The days are gone of paper maps and sending postcards to our parents to assure them we’re still alive on our travels. We are living in a digital world, and while it’s great to be able to unplug while travelling, there are ways your mobile device can definitely enhance your experience.
Here are six apps that we highly recommend using while travelling, ordered from nice-to-have to need-to-have.
When travelling with friends, you’re likely to cover a bill here and book an Uber there. It’s a lot easier to take one for the team rather than scrambling to find the exact amount owed by each person, especially when dealing with foreign currencies. With Splitwise, you can plug in the exact amount each person has covered and owes, and the app will divvy it all up so you can settle up at the end of the trip (or whenever works for you). It works for converting different currencies as well! No splitting-the-bill stress here.
While Splitwise is super handy for avoiding that splitting-the-bill stress, it’s more of a nice-to-have and not need-to-have while travelling. And it’s definitely not critical when you’re a solo traveller with no one to split with.
Learning the native language of the country you are visiting can be not only respectful and useful, but also often critical to making the most out of your time there. Duolingo is a great free app that teaches you a new language through verbal, oral, matching, and written skills. Esta muy bien! ¡Buenas noches! (Okay, we’re still in the early levels).
Duolingo is usually the most helpful before your trip, because on your trip you will be too busy immersing yourself in the local language to be spending your time relying on an app. Travelling in foreign-speaking countries is essentially a real-life Duolingo.
XE Currency Convertor
When you’re hoping from epic place to epic place, you might be thrown off by the different currency in each country. “I’m sorry, HOW MANY BAHT?” Then you realize 500 baht in Thailand is about 20 dollars in Canada, and your blood pressure returns to normal. XE Currency Converter allows you to download each currency and check your foreign exchange rates mid-shop, with no need for Wi-Fi.
This is basically a need-to-have if you suck at and/or can’t be bothered to do math to convert currency, but it is definitely a nice-to-have if you’re globetrotting around through various countries with different currencies on your trip.
Ridesharing apps can be a total lifesaver when travelling, especially when taxi charges can be, well, up to the discretion of the driver. It’s usually more affordable, convenient, and leaves a digital trail, which only adds to your safety. You’d be surprised at how much they come in handy, from Ubering for $3 around Rio de Janeiro to sliding past that huge traffic jam on a Grab bike in Bali. Download apps like Uber, Grab, and Lyft to help you get from point A to B in top form.
While ridesharing apps can save you time, money, and anxiety there are always the options of taking a taxi or public transit, so this one lands in the middle of our ranking.
Whatsapp is by far the most widely used communication app around the world. With texting, voice messages, voice calls, and video calls, not to mention a means of storing your contacts and photos on the app’s end-to-end encryption model, it is a must for travelling. Everyone with a phone from Brazil to Rwanda relies on Whatsapp for their primary means of instant messaging, so it’s a good idea to have it on your phone to make sure you’re not left out of the conversation.
Whatsapp takes our number two spot because whether you’re solo or with friends, it’s always good to have that means of communication to be able to meet up when you please.
Our top travel tip is, prior to your arrival, download the offline version of Maps.Me or Google Maps for your destination, so you can always see where you are without needing Wi-Fi. Save any important locations – your hotel, any restaurants you’d like to hit up, or, you know, every speakeasy in the city. This will allow you to keep track of where “home” is, and navigate around the city without Wi-Fi. Maps.Me is much more detailed than Google Maps, showing reviews on restaurants, the ability to estimate your route timing while offline, and more.
This takes our number spot because we all know how easy it is to get lost in an unfamiliar country, and in certain destinations, your safety can depend on knowing where you are and where you need to go.
Honourable mention goes to Instagram, because if you didn’t ‘gram it, did you even travel?