Overlooking the obvious ones like Couchsurfing for those looking to meet locals, Airbnb for budget travelers, and a variety for finding flights like Skyscanner, there are several apps all travelers would benefit from having on their phones. Whether you’re concerned with communication, transportation, or expediency, these apps are a good start to an international trip.
I generally avoid using Uber in the US nowadays due to the politics of the owner and the unforgiving pay and job security of the sharing economy, but there are a few places abroad where I can’t deny it’s the best way to get around. Though the app may be illegal in Bali (and caused some bloodshed from taxi drivers), for most cities in Southeast Asia, it’s the easiest method to not only avoid getting cheated by unscrupulous drivers, but also to get to your hotel or hostel right after stepping off the plane when you don’t want to think about explaining directions in the local language.
2. Google Translate Camera Function
The Google Translate app itself is questionable when it comes to explaining something in a foreign language — I wouldn’t type something in and show it to a local expecting results. However, the camera function is quite remarkable and an easy way to interpret street signs, types of stores, menu items, and fine print if you have to fill out paperwork.
3. Google Maps
Google does have a plethora of useful apps, but I’m only including these two for travelers. Though the Gmaps app was leading the crowd — especially compared to the iPhone built-in maps app — what really put it over the top for me was listing local transportation schedules, routes, and even fares. As long as you have wifi access, you can land in Tokyo, search for the next train, and not only find when it departs, but how much you have to pay.
WhatsApp is by and large the best international texting app, though some still swear by Snapchat, Instagram DMs, Facebook Messenger. Though apps like WeChat, KakaoTalk, and LINE lead the crowd in China, South Korea, and Japan respectively, WhatsApp is the way to go across borders.
5. Mobile Passport
Mobile Passport is more America-centric, but worth mentioning because of the time it saves US citizens returning from abroad. If you’re signed up for Global Entry there may not be any need to download this, but rather than waiting in line for the machines to check the same boxes over how much cash you’re bringing into the US and the like, you can fill out these questions while you’re still in your seat waiting to exit the plane, and then just let the machine scan a QR code to get you through. Quite handy and free, but not yet available at all ports of entry.
6. XE Currency
Not much explanation needed; the XE Currency will convert the local currency for you. Much easier than looking for a hotspot on arrival or Googling the answer.
Though its international usage in less developed countries is limited at this point, there’s a huge potential for an app like this, especially for travelers with Crohn’s or IBS. Flush allows the user to find the closest public bathroom in the vicinity, and even rate them based on cleanliness, amenities, etc. How long this will take before you can find a non-squatter toilet in the middle of Kunming is anyone’s guess, but it’s a good start.
8. Wifi Map
Rather than simply directing you to the nearest free network or forcing you to purchase a drink at a café when all you want to do is stand outside and check your email, Wifi Map crowdsources passwords from wifi networks across the world and makes them available to travelers. Naturally, if you’re already looking for wifi you may think this app is useless, but offline data is available for many countries.
As travelers, we’re often arriving and departing countries at incredibly awkward times. It should come as no surprise some hotels offer day rates or short stays to accommodate those of us with several hours to kill, but finding the ones who offer the best deals has been a trial and error process until now. With Dayuse, you can search for what hours a hotel will let you check in and out during the day, what they charge, and where they are.