How to replace a travel guidebook with apps

travel apps to replace a guidebook

For my 4-month trip, I did not bring any physical guidebook with me. My backpack was too small to stuff any guidebooks so I relied heavily on my phone for travel planning.

Although I have PDF copies of some Lonely Planet guidebooks in my computer, I find them  awkward to read on my small netbook screen and even worse on a smartphone.

For travel planning while on the road, I rely heavily on my almost 3-year old iPhone 4 and internet connection. It’s a bit laggy but it works.

I have some apps which I adore for travel planning and I want to share them with you. I only know apps for iOS so if you are looking for Android versions, give the name a Google to see if Play Store has it.

I’m dividing the apps into different periods of travel planning and the relevant apps. For me, the stages of travel planning include:

  1. Knowing more about the place
  2. Booking accommodation
  3. Deciding where to visit, see and have fun
  4. (Bonus) Audioguides

Some of the apps are useful for multiple stages of travel planning so don’t rule them out if you’ve completed the different stages.

1. If you want to know more about a place

At the beginning of location-specific guidebooks, there are usually a few pages (but definitely more than the list of Places of Interest) on the history and culture of the destination. I enjoy reading those when I’m not travelling but while on the road, it’s a bit of a drag to read about what happened 100 years ago.

Instead, I have two apps that work like offline versions of Wikitravel. I forgot the name of one of them so I’ll tell you the other that I know of.



With the app, you can download Wikitravel-like entries for different destinations. That’s actually it’s weakness because it means that you will need to load the app with destinations instead of surfing randomly for different places.

Still, the app is useful for reading up on a destination and to know safety tips for where you are going.

2. Finding accommodation

One of the most painful parts of travel planning is finding the right place to stay. I get a bit OCD like Goldilocks, flipping through webpages and webpages of different accommodation before finding the right one.

The best thing about mobile booking apps is that they have user reviews. Granted some users leave crazy reviews but generally, you get a good idea of whether you want to stay at the place or not. mobile app

I think this apps is less user friendly than HostelWorld’s app because you cannot have a calendar view of the dates. My mind works in a monthly calendar view.

I used to think that people who booked hotels through mobile phones were crazy. But then I became one of them. It’s much easier for me to lie my bed, click around for a room and booking it immediately. mobile booking app

I like the calendar view when choosing the dates but that’s not what makes this app good. They have a good selection of hostels when you don’t think it’s worth paying double the price for hotel rooms.

3. Deciding places near you to visit, eat and have fun

So you’ve done up a list of places to visit after reading the information from app in stage 1.

Now that you are in the city itself, you don’t really want to spend all that transportation money to somewhere far when you can cross places nearby off your list.

Foursquare mobile app


Before using Foursquare, I thought it was an app for hipsters to show off where they’ve been. This function is still there but I discovered that it can be very useful for travelling.

I use it to discover popular places to eat and what dishes to have. When you save a location on the app, the saved location appears when you are offline as well which is good to avoid getting lost.

The app works better if you check into places (like those darn hipsters) because then it will know if you like cemeteries more than shopping malls.

Tripadvisor City Guide app

TripAdvisor Offline City Guides

I love offline apps and this is my favorite in places where I do not have 3G connection. However, only major cities are included so yu might need to use its less offline-friendly brother.

I use it as a map and guidebook for food and places of interest.

Tripadvisor app

Tripadvisor (requires internet connection)

To be honest, I hate this app because it takes forever to load. But it’s useful for locations not included in  TripAdvisor City Guides since it shows the same content.

4. Audio guide

I found Rick Steves Audio Europe app majorly useful while I was in Europe. I adore the walking tours for the different cities and the museum audio tour which I listen alongside the official museum audioguides.

The copyright of the apps belong to their owners.

Relevant reads:

From Bootsnall: Are Guidebooks Necessary for the Current Travelers?

From Instagram The World: Around the World without a Guidebook

Do you have apps for travelling to recommend?

Mobile app review: FlightLover

FlightLover is an Apple iOS app that checks for cheap air tickets of budget airlines. It’s available for different countries of origin–Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan.

There’s one thing you need to know about me. I am very stingy and it is very rare that I will pay for an app unless it is really useful.

I downloaded the app a long long time ago, hoping it would help me score cheap flights. Unfortunately, I haven’t bought any cheap flights using the app but I do have other purposes for it.

I use it mainly to check how low flights can go. I also use it to help friends double check if there are cheap flights around the period they want to travel.

The app will be useful for the casual bargain air ticket hunter (I’m among a semi-hardcore bargain hunter while a friend of mine is Level-999 in cheap airticket hunting.)

How it’s like

When you open the app, it gives a list of the destinations in its database as well as the cheapest flights. I love how the cover photos are changed from time to time, for example, the highlighted destination today is Sydney.

For this demo, I chose Kuala Lumpur as my destination as it’s one of the cheapest destinations.

I’m able to slide the slider (duh) to indicate how many days I want to travel. Please note that it includes the day you fly. For example, if a flight leaves the airport at 11pm, it counts as a day.

The return time is actually the hour you return to your country of origin. That is helpful for those who don’t want to guess when they reach home. For me, I would prefer the timing of the flight back instead so I can see how many hours I can still have fun.

You can also select the date range you want which is helpful to zoom in the long weekend dates. The little red triangle on the upper right of the price shows that the trip involves a weekend–super!

After you’ve selected the best price, head into the date and it’ll show you the details of the flight as well as the checkin time (so considerate of them!)

The “Book” button only helps you call the airline while the “Share with friends” lets you tweet/Facebook/e-mail others about the cheap price.

The app also has a neat “Beep” mode which will alert you of deals that have dropped below the price you’ve indicated.

Everyday, around 9am, it will deliver a message alert if the tickets have fallen below the price you like.

Even thought I’ve switched this function on, I always feel annoyed when it reminds me of a cheap flight because I can’t go on a holiday now

The design of the interface is really clean and beautiful. There is an airplane flying in circles when it loads a page. A sad emoticon appears when there is no connection.

The companion Web site has the same functionality but with limited travel dates. The app can be found on the App Store.


“Borrowing”’s review format:

FlightLover Singapore
Developer: Handstand (The folks who brought you
Price: S$2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.27
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4
iPhone Integration Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (Not integrated into Twitter–iOS 5 functionality)
User Interface Rating: 4 out of 5
Re-use Value Rating: 5 out of 5

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5