.

Why is this useful?

Two main reasons:

Firstly, it hides all your key information and IP address. This makes your data much more secure when using public WiFi, which is something you will be doing alot whilst travelling. If you don’t realise the risk of public WiFi, read this article.

Secondly, it is useful to divert your connection back to your home country to use services that can only be used there. For example, I am a big rugby fan and did not want to miss my team playing in the Premiership semi-finals, so I changed my location to the UK, which allowed me to use my BT Sport subscription (though they lost in the end, so maybe I shouldn’t have bothered!).

This is also useful if you are in a country that restricts the internet connection.