These Free Mobile Apps Will Totally Upgrade Your Travel Experience
Every lover of travel knows that a great and successful trip to any part of the world requires these major essentials; an effective means of transportation, safe and comfortable accommodation, an efficient means to access your money and of course, great food! While there may be many other factors to consider, these four areas can make or break your trip.We have compiled a list of some of the mobile apps that you must have on your phone in order to get the best travel experience.
Before Your Trip: Plan With These Apps
The hustle of keeping up with all the information your require prior to your trip can be quite overwhelming. Tripit is an app that lets you handle everything in one place. All you have to do, is to forward your confirmation emails (from hotels, flights, car rentals, restaurants etc) to email@example.com and the app will automatically transform those emails into an itinerary for every trip in such a way that all your plans are in one place. The itinerary is detailed with important dates, times, and confirmation numbers, plus directions, maps, weather, and more.
If you find it hard to decide what to pack for your trip like I do, then PackPoint is for you. The app lets you specify your gender, destination and date of travel, the length of your trip and whether the trip is for business or leisure. You can specify what activities you will be engaging in, like business meetings, formal or casual dinners, swimming, camping, hiking, baby activities, gym time and any other activities, and the app will recommend what you need to pack.
- ICE app
ICE stands for In Case of Emergency. The app lets you list important numbers of your loved ones in case of an emergency. This information can be accessed by anyone, even if your phone is locked. You need not worry about the safety of the information on your because it only grants access to the app alone and nothing else. The app also provides you with information about ambulances, fire stations and the police in over 230 countries. It can also send an SOS message to your emergency contacts, automatically including your exact GPS coordinates.
During your trip: Navigation
Moving around in a foreign city or country can be rather hectic, as you may not always have the luxury of having a tour guide or an acquainted resident. So you can choose to keep asking for directions from random people, or you can go the safer and quicker way and use one of these navigation apps.
- Google Maps
This application is by far the most popular and the most trusted navigation app in the world. In fact, it is so vital that it comes as a default app on most phones. Google maps will give you the exact directions to whatever place you want to go. It even calculates the approximate time it would take for you to get there, depending on your means of transport. This could one of these; using public transport, a personal car, by bike or on foot. The app also provides a satellite view in case you would like extra precision.
Uber boasts of having a successful presence in over 60 countries and 404 cities worldwide. The mobile app is free to download and is fairly easy to use. Key in your preferred pick-up point and your destination, and the app will let you know how long you have to wait for the nearest taxi. You can estimate how much your taxi ride would cost prior to the trip itself.
The app automatically calculates the amount based on the number of kilometers and the time taken. This makes it relatively cheaper as compared to other taxis. An Uber will help you navigate whatever city with relative ease and will get you to your preferred destination in great comfort.
This app works on the basic principle of ‘what do others say’. It grants you access to millions of reviews and images (sometimes videos) written on hundreds of thousands of hotels, restaurants and other places of interest. You can tell what to expect of a certain flight or tour company, judging from the reviews it gets. The app also allows you to share your own reviews.
Handling Your Finances While On Your Trip
What good is a trip if you cannot access and use your money with ease? It is important to be fully prepared financially before embarking on an adventure of any sort. It is even more important, to have some extra cash in case of emergencies. You need to know the currency of the country you are visiting and an approximation of the exchange rate with your native currency. These apps will ensure that you won’t spend a dime worrying about your finances while on your trip.
- XE Currency
This app gives up-to-date exchange rates and it caters for just about every currency in the world. The conversion rates are frequently updated as they change, so you can trust that you will get your currency’s true worth. I am reminded of this one time when I was on my way to Kampala Uganda’s capital, via the Busia border. Now if you have been to that border you are familiar with the sight of men in yellow and purple overcoats, carrying large bundles of money. These men call themselves money changers.
It was early in the morning, about 3am, and there was no Bureau de Change in sight. So one of these money changers approached me and asked me if I wanted to change my money into Uganda shillings. I was so naïve; I knew nothing about the conversion rate at the time. That said, I got to Kampala with half the amount I was supposed to.
The XE Currency app has a free-to-download version on both Android and iOS.
2. Your bank’s mobile app
It is important to have an app for your bank of choice. That said, it is also important to have an account with a bank that allows for mobile banking. That way, you can easily transact between your bank account and your mobile money account. You also do not need to visit a branch unless it is really necessary. This turns managing your finances while travelling into quite a breeze.
You need to find a place safe enough to rest after a day’s adventure in a foreign country or city. The popular way to go is hotel rooms and guest houses, but these apps give a means of accommodation that is relatively cheaper as compared to hotels. They are also a lot more fun and adventurous!
At Airbnb you can search for accommodation anywhere in the world, at a price that is pocket-friendly to you. There is a vast variety to choose from; simple guest rooms, bed and breakfast houses, mansions and many others.
This is an app that lets you find a host in your destination country/city. Once you install the app (which is free), you can search and choose any host of your liking and also meet other travelers who are nearby. It also lets you choose to be a host in the event that you would like to offer accommodation to other travelers in your home town. This app is great in that it gives you the chance to fully specify what kind of host/traveler you would like, for example, whether they are kid or pet friendly, if they smoke, whether the house wheelchair accessible, what nights they are available to host and many more.
A great way to get the most out of your host country’s food scene would be to identify some local foodies. Food blogs are also a great way to get information about what and where to eat from these. If you are bold enough, reach out to these bloggers. You might be surprised at how willing some of them would be to teach you the ropes of dining in their country/city
This is a great food app that gives you information about thousands of restaurants. All you have to do is to select your location and the type of food you would like to eat, and the app with show you the way. You might also want to consider taking a look at some of the local food apps. For instance, there is EatOut in Kenya which is super detailed in terms of restaurants and cuisines in Kenya.
Other Important Apps
In the very least, you need to be able to say hello, thank you, goodbye and a few other common phrases in whatever language that is most spoken in your host country. Google translator translates words and phrases from language to language. While it might not be 100% accurate, it is better than not knowing anything about a certain language at all.
It would suck if you dressed for a hot day because it was sunny in the morning, only for the weather to turn gloomy later on. To avoid scenarios like these, we recommend that you have a weather app on your phone. Accuweather provides reliable weather forecasts for just about anywhere in the world. It also gives real-time updates so you are informed when the weather is bound to change.
Google Hangout/Skype/IMO/Facebook Messenger
Finally, if you need to make international calls while on your trip, these four are the go to apps. With good internet connection, you get to text, make audio or video calls and send media to anyone in the world. These apps keep you connected to your loved ones no matter what part of the world you are. All of them are free to download.