A smartphone is the best travel companion you could ever hope for. It can help you understand the local language, find your way and can provide you with entertainment any time of day or night. As your smartphone is always with you, wherever you are in the world, it’s a good idea to ensure you make the most of it before you head off by downloading the most useful travel apps around.
Before you start downloading, don’t forget the basics, such as an adaptor for your phone charger. Most smartphones have the ability to regulate the charge they receive regardless of the voltage supplied so you don’t have to worry about investing in an expensive adaptor – just the most basic model will do.
You also want to make careful checks on the data allowance plan you have with your provider and what level of service you can expect to receive once you are overseas. If you’re using applications such as maps or constantly checking your email and downloading files, your allowance may quickly be used up.
With its clean interface and more than 55 million downloads to date, XE currency is the go to app for exchange rate information. You can enter just about any currency in the world and the rates and updated every minute. If you are offline or have turned off your date in order to avoid roaming charges, the most recent rates are stored so you can still make calculations and work out exactly how much you are spending – or saving.
Nothing makes locals happier than hearing someone try to communicate in their own language. The Duolingo app makes it easy and fun to learn a variety of languages on the go. Practice while you’re on the plane or train. You not only see and hear the words, but the program can also help with your pronunciation so that you sound as much like a local as possible. Thanks to a good level of gamification, an easy-to-use interface and friendly graphics, learning a language never feels like hard work.
Everyone likes to receive postcards from friends and family members who are traveling overseas, but the practicalities of finding a card with anything other than the standard tourist fare, not to mention finding somewhere to purchase stamps, means many people don’t always get the chance to send as many as they like.
With the MyPostcard app, you can turn your own photographs taken on your travels into real postcards that get sent out automatically without you having ever having to go anywhere near a post office. Now you can snap a selfie outside a key tourist attraction and send it off as a postcard to share the experience with those closest to you, no matter how far away they are.
Speed up your return
If you want to speed through immigration control on your return home, you’ll want to be sure you have downloaded the Mobile Passport app created by U.S. Customs and Border Protection onto your phone. The app makes it possible for eligible travelers to submit their passport information to officials and answer all the mandatory customs inspection-related questions in advance. You do not need to be approved in advance in order to use the app and it is available free of charge.
Once you have loaded the app, you simply create a profile using much of the information on your passport, such as your name, gender, date of birth and country of citizenship. When you arrive, you complete the “new trip” section, snap a selfie and answer a few questions. You can then proceed directly to the express lane and get out of the airport in record time.
Not all airports are currently using the system but if your home airport is one the list, you’ll find the app worth its weight in gold.
If you already use Google to search the web and organize your email and to translate all the things you can’t make sense of when you are out of the country, then you are unlikely to mind the idea of signing up for Google Trips. The app makes it easy to get hold of a wide range of useful information, from places to eat and things to do to by creating an itinerary specifically matches the information in whichever travel guide you have purchased. The itinerary can be adjusted depending on whether you have a full or half day at your destination and can easily be changed or edited if some of the options don’t interest you.
It’s the perfect way to ensure you see all the highlights of a town or city in the minimum amount of time, making it ideal for short layovers. The app links to the map function of Google so you can also see how long it will take you to get from one attraction to another.
Whether you’re visiting a city you’ve always wanted to see for a weekend break or backpacking your way around the entire globe, there are times when it’s nice to have a bit of company. If you are on your own, other solo travelers can make great companions and there are many occasions when you can save money – or just look a lot less awkward – by purchasing two tickets for an event rather than just one. The app is particularly useful if you need to get a taxi anywhere as you can easily arrange to share with someone. The app also gives you the option of meeting up with locals, giving you a chance to truly get to know a city inside out.
If you want to have more freedom to explore an area at your own pace but don’t want to fork out for a hire car, you can always try Turo. This app is essentially Airbnb for vehicles and allows you to rent cars directly from private owners. Expect to cut the cost of rental at least in half when using the app.