Essential travel apps for every journey

January 8, 2014 by Elle Croft

As technology has evolved over the past ten years or so, the way in which we travel has too. Remember paper airline tickets? Although they may seem like they belong in a bygone era, they were still being issued by some airlines as recently as 2008. Thankfully though, e-tickets aren’t the only benefit of modern technology for travellers; there are plenty of ways that you can enhance your travel experiences at the touch of a button. Here are our picks of the most essential travel apps that we think everyone should install before leaving home:

Google Maps

Essential apps you shouldn’t travel without

This is one of those apps that no mobile device should be without. Not only is it a lifesaver if you find yourself lost in a foreign destination, but it also has some pretty impressive features that can make your life a lot easier. Road trippers should take advantage of the multiple destinations option, which will find the fastest route between various points specified by you. This function is also available within cities, so you can work out the fastest route to walk, cycle or catch public transport between multiple sights. Another cool feature of Google Maps is that if you search for venues such as theatres and stadiums, the upcoming events at that venue will appear in the sidebar with links to the ticket booking page.

Free for Android devices, iPhone and iPad

WhatsApp

Forget about international texting charges, and download WhatsApp instead. This clever little app uses your device’s data or Wifi to send text, photo, video and voice messages so aside from any data costs, messages are free to send and receive.
This is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family while you’re abroad without racking up a costly phone bill at the end. The group messaging function is also handy as it allows you to send messages to a number of users at once – ideal for delivering envy-inducing holiday snaps to everyone at home!

Free to download for most devices (USD $0.99 annual fee)

XE

Essential apps you shouldn’t travel without

Dealing with foreign currencies can be confusing, but XE currency converter simplifies spending abroad. With over 180 currencies available, XE calculates real-time exchange rates or, if you’re nowhere near a Wifi zone, it stores the latest updated rates so you can even calculate your spending offline. It’s perfect for those on-the-go costs that you can’t calculate in advance, such as haggling at street markets or negotiating taxi prices abroad.

Free for most devices

Foursquare

This might not be an obvious travel essential, but Foursquare is actually really useful if you find yourself in a city looking for something to do, somewhere to eat or drink, or even the closest cash machine. When you’re hungry and in an unfamiliar destination it can be tempting to settle for the closest place you can find (which, if you’re in a tourist-heavy area, can often be underwhelming and overpriced), but a quick search in Foursquare will show you all of your nearby options along with user reviews so you never have to make poor choices out of sheer desperation again! The only downside is that you need to be online for the app to function, so if your data is expensive this might be one to save for when you’ve got access to Wifi.

Free for most mobile devices

Google Translate

It seems that Google really knows how to cater to travellers. Google Translate is another of their useful apps; this one helps to break down the barriers of communication when travelling to a destination where you don’t speak the language. For simple text translation, you can download a language pack which can then be used offline, but not all 70+ languages are available yet. If you need a hand with pronunciation, you can speak the words you’d like translated into your phone and the app can display or read the translation to you. Another great feature (not available for all languages) is that you can photograph text that you need translated (for example, a restaurant menu) and highlight the words you don’t understand. Google Translate will do the rest, so gone are the days when you’re not quite sure what you’re eating…although sometimes that’s half the fun of travelling!

Free for iPhone and Android

Which apps would you add to this list? Let us know what technology you can’t travel without!

About Elle Croft

When Elle is not travelling, she's blogging about it over at A Bird in the Hand Travel. She believes that you don't have to look like a backpacker to travel, and writes about the stylish side of wanderlust, from stylish destinations to packing tips.