Best Free Travel Apps
In a world where we spend half our time in virtual reality and our smartphones are an extension of our arms (c'mon, stop kidding yourself, you and I both know you use it in the toilet) it's a little hard to connect with the idea that you'll completely unplug when you travel to somewhere new.
Of course, due to absurd data roaming charges you are more likely to spend less time staring at your little 4.7" screen, but the ingrained reliance is still there - so I say, why deny it?
Nowadays, the speed of technological progress seems to get ever greater. In the last five years alone we have seen huge advances in mobile phones and these days it’s all about ‘apps’. Short for ‘applications’, this term simply refers to a program that can make your everyday life easier. A bit of software that tells you how to get from A to B, gives you advice on how to make a cocktail, what to buy as a gift for a friend...
Even though ‘apps’ have only been here for a relatively short period, they are here to stay. There really is an app for just about everything these days; it’s fair to say that if you can imagine it, it probably exists in app form. The general maxim for life is that if you can’t beat it, join it, and apps can be very useful, especially when you are away from home.
Here is a list of must-have tried and tested travel apps which will totally enhance your travel experience. And the best thing is they are all totally free!
1. XE Currency Converter
Anybody who has ever found themselves in a foreign country, trying to pay for something (and here's where the mental maths kicks in!) whilst coyly calculating its equivalent value back home will rejoice at XE Currency Converter.
This nifty app lets you select your curencies of interest, load them onto a home dashboard and compare them to a base currency (which you can easily change). No more awkward moments trying to calculate whether those elephant harem pants really are worth the 250 Thai Baht, because you can use the app offline too (it saves the most recent exchange rate from the last time you were online). Useful, huh?
Backpackers rejoice! Finding cheap accommodation whilst on the road has never been easier - take it from someone who spent 8 months finding a bed solely using the HostelWorld app, it doesn't get simpler than this.
HostelWorld's booking app lets you search and browse accommodation in almost any human settlement there is, and what's more, it lets you view your options on a map (so you can check out how far away you'll be from the nearest train station, local landmark, airport etc) or filter them by rating, price, facilities and more. What more could you need to find an affordable, well-located and comfortable bed?
For those really wanting to get under the skin of a new place, AirBnb is your game. If you haven't yet used it , you haven't lived! Rent a room or a whole place from a local host and experience a stay at your travel destination from the best location - a local's home.
5. Google Translate
It’s obviously essential, wherever you are going, to understand the rudiments of the language.
Ok, so we've covered the basics, like asking where the toilet is and how much something costs, but what if you're allergic to gluten and you need to let the Italians know? And what about explaining to a random Vietnamese that you need to find the nearest hospital so you can get a tetanus shot because a stray dog bit you (ok likely not, but you never know)? Que Google Translate!
Who wants to carry around a heavy guide and phrasebook nowadays? Phrasebook and translation applications are now getting ever more sophisticated and not only give you text information on the local lingo but, with many of the more modern versions, you can actually type of say the word that you need the translation for and it will translate the audio for you.
Free, available offline and almost entirely always correct, Google Translate really is a necessary app that will get you out of many a sticky situations, or it'll simply mean you get the most out of your trip.
These guys promote themselves as "the travel guide, reinvented". Using your location, they recommend local places to eat, drink, things to do, where to shop and stay, all based on ratings and discoveries made by recognised travel experts. Though it's frustrating that the app is little use when you're offline, it's a great place to start if you've just dropped your bags, connected to the WiFi and are wondering how to get started with exploring a new city!
Bonus: the app is compatible with the notification center on iOS so it's handy if you're out and about and need a quick reference!
Many modern phones will have this built-in as standard, but it’s an absolute must for the keen or even occasional traveller. Much like an in-car GPRS system, the phone version will quickly pinpoint your position in the world and give you an idea of how to get to your destination with the minimum amount of fuss and map reading madness.
All well and good when you've got data to use, Google Maps and Citymapper are almost everybody's go-to map apps. But we all know data isn't a luxury we have on the road: enter Maps.me! Download a map when you're online, and navigate it without problems when you're not. Easy, free and a life-saver when you're trying to find that must-go-have-to-see-totally-worth-it restaurant your friend told you to go to when you visit Singapore/Barcelona/any other city on your list.
There have been some really bad and needless inventions in the world but it is hard to imagine how we ever survived without this. Some may argue, however, that the romance of getting lost has now disappeared forever!
Instagram junkies this one's for you. Ironically, it was somebody I met whilst travelling who told me about this app, and it's one I've been sharing with anybody who shares my passion for capturing, editing and posting some of my best travel snaps. A Google-developed editing software, Snapseed allows you to go beyond the simple filtering and brightness toggling which Instagram/Facebook/Twitter currently allows, and play with tone, exposure, HDR, sharpness and many many others, to help you create images worth submitting into Lonely Planet, Nat Geo or any other travel website you've got your eye on, or you know, just for your humble Facebook page. You. Are. Welcome.
Wherever you are travelling to in the world, be it a remote part of the Caribbean or a sprawling metropolis, you are going to need to eat, book a tour or find activiities at some stage. There are now a plethora of online applications that will give you hundreds of dining and travel options wherever you are in the world but Tripadvisor is still the best. You simply type in what you fancy doing and within seconds you will get a list of suggestions and reviews in the nearby area. It makes also makes planning your trip even easier and is like the other apps on our list totally free.
Uber is one of the most popular taxi applications and millions of people use it every year all over the world from London to Miami. You can order a taxi from the app or choose a ride-share option for a cheaper fare. You get the benefit of fast and reliable cabs in the major cities around the world and payment is all online so you don't need to worry even if you don't have any cash on you. With the Uber app there is no need to hail a cab anymore, drivers usually arrive within minutes and receipts are e-mailed direct to you. There is even the option to track where your cab is on the live map. The app is totally free but actually ordering a cab does cost.
Traveling can be very expensive, but if you are savvy there are ways to cut costs and make the whole experience easier. One option is not using your mobile abroad and download an app like Skype instead to make calls. You will be able to have video conversations with your friends and family, even if you are thousands of miles away.
Skype was founded in 2003. It’s based in Luxembourg, with offices in Europe, the USA and Asia. It’s owned by an investor group led by Silver Lake and which includes eBay Inc, Joltid Limited and Skype founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Andreessen Horowitz.
Skype is one of the leading global Internet communications company. Skype-to-Skype voice and video calls are completely free whilst calls to landline and mobile phones is very cheap.
Everyone has heard of Whatsapp right? This is an app that enables the world's conversations. Millions of individuals and businesses use Whatsapp to make free video and voice calls, send instant messages and share files with other Whatsapp users. Whatsapp is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, worldwide and is great for keeping in touch.
Wherever you are travelling in the world, local information is vital and with the advent of mobile travel apps everything really is now a lot easier than it used to be. It’s hard to envisage what we did without them. If you think there are any apps we missed off the list let us know.
By Dessie Nedyalkova