City Maps 2 Go (Ulmon)
This is not an exaggeration when I say City Maps is THE greatest travel app I have ever used. Essentially an offline map service, simply download the city you want while connected to the internet and then use it wherever. Since it works on GPS, the app shows you everything you need that’s closest to your current location, such as where the nearest ATMs/doctors/shops are to the nearest hotels or supermarkets. There’s also little Wikipedia-like articles of information when you click on to attractions or suggestions for things to do in each city too.
It saddens me to think of how much time I’ve spent lost in cities and while this is not always a bad thing and you can stumble across some pretty rad stuff when off the beaten track, for circumstances where you’d like to know where you’re going and quickly (like when it’s 40 degrees and you’re wearing a 15kg backpack) this app is your best friend. 5 maps for free in a trial or $3.79 AUD for the pro version/unlimited maps.
I personally didn’t like the idea of giving an app access to my emails so it could automatically make up my itinerary however, if you’re time poor this is a great tool. Instead I use Trip It to manually keep track of my accommodation, flights and any day tours. It has space for notes so you can write in reference numbers too, instead of having to consult your emails. It keeps everything in date order and for accommodation even provides little maps to your location.
This app at its basic level is free. You can pay for a yearly subscription service which will take all of your travel plans and organise them for you, in addition to alerting you should your plans should change.
XE Currency | Globe Tipping
So XE may not be the most interesting app out there but it’s darn useful. It will auto update every time you’re connected to the internet so that the rates are accurate. You can compare multiple currencies at once and it works offline. It saved my butt after an airport currency exchange worker in Turkey tried to rip me off over 100 euro and I was able to show him immediately on my phone just exactly how much my lira was worth (to which he replied, my mistake so sorry. Yeah sure!) Free.
The Globe Tipping app is super handy as it lists the expectation for tipping in every country. It also has a built in calculator so that you can work out based on how many people ate, what the tip should be. Useful if you want to avoid potentially embarrassing situations if you weren’t aware of the social customs of dining out when abroad! $1.29 AUD.
Word Lens | Duolingo
When I was in Russia it goes without saying that there wasn’t a lot of signage I could read of the cyrillic alphabet. Cue Word Lens! Simply focus your phone camera on the words you want to translate and it will automatically tell you the English equivalent, pretty freaking cool! Of course it’s nowhere near perfect and may give you a few different suggestions but mostly you get the gist and it’s fairly helpful. You get a few languages for free (there isn’t currently many to choose from) on trial but additional conversions will cost you in this app.
Before I headed for Italy and Spain I wanted to brush up a little on the languages. Duolingo is good for those who want to give learning the basics of a language a go before they leave for their trip. It’s not a language convertor but a teaching app which builds upon small lessons in grammar to give you an overview of the language. Not in any way a substitute to actual classes but good to learn a few words with. Free.
When I was in Istanbul my friends and I agreed to meet at a particular train station enterance. Turned out there was about three entrances… In attempting to confirm I was in the right place with a currency conversion booth worker (who was the closest person around I thought might speak English) the man, who didn’t understand I word I said whipped out the iTranslate app. He spoke into his phone and the translation came out so we could communicate! Like anything of this technological nature it isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty helpful mostly and what a fantastic tool! $4.99 AUD.
Keeping in touch
Viber | WhatsApp | Skype
Any of these apps are great for staying up to date with friends and family, all that’s needed is wifi or data access. All three of the programs have similar functions which allow you to text messages, voice or video call. It comes down to preference on this one! All of these apps are free however with Skype you can prepay credit on your account to make calls to normal phone/mobile numbers.