For better or for worse, the smart phone is the single biggest cultural phenomenon of the 21st century. It has manifested itself into every aspect of our increasingly digital existence. These small illuminous objects encompass everything from our social lives to our banking, our main source of information and entertainment.
It will come as no surprise that amongst everything else, these little objects have changed the way we travel forever.
On the surface it appears detrimental to the experience of travel. No longer are the best kept secrets kept secret. Popular tourist spots become a brawl of people scrambling over one another for a “selfie” (which I will keep in inverted commas. I refuse to accept it as a real word and if I ignore it, it will go away) as if this is the crucial piece of evidence that validates the fact you were actually there at all. Countries are experienced second hand, from behind the glow of an iPhone screen.
Having such a powerful resource of information in our pocket at all times reduces the element of chance and the adventure that might come from being lost. People become insular – hostel social areas become small shrines to the smart phone, tanned greasy faces dimly lit by a blue and white glow, thumbs traversing miles upon miles of newsfeeds. Even travel guides have surrendered credibility to their influence and recommend Instagram worthy places to take a “selfie”.
However, all hope is not lost. The rise of the smartphone and proliferation of applications on the market have also revolutionised some aspects of travel for the better.
Certain applications can actually open more doors than they close and even enhance the experience of travel. There are the obvious ones which have reduced the painstaking processes of shopping around for the best deals on flights and hotel accommodation, for example, Flightscanner or Agoda. But beyond these which are great for saving money there are a few more unique apps that can actually increase your enjoyment of a place. There are three apps in particular that we have loved using whilst we’ve been away and that have undoubtedly gifted us with a far greater experience through using them.
The first of these is Air BnB. Originally set up as an alternative to an oversaturated and hugely overpriced hotel market. This particular application now boasts over 1.5 million listings around the world. It offers everything from a space to pitch a tent in a garden to fully self-contained private villas.
But far and away the best thing about it is the community it offers. A lot of the listings are simply spare bedrooms in somebody’s home or apartment. This particular model creates something that is mutually beneficial for both parties. Bedrooms that would otherwise be wasted become a tangible source of income for property owners. And for travellers a truly unique accommodation experience opens up. Parts of town that would otherwise be off the market become available and more often than not you are treated as a guest by a local. Recommendations for restaurants, bars and things to see means the city opens up and you are less of a tourist and instantly more of a local.
Our experience using Air Bnb so far has led us to staying in a retro 70’s caravan in Cottesloe, a private modern villa in the centre of Perth, a digital and tech workers retreat in Ubud, Bali and an incredible private villa in Seminyak, Bali. Each stay was completely unique and never much more than the price it would have cost for us to stay in a hostel. We were inundated with recommendations for the best local restaurants, bars, cafes and directed to idyllic beaches and picture perfect temples. Hostels are becoming increasingly overpriced but this application offers a genuine alternative. A way of living as a temporary local. It has it’s ups and downs but always offer a unique experience and one far superior to the monotony of hotel rooms and hostels dorms which all but fade into one blurry, muffled memory.
We want to give you $29AUD off your first stay with Air BnB! Click the link here to sign up and claim your $29 credit.
The second application we have really found a lot of use for has been Wikicamps. This app is specific to Australia and the content is user generated. At its core the application is a map of the country detailing and rating all the camping spots throughout Australia. Through a selection of filters, you can find the perfect spot for any circumstance. From Laundromats to free hot showers, overnight road stops to beach-side camping pitches. With Wikicamps it’s possible to find everything you need to make life on the road more comfortable.
Through using this app we have found it possible to live in our car, find amazing free camping spots and never forego more than a day without a shower. We’ve camped on the edge of cliffs on the Nullarbor plain and beside quiet creeks in the middle of towering karri tree forests, never spending more than the fuel we consume in the form of food and petrol.
The final app to mention here is Uber. This app really applies to all kinds of travellers, from backpackers to business travellers. Often the first experience you have when arriving in a new country is the hassle of booking a taxi to get you from the airport to your accommodation. In many places it’s no secret that you’re going to pay more money for the taxi than locals would and whilst this might only be a matter of a few pounds in some countries, the principle stands and can be irksome.
Uber eliminates the problem with being overcharged and also gives you peace of mind as a consumer, as all drivers are rated by previous customers so you always know what you’re letting yourself in for. We cut the price of our taxi journeys around Bali to about a third of their original cost and could order one any time we liked with no problems arising from language barriers etc.
The only downside to Uber is that it’s use is really limited to major cities. Once you stray a little further afield it’s near impossible to come across any drivers and you are left once more at the mercy of taxi drivers.
There is a wealth of other applications available that can enhance our experience whilst travelling and some that are specific to certain countries. (GOjek, for example, is an app in Bali and Jakarta which allows users to order whatever they please, from grocerThe smartphone dominates life in the modern age. But how has it affected travelling? shopping to masseurs and have it delivered to their door by a scooter). But these are three applications that have really improved our experience as travellers, not only saving us money but also opening up aspects to the places we visit that would otherwise have stayed hidden from us.