There’s a travel app out there for almost anything you can think of, from the basic stuff, like getting around, to the nitty gritty, like buying luggage space from people who haven’t used their full allocation.
Here are a few free ones you’ll actually use.
This app, which converts every currency in the world, has been around for a while, but is an essential, especially in the countries where the money is measured in huge amounts, such as the Vietnamese dong and French Polynesian francs.
It has many other financial features such as historical data, market analysis, and even a money transfer function, but you’ll probably only use the currency converter which handily stores the latest rate so you can still use it offline.
Fast and easy to use.
Google Maps and Citymapper
Gone are the days of struggling to interpret a paper map – difficult at the best of times for those of us who are directionally challenged.
You’ll need data for these two apps to operate at their optimum, though if you’re organised you can download a specific area in Google Maps that will work offline and eventually expires.
If you’re travelling somewhere for a while, it will pay to get a local sim card so you can access data at a decent rate.
The best thing about these two are that they factor in real-time alerts and will alter your route to suit if there has been a big crash or roadworks are up ahead.
You can also get Uber estimations, travel times by any method, and can pick up nearby attractions and eateries. Citymapper is available in 30 cities worldwide, while you can get Google Maps anywhere there is a GPS reach.
Think of Tripit as a paperless itinerary. This app cleverly (and somewhat spookily) goes through all the travel confirmation emails you forward to it – flights, rental cars, hotels, events, etc – and compiles them into one document.
It can also be shared with your travel companions, so works even better if you’re on a group trip.
Google Translate and Duolingo
This is absolutely an essential when you’re somewhere that has very few English speakers, like remote parts of China or some areas of Eastern Europe.
The app also has a nifty feature that allows you to translate from images of words, especially handy if you can’t read a sign or poster.
Duolingo is a language learning app that guides you through the basics. Like a computer game, you have to complete levels before advancing, and you gain “experience” points along the way.
This clever app alerts you to the best time to buy a flight. You put your desired dates into its calendar, and it comes back with the cheapest time to book and will recommend whether you wait or buy.
If you wait, the app will message you when the prices drop.
Skype, WhatsApp and Rebtel
Skype’s been around for a bit, while WhatsApp is newer, but Rebtel is the new kid on the block when it comes to calling or messaging home.
Real telcos have traditionally been cripplingly expensive, but web-based applications cost only as much as a little data, or, if you can find a Wi-Fi connection, zero.
Skype is for actually calling, with or without camera, and WhatsApp is instant messaging for text, pictures, voice or video, but Redtel is a whole different ballgame, avoiding the internet entirely.
With this app, you “hijack” local phone lines with any kind of phone, and pay the cheapest rate available.