Travelling anywhere in the world is a thrilling and exciting adventure. I cannot describe the sheer excitement of getting ready to jet-set off on my next trip.
However, the reality of travel is that it is also scary and puts you in many scenarios that are nothing short of panic-inducing. For me, South America seemed even more daunting than any other place I had visited.
The stories I had heard, the language barrier and even the sheer size of it; everything about this continent struck fear into my soul. And this feeling of apprehension was only amplified due to that fact that I would travel most of it as a solo female traveller.
My fears quickly dissipated however and I threw myself headfirst into the fast-paced world of places like Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. I hiked up to Machu Picchu and took a tiny airplane into the Amazon rainforest. I jumped off a bridge in Peru and learnt to surf in Ecuador.
It was pretty clear that I had nothing to be afraid of.
Though my experiences in South America have been wholly positive, I can’t discount the assistance that technology has given me.
I can’t fathom having arrived at Rio de Janeiro airport that first day of my travels and not having access to the internet. If I didn’t have a translation app for Spanish and a map showing me exactly where my hostel was in relation to the airport, I would have probably hidden in a corner behind my over-sized backpack contemplating a flight back to the safety of home.
I am so grateful for technology and how much it has contributed to my time abroad. Specifically, these six apps below that have made my journey through this stunning continent run so smoothly.
Forget Google Maps, Maps.Me is your ultimate companion when travelling.
Maps.Me allows you to access maps of your location when you are not connected to the internet. Not only this but you can bookmark locations on the app and plan routes to and from destinations.
All you have to do is download the relevant map when you are in a Wi-Fi zone. Before you arrive to a new destination, simply go into your app and download the map of that area. Make sure to bookmark your hostel or accommodation on the app so you can find it easily upon arrival.
This is also a great tool to use in taxis to make sure your driver is taking you in the right direction. I have even had to use it to guide taxi drivers to my location when they were not sure of the destination.
There are so many times when I have been so grateful for this app that I honestly can’t imagine travelling without it.
For better or for worse, Uber is available and often a recommended service in South America. It is considered to be much safer than taking local taxis and in many cases cheaper (namely because you decide on a rate before you get in the car). And so it has become essential for many travellers in South America.
It feels good to have the safety net of the map on your phone following where your driver is taking you and not having to fumble with money at the end of your trip. Of course, we have all heard stories about bad experiences with Uber drivers, but so far I have been nothing but grateful to have Uber at my fingertips while backpacking.
For me, the thought of ordering a registered Uber driver to the door of my hostel far outweighs the idea of walking outside and hailing a random local taxi man. Also there has been many cases where taxi drivers did not know my hostel or location, so the Uber navigation system that drivers have is very helpful.
Google Translate is no secret but I find it a vital app to have downloaded on my smartphone.
The app lets you download any language to your phone so that you can look up translations even when you are not connected to the internet.
I cannot tell you how many times I have been in a restaurant or at a bus terminal trying to figure out how to order or buy the correct ticket. While you will meet a lot of English-speakers abroad, the reality is that most people in South America only speak Spanish (or in the case of Brazil, Portuguese).
While I took some Spanish lessons in an attempt to make my conversational skills better, I am so grateful to have the back-up of this app at my disposal to avoid any awkward situations.
Revolut is so much more than an app. It is basically my lifeline when it comes to finances while travelling abroad. Revolut provides you with a free dedit card that is managed through an easy-to-use app on your smartphone.
All you need to do is download the app, sign up for your free card, follow the steps and you have access to a whole new world of banking (there is a $10 fee to get the card but this can be spent once the card arrives).
This card is completely separate from your bank card so you will always have a back-up for money access while abroad which is a relief. It is the perfect accessory for travellers as you can exchange your money into the local currency on the app.
When paying for things on your card, there are no excess fees and you have free withdrawals in ATMs up to a monthly limit (so helpful when you are constantly needing access to cash while away).
How it works is that you can transfer money from your bank account to your Revolut app in a matter of seconds. The app also allows you to instantly transfer money to other users of Revolut via the app (so perfect if you are travelling in a group!).
There are plenty of currency apps on the market but I really like the look and functionality of this one.
xCurrency allows you to compare up to four currencies at any one time which is extremely handy for when you are jumping from currency to currency as a backpacker.
You can change your currencies at any time and the app will go by the exchange rate downloaded the last time you were connected to Wi-Fi. Every time you have an internet connection the app is automatically updating the exchange rate.
When you arrive in a new country and have no idea how the currency works or how much you are spending in relation to your own currency, this app is ideal for helping to not only figure out a new currency but instantly check your spending when out and about.
CamScanner is a document scanning app that I like to use for security purposes.
I have a scan of my passport, my I.D, my travel insurance and other important documents that are simply essential while travelling abroad.
In the case of an emergency (having items stolen or lost), it is a relief to know that I have copies of all of my important documents ready to go on my phone.
In the event that you may also lose your phone too, I would recommend sending the documents to an email account or having them saved back home on a computer or hard-drive.