There are thousands of mobile apps which make travelling easier than ever! But we certainly don’t need most of them, unless we want to slow our phones down, kill batteries or waste our lives staring at the screens all the time. When I read articles about the most recommended travel apps I usually ask myself – why the hell would I need them? Therefore I decided to list all the apps I personally use during my trips and explain how they help, as some of their “hidden” functions may surprise you!
This article is for Android users; sorry Apple, not sorry.
Everyone knows Google Maps, which is probably the most popular navigation app out there. We use it every day. Not everyone knows that it is possible to create your own map, which I usually do while I’m working on my itineraries. I create different layers for different things, such as top attractions, eateries etc. Later it’s easy to pick one of these places to get directions. If you have a city break and don’t like to wander around, you can even draw the lines to mark the most suitable walk and later simply follow the steps.
All created maps will be available in your Google Drive (and in “Maps” section in “Saves” tab in Google Maps) and may be loaded at any time, although they may not work without an Internet connection.
More notably, I use Google Maps to check out attractions or eateries that I may want to visit, by browsing its users’ pictures. These are usually the honest and reliable images took by regular people, without misleading filters or Photoshop edits. Last but not last, Google Maps are surprisingly good in checking all available means of transport, including buses, trains and even planes (although I’ve never used it for flights).
Maps.me is an offline map service edited by its users. It’s a great help to plan routes, especially if you’re interested in smaller paths in forests, around beaches, parks and other remote places. In regards to that Maps.me is a much better app than Google Maps, as it includes an awful lot of paths and shortcuts that you won’t find in a Google product. For instance, this app was essential during my trip to Madagascar, where Google Maps didn’t see many roads or small villages. Unfortunately it’s not too good as a navigator.
All Trails is another map/navigation app that I occasionally use. It’s irreplaceable for exploring mountains and national parks. You can easily plan your adventure, but more importantly, you can choose from already created walks, suggested trails and other paths marked or created by its users. So easy and fun!
CityMapper is available for the world’s biggest or most visited cities. It’s basically a navigation app based on Google Maps, but works so much better in regards to giving directions for walkers or public transport users. It was a huge help and a time saver for me in a New York subway, as I knew exactly where to get off the train, which direction to go and which exit to take!
One of the most popular translators that I always use in non-English speaking countries. I usually download a particular language offline, so I don’t have to worry about Internet connection while trying to translate something.
Since Google Lens is included in Translate, it’s even better! Especially if you want to translate labels, product descriptions or to read foreign signs and leaflets. It’s also fun to use it if you want to check names of places, animals or flowers that you see in the front of you. All you have to do is take a picture and wait for results. Good to know: Google Lens are also available directly from Chrome search field, if you click the camera icon.
I bet you don’t want to carry your luggage the whole day with you, e.g. after checking out from accommodation while you still plan to see something before continuing your journey elsewhere. There comes Radical Storage which helps to find, book and pay for the nearest storage place. Recently I used it a couple of times in the USA, where I was not allowed to bring a camera or tripod to some museums and skyscrapers, but they didn’t offer any storage on their premises.
Where’s Public Toilet?
If nature calls, you have to listen. Otherwise you’ll lose that game badly… Where’s Public Toilet? is an app with a self-explanatory name that may be a life (or pants) saver in foreign places. In some cities it works better (full description, opening times, directions and review of the toilet) and in others worse (just a basic location) but it’s worth trying, once you’re desperate. I tested it in the USA and Ireland already.
Tags on Instagram are pretty useless, but this photo and video sharing app is still worth using while travelling. For instance, you can search for cafés or restaurants to check out their offer.
Not many people realize that on Instagram you can figure out the most recent look of the place of your interest. Just go to the search field, type the name of the place and click search icon, then click “See all results” and go to the “Places” section and then choose “Recent”. And obviously, check the dates below the posts. It works fine for the most touristy places, so you can check how crowded or developed it is and how it really looks at the moment. For example, in cities you can check if a popular landmark is currently during renovation, covered with scaffolding etc.
For me it was very useful while planning a winter trip to Iceland; to see the current look of ever changing ice caves and see if there’s a snow on the ground in particular places just hours before I decided whether to go there or not.
Revolut started as a money management app, but today I don’t think it differs much from a regular bank. Except, it has such a great currency exchange rate feature that you can use in seconds, which makes this app a treasure for travellers! You can also keep your money in several different currencies and switch between them.
I like the possibility of super fast transfers worldwide and the fact that all my transactions are visible immediately in the app or in my phone’s notification area. I can immediately block my Revolut card if lost or stolen. All the above make me feel super safe while paying abroad. Obviously, Revolut has plenty of other options available for everyday use.
A simple and light app, which is in general a bicycle counter. You can measure your trip distance, see how fast you’re cycling in real time and save a map of your ride afterwards. I use it every time when I’m cycling abroad, but also while wandering in the cities or having a trek somewhere (once I even used it while kayaking). It works perfectly without a bicycle. I mean, if you want to measure your distance whether cycling or walking, but you don’t need heavy, battery consuming and complicated app with plenty of options you won’t use anyway, just install Bikometer.
Uber is the most famous taxi app, available worldwide. If you travel as a couple or with friends and share the fare, in some countries it’s even cheaper than public transport!
Where Uber is not available or illegal, I use FreeNow. It is basically a traditional taxi order service, which means much more expensive than Uber. Still, it’s easier to catch a cab than trying the old way on the street.
Local Travel Apps
Wherever I go, I always check if there are some local apps that would make my travel easier. Number of cities offer free apps designated to their transportation system. There are museums or parks and other attractions having their own apps that may be used as guides, as they include maps, directions, tips, booking options and other interactive functions. Or you may be interested in city bike rental apps, those who help chasing northern lights, checking sea tides etc. Or such apps like Booking.com, Agoda and Airbnb if you don’t plan your accommodation much in advance (otherwise using their websites on your PC or laptop may be more comfortable).
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