Helpful Smartphone Apps for Travelers
Heading into a foreign country can be intimidating even for the most worldly of travelers.
A new language, a different currency, and mazes of streets that may make no sense to you can compound and turn an exciting adventure into a scary daytrip. But what if we told you that you probably own an incredible piece of technology that can not only erase your fears, but also enhance your overall experience? Most of us already own it and, in fact, you may be using it right now.
The smartphone has changed how most of us live by giving us simple access to a variety of applications, more commonly known as “apps.” Travel apps, many of which are free, can be easily downloaded onto your smartphone in a matter of moments. Offering services like helping you decipher the current currency exchange, to navigating those cobblestone alleys, and even translating a new language; the travel industry is saturated with apps.
So, which ones should you absolutely download before you dash off to Dublin? Here are our picks for the best of the best.
Never Get Lost Again!
City Mapper: An improved version of your phone’s current mapping app, City Mapper utilizes accurate and easy to read maps with enhanced features like cycle and foot routes as well as Uber, a ride sharing app, integration. Available in more than 30 cities, City Mapper also tracks real time departure and arrival times and allows for trip interruptions and delays. It even tells you how many calories you’ll burn if you’re traveling by foot! The app is available for both Android and iOS, and the best part? It’s totally free.
Uber: Mentioned above, Uber is an app that pairs real drivers – not taxis- with real people in need of a ride. Available in more than 507 cities worldwide, Uber prescreens their drivers and tracks every ride you take, allowing you to feel safe no matter where you are, or who you’re riding with. Not only is Uber typically much cheaper than a taxi ride, you also get the perk of having the opportunity to chat up a local about their favorite places in town! The app pairs with a credit card that you enter or your Paypal account, so no currency needs to change hands and you never have to worry about tipping. The free app is available on Android and iOS.
TravelSmart: This app pinpoints hospitals in over 129 countries and presents them to the user in a list that’s straightforward and easy to read. Complete with hospital contact information and a mapping app to get you there fast, the app also provides a list of emergency numbers in the area where you GPS places you as well as a drug and first aid dictionary that makes language translation a snap.
iTriage: Conceptualized and created by emergency room doctors, this app boasts a large medical database. It allows you to search by symptom or condition, and then cross reference against nearby providers. It will even confirm what forms of insurance the nearby medical facilities will accept.
Allergy Alert: Developed with help from Pollen.com, this app displays common allergies in the places where you’re located. Offering a 5 day outlook, a quick glance at this app can help keep hay fever under control.
XE Currency: The trusted web home of currency conversion is now optimized for your smartphone. XE hits a homerun with this free app, which provides more than a basic line conversion calculator. The wildly popular app, which boasts more than 20 million downloads, also offers historic exchange rates and rates for precious metals. The best part? It works in offline mode, too. This means you can get an accurate exchange rate, updated the last time it was able to sync with the internet, even if you’re in a place with no Wifi or data coverage.
Wolfram Sun Exposure: If you’re traveling in the summer months and experience sunburns easily, this app is simply a must have. It allows you to enter your skin type, the strength of your sunscreen, and your exact location and time spent outdoors. Then, the app calculates UV strength and lets you know just how long you can spend in the sunlight before getting a sunburn. This app carries a purchase fee, and at time of publishing, was only available on iOS.
Communicate in Style
What’s App? This cross platform smart app is basically a messaging service. With a user base of 1 billion users, it makes sharing text, images, and document files across a language barrier a snap. Video calls are also an option between users.
Skype: Another messaging app, Skype allows its 600 million users to communicate over WiFi or cell data service through text based messages or video calls. Much of the service is free, but you will need to link a credit card if you want to call a landline or cell based number. But if you’re dialing direct from Skype user to Skype user, the service is free. This makes phoning home from overseas simple and free.
Duolingo: Interested in learning a bit of the lingo? Try Duolingo, a widely popular –more than 70 million users! - and free app that helps you learn basic vocabulary and phrases of the country in which you’re traveling. Designed like a computer game, the app is the perfect way to pass the time on long international flights or drive time between countries.
Google Translate: Let’s just call this one “Old Faithful.” Easy to use and incredibly accurate, translate written text easily. The integrated camera feature means you can snap a photo of a menu or airport queue sign and have it instantly translated for you.
Never A Dull Moment
Time Out: Done with the “must see” tourist stops in your city and wanting to seek out a bit of local flair? This app, again, free for download, puts the pulse of the city in your hand. Showcasing scheduled love music venues, the bar scene, and best festivals near you. The app even allows you to book concert tickets and make reservations for hot restaurants directly.
Live Trekker: Count your steps and recall your memory with this quirky, fun app. It tracks your route as you traipse through the city. Then, later, you can relive exactly where you went and what you saw on a digital map! Along the way you can add photos, videos, audio files and text, creating a digital memory book with little to no effort on your part. An added bonus? This app makes it simple to re-track your steps in the event you become lost or lose an item along your trek.
Tripit & App in the Air: This pair of apps, both free, turn your email “Travel” folder into an organized itinerary and airport map. All you need to do is forward those confirmation Emails to the app and let it do the logistical organizing for you. Tripit then arranges those Emails by date into a single calendar like format; showing you exactly where you need to be and when. Even better- the app has a group planning function that will merge your travel companion’s itinerary with your own, making it a snap to meet up.
Next, the App in the Air app takes a closer look at those flights identified by Tripit. This app updates you on your flight status- breaking it down into four stages: check in, boarding, take off time, and expected landing time.
Your Bank’s App: This quick download just makes sense. Not only can you track your account balance with ease, this app can also likely help you find the closest ATM.
Finally, your Travel Director is a great resource for information and can offer other ideas for how to get the most out of the destinations you’re visiting. Be sure to ask them for their recommendations and favorite Apps.