Google and Facebook may well be the kings of apps in most parts of the world but step foot in Asia and you’ll soon realise that the mega-tech companies play second-fiddle to some seriously wicked local competition. The best travel apps for Asia in 2020 will help you bridge the app-gap, especially in countries (most famously, China) where access to popular apps like Facebook and WhatsApp is non-existent.
Here are the best apps to download before travelling to Asia in 2020!
- ExpressVPN – A must when travelling anywhere
There may be loads of free-to-use VPN services out there but given you’ll likely be using public Wi-Fi connections when travelling, it really pays to have an added layer of security on your phone. It literally pays to pay for the best VPN. ExpressVPN is a lifesaver, especially if you’re wanting to access phone banking and all those apps that are randomly banned in a few Asian countries. Granted, you probably won’t be as social when travelling due to lack of spare time but at least you can touch base with friends and family. Simply open the app, connect through a server in your home country (or anywhere else where your favourite apps are not banned) and off you go.
- WeChat – CHINA
This multi-purpose social app is China’s answer to, well, everything. From WhatsApp-style instant messaging and photo sharing, instant translations and even swift payments, WeChat is China’s single-biggest standalone app, with over one billion users. Why would you need WeChat when travelling in Asia? Because you’ll have to communicate with your guide during your tour and will surely make ‘new friends’ every day and will want to share selfies! In China, everyone you’ll ever deal with will want to communicate via WeChat so best jump on the bandwagon before you ever arrive. The amazing translation tool means all you have to do is long-press on a message and it will automatically be translated into English (or whatever language you’ve set the app to be in). Although you do need a local bank account to use the payment feature (which is used just about everywhere in China, including street food stands), you can always open up an in-app money envelope with a direct transaction from PayPal. The payments feature may be a bit troublesome to set up but it’s certainly not needed to run all other aspects of the app. It’s also interesting to know that WeChat is available in many other countries, with more than 10% of users living outside of China.
- KakaoTalk (Map & T) – SOUTH KOREA
South Korea’s answer to WhatsApp, GoogleMap and Uber all rolled into one is a fantastic app for intrepid travellers. Not only does the main app offer video and voice calls but the map and route directions are infinitely better than Google (which is somewhat limited here). You can also book ride-shares and private taxis through KakaoT.
KakaoTalk is the mother-app you’ll need to download first and then you can add KakaoMap (for maps), KakaoT (taxis and car share) and the very useful KakaoMetro, absolutely genius when using public transport in South Korea.
- TripAdvisor – All over Asia
Even if you don’t use TripAdvisor at home, you most likely will when travelling, as you pass an enticing café or restaurant and just want to get a swift idea of how well it is rated. Not only is the Trip Advisor app easier and faster to use (than getting on a search engine) but you can download your specific destinations and have all the info (things to do, restaurants and hotels) at your fingertips in mere seconds. Although the app is having teething problems, we do expect it to be running smoothly in 2020.
- Google Translate – All over Asia
This app has been one of the most useful travel-companions for Asia tours in recent years, especially as you have full access to the app (even in China) without the need to use a VPN. What we find particularly useful is the voice prompt, which is seriously accurate.
- Netflix – All over Asia
It seems bizarre to plan ahead for entertainment when travelling to Asia but trust us, there will be plenty of times (plane rides, relaxing afternoons in the hotel etc) when you just want to kick back and relax by watching an episode of your favourite show. Although you can link up your Netflix account with the app, you should be aware the content is country-specific, worldwide. That means if you want to download a few movies and shows for your trip, you will need to first activate your VPN with a server from your home country and only then log into the Netflix app so you can access your downloaded content. If you want to download new shows, moreover, this is where it pays to have a top-notch VPN downloaded. Free-to-use VPN services like Tunnel Bear (which we love) are simply far too slow for downloads when travelling.
- Tripit – Everywhere
Even the most organised traveller among us could do with a personal assistant who’s right on top of flight times, plans, dates and itinerary details. Tripit is that friend! Import all your Asia travel details into the app and out comes a master itinerary, with all relevant contact and plan details you can access at any time. Free to download and use (there’s a paid Pro version you can try out before buying that includes real-time alerts) Tripit is a wonderful organiser when you need to have details on the fly and you don’t have the usual ‘mini file of document photocopies’ on you. Do note, however, that you should be careful with the auto-import feature which links to your email and automatically imports ALL flight details you’ve ever exchanged. Some users have reported that the app incorporated details of their travel friends’ emailed flight details as well, making a big mess of their itinerary. Once all your plans are imported, do double-check to make sure it’s all correct or, alternatively, turn off the auto feature and import them yourself. Here’s Tripit explained in detail.
- CityMaps2Go – All over Asia
Another excellent alternative to GoogleMaps, this free app allows you to download detailed city maps and use them completely offline, which is great when you don’t want to use data and aren’t anywhere near a Wi-Fi connection. What’s more, you can also pin places of interest for easy reference.
- XE Currency Converter – All over Asia
Most travel apps for Asia in 2020 are immensely useful although the XE currency converter is downright essential, even more so if you’re planning a multi-country tour of Asia and will be in a different country every week. Accurate rates in real-time, with a user-friendly interface and the ability to download the latest rates and use offline as well.
- Grab – Southeast Asia
Uber hasn’t quite cracked it in Southeast Asia (and has been banned completely in Thailand) and, in this part of the world, Grab is the only way to go. The region’s #1 ride-share app also offers food on the go (ideal for a quiet night in) with services payable in the local currency. We’ve also used this app to grab a suitcase a guest had left behind in a hotel, so anytime you need something to go in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines, just Grab it!
Bonus #11 – GlobeTips
Do you spend half your time abroad wondering if and how much you should be tipping in restaurants, cafes or hotels? GlobeTips takes the guesswork out of the equation, with up-to-date tipping info (including amounts) for almost every country on the planet. One of the most useful new apps to come into the travel market in the last few years.
At Get About Asia, we are industry leaders in personalised guided tours that include as much free time in your itinerary as you would like. For all those times when you want to explore independently, trust these 10 Best Travel Apps for Asia in 2020 to make your experiences hassle-free and enjoyable. Contact us to know more about multi-country Asia tours and bespoke itineraries.