I make no secret of my affection for inanimate objects – the relationship I have with my iPhone is one of the most underrated love stories of the 21st century.
My phone is not just a gadget, but also a fantastic friend in need. And boy, do I often find myself in need when I’m travelling. From getting lost in Moroccan souks to hitchhiking to France with a pimp and a Mexican, many of my adventures would not have been possible without the help of my cell and a few apps. That is why I have decided to share my ten favourite free travel apps with you. From meeting sexy locals to translating your cheesy pickup lines into their language, I’ve got you covered from the onset of your trip to its bittersweet end. Without further ado, here are a few virtual helpers you should not travel without.
Google TranslateTo say I love languages would be an understatement, but nobody can actually speak all 6,500 of them. No, challenge not accepted. Google Translate might not be the best communication tool out there and will likely result in some hilarious mistranslations, but I have found it to be a lifesaver. Honestly – I’m not sure I would have survived my month in Beijing without shoving the app in people’s faces and forcing them to lead me home as I aggressively smiled at them. Yes, aggressive smiling is totally a thing.
XE CurrencyMoney, money, money… If you thought foreign languages were difficult to understand, just wait till you have to convert your yen to yuan or get paid in Zimbabwean dollars instead of USD. With constant fluctuations, it’s virtually impossible for anyone to stay on top of exchange rates. Luckily, XE Currency takes care of everything for you and quickly converts your moolah from one currency to another.
HostelworldIf you are thinking of booking a night at a hostel, you should check out the new Hostelworld app, newly available for Android as well as iOS. What is it? Why it’s a slicked-up and slimmed-down version of the Hostelworld website, complete with reviews, photos and maps. But that’s boring. What it truly is is a gadget that will keep you from sleeping in the streets if your Couchsurfing guest turns out to be a hunchback predator. (If he or she is just a hunchback, you probably have nothing to fear and should work on your tolerance. Gee.)
Booking through a mobile app is great for those of us who are constantly on the go, because it automatically stores all your bookings in one place. Not having to print all your travel info out means happy trees and happy trees mean more oxygen, which greatly lowers the likelihood of you dying of smog-induced suffocation. That’s pretty good. But what it means to me is not frantically fumbling through my gigantic bag trying to fish out a crumpled up piece of paper with my booking number on it and, in turn, it also means I’m less likely to die of a stress-induced heart attack at the tender age of twenty one. I don’t know about you, but I’m a fan – because ain’t nobody got time for stress-induced heart attacks.
TripItTripIt is another amazing app that will make your life much easier. It lets you wave all those misplaced schedules goodbye, as it stores anything from your flight info to reservation numbers. All you have to do is forward your travel-related emails to TripIt’s account and the app will create a custom calendar for you, letting you know where to go and when. It also provides you with maps, weather forecasts and attraction suggestions, which is a nice bonus.
CitymapperSadly for everyone, Citymapper is only available in ten cities at the moment – London, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, Madrid, Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago and the SF Bay Area. That’s the bad news. The good news is that, if you live in one of those places, Citymapper will completely change your life. It can get you from one end of the city to the other quickly and effectively, listing all means of transport and their prices, as well as walking and bike routes and how many calories you burn if you opt for those. Ingenious.
The app even has a “Get Me Home” button, which is perfect for those among us who can’t always hold their liquor and tend to get a little lost after a night of bar hopping. I’m not saying that’s me, but I’m also not saying it’s not. I’m just saying.
SeatGuruSeatGuru offers a pretty specific service – it gives you the lowdown on your chosen airplane seat. From toilet proximity to the likeliness that people will bump into you while you sleep, I have yet to find a more detailed overview.
UberMost of you have probably heard of Uber by now, but it merits a mention. The app – which is now available in over 100 cities – will let you order a car, estimate its arrival time and text you when the driver is on his or her way. You also need no cash as it just bills your credit card at the end of the journey , so it eliminates all that awkward wallet fiddling and coin dropping.
If you prefer calling people over texting, Viber might be a better fit for you. I no longer use the app, because most of my friends have FaceTime and I usually text or Skype people from my computer instead anyway. But Viber is a really good way of connecting with people while you’re on the go.
Wi-Fi FinderSpeaking of which, you should download Wi-Fi Finder – the best way to find a reliable and free connection. While travelling Wi-Fi hunting can be a little challenging, but this handy little app makes it extremely simple.
TinderPart of exploring a new city is interacting with locals and if they’re hunky young men, well, that’s fine with me! Tinder is an imperfect, inherently shallow app which presents you with brief profiles of men and/or women near you – you can refine the search based on proximity and age. But, despite its limitations, it’s a lot of fun. If you and your potential paramour both “like” each other’s profile, you will be matched up and… I’m sure you can take it from there. If you’re single and ready to mingle, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get your Tinder on while travelling. After all, you never know who you might meet – will your match be an ax murderer, the local heart-breaker or perhaps a well-adjusted young adult? I know which one I’d prefer, but to each their own.
Do you use any of these apps? If so, how are you finding them? What are your go to applications when travelling?