Useful Apps

My top 10 mobile apps that could come in handy when cycling around the world

Posted by James Anderton on August 5th, 2019

The world is saturated with various mobile phone apps. It is the world we live in. Most of them are useless. Many serve no purpose but there are a few diamonds in the dust heap that can prove helpful for a life out on the road. Here's my Top 10 in no particular order. I don't include any map apps as I've written an article solely for these.


Google Translate

Android/iOS

Free

77.3 MB

I used to walk into restaurants in China, point at some Chinese symbols on the menu and then wait to see what on earth I had ordered. No need with Google Translate. You can take a photo of the menu and it will translate it for you. You can type what you want to say, full screen the translation and show it to whoever you are trying to talk to. Invaluable when you are in a country such as China and Japan where there isn't a hope in hell of you learning the language. I used it everyday in such countries. It covers 103 languages via typing and 59 languages offline. It is easy to use and free. There's an even better translation app called iTranslate which can be used with the apple watch so you can translate on your wrist if you like. iTranslate costs $5 a month.

Google Translate

Private VPN

Android/iOS

$4/month for a year, $5/month for 3 months or $8 for one month

36.9 MB

VPN's project themselves as ways to keep yourself safe on the internet. In reality they are ways to hack into IP's abroad so you can still access Facebook, Netflix or in my case Test Match Special. Companies such as Netflix and the BBC are making active efforts to block VPN's from accessing their servers and are getting good at it. The free VPN's of a year or two ago are no longer getting through. There are still a few that are staying ahead of the game though and Private VPN is the cheapest one that does so. I've been using it for a while now and have no problem accessing the sport back home and Netflix in any country I choose. Reliable, excellent customer support and good value.

Private VPN

NOAA

Android

Free

240.7 MB

I don't spend a lot of time checking the weather to be honest. Checking the weather won't change the weather so why bother. I'm going to cycle regardless. Sometimes it can be handy though. Knowing what the wind is going to do if you have long distances between food and water is important. I spent a lot of time in Starbucks recently during endless days of April rain in Oregon. Checking the hourly forecasts in the vain hope of getting a few hours of dry cycling in at some point. NOAA was my app of choice. It's one for the weather nerds. The user interface isn't as slick as many of the other weather apps. I like it though as it is highly detailed and is also extremely accurate. Which always helps. I used Accuweather as well. Not very accurate but always in an optimistic way which can be good if the weather is getting you down.

NOAA weather app


iOverlander

Android/iOS

Free

94 MB

iOverlander is used by many cyclists. I use it to share and find camping spots. I often happen across incredible wild camping spots. Now I can share them so other people can find them too. I also look out for camping spots that other people have logged along my route. If you take the time to peruse the map of the country you are in when online the map will load when you are offline as well. Also excellent for finding cheap hotels, good restaurants and cafes. Details are listed for each place, including amenities, photos, date last visited and GPS coordinates. Works well with maps.me

iOverlander App

Spotted by Locals

Android/iOS

Free

77.2 MB

Get local knowledge of where to go when passing through a city. Spotted by Locals help cities cope with over-tourism, by spreading folk around areas fewer tourists visit. Find all those hidden gems that you would never find otherwise. From parks to cafes to restaurants and much more. The content all comes from locals living in the area. The app also recommends locally owned & operated spots to help them survive. Something that is increasingly hard in this rapidly "starbucksifying" world. I like this app.

Spotted By Locals App

Night Sky

iOS

Free

679.6 MB

One of the wonderful things about camping in the middle of nowhere are the stars at night. Always amazes me. Now there are apps which will tell you exactly what you are looking at. I use Night Sky. It's only on iOS but Sky Map does the same thing on Android and is also free. You can zoom around constellations by swiping a finger, tap on items and learn more about them. It's fascinating stuff. Then I go to sleep and wish I hadn't spent the last 30 minutes staring at my phone.

Night Sky App

Cram

Android/iOS

Free

13.3 MB

One of the things I'm always grappling with when cycling around the world are languages and being English I am useless when it comes to languages. Oh to be Dutch! I am making a continued effort with Spanish but I always try to learn a few phrases in whatever country I am in. I can say 'Excuse me, I'm lost' in about 20 different languages. Flashcard apps come in very handy. Cram is one of the most popular. The app works very well offline. It has a library of over 75 million flashcards. There are quizzes. You can add photos and it has a few different methods of learning. You can often find me sat by the side of the road munching on a packet of biscuits whilst trying to remember the Japanese for 'Do you have a bike pump?'

Cram Flashcard App

AccuBattery

Android

Free

4 MB

One thing we cycle tourers spend a lot of time worrying about is battery life. Keeping all our appliances charged when we spend so much time piddling about on all these apps i'm plugging. Often we can go days without seeing a power outlet so conserving battery life is an art worth mastering. AccuBattery is a big help. The app lets you set a charge alarm to remind you to unplug your phone from the charger once it hits about 80%. Apparently it's never a good idea to fully charge your phone. If you consistently unplug at 80% your phone battery will last 3 times as long as otherwise. The app is also an excellent informational tool on how your phone uses battery and ways you can help preserve it.

accuBattery app

Warmshowers

Android/iOS

Free

4.6 MB

I must include the Warmshowers app in my top 10. Warmshowers is a community for cycle tourers to help you find like minded people wherever you are in the world. There are over 100,000 members dotted in all corners of the globe and there's no better way to find them than by using the app. A shower and a bed may be just around the bend.

Warmshowers App

Ventusky

Android/iOS

$3

165.4 MB

This is my go to wind app when I'm about to head off into the desert and I'm not going to see food or water for days. If Ventusky tells me I'm going to be facing a killer headwind then I will delay and hang tight where I am until Ventusky tells me otherwise. This is exactly what happened in Beyneu, Kazakhstan when I was ready to head off into the Uzbekistan desert. There was no wind when I was ready to go but Ventusky told me it was coming and I would be cycling into it. I stuck around in Beyneu longer than I wanted to (and anyone who's ever visited Beyneu would understand why) and sure enough the storm came. This saved me being stuck out in the desert getting nowhere fast and using up valuable food and water. I have always found the app to be as accurate as you can be when predicting a force of nature.

Ventusky Wind App