I’ll go ahead and put it out there, since we’ve come to a time in this world when we have to pick a side. Not between good or evil, democrats or republicans, cats or dogs, but between Apple or Android. I, dear readers, am positioned firmly on the Apple side. I know, I know, I may lose points for this. But given that I’m going to be talking about my favorite apps that I’ve been using on my travels, I thought it prudent to be up front about it. However, luckily for those of you that have opted for the Android side, all of the following apps are available for you as well. Now keep in mind, these are just the apps that I’ve found most useful during my recent travels. They may or may not be relevant to you, but at least you’ll know about them in case you do need them.
Instagram may very well be one of my favorite apps of all time. I get to share all of my pictures from my adventures with anyone and everyone I want to share them with, and they don’t even need an Instagram account. I can opt to share my posts on my linked social media accounts (there six options: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Swarm, and Mixi), or embed my Insta feed into my travel blog, just to make sure the world doesn’t miss out on seeing me attempt to be a photographer whose only piece of equipment is her worn out iPhone. I can tag my locations to show up on a map, tag the people I’m with, come up with ridiculous hashtags, edit them with however many photo editing apps I want (or just use Instagram’s filters…), and put them into a collage with the linked Instagram Layout app. I’m also finding it very inspiring and helpful to follow other Insta users who are travelers like myself, or follow tourist companies that post pictures of places that I’d like to visit, as well as profiles that give insight to hotspots I should check out in a specific city. For instance, there’s one Instagram I currently follow called melbournetodo that posts food joints, events, and various tips exclusively for Melbourne. Super handy since I’m currently in Melbourne.
Google Maps has been my saving grace from the get-go. Buying paper maps can be somewhat expensive if you’re a super-budget traveler like myself, and if you’re not in an airport or information center, they can be hard to find. Google Maps is free, it’s on your phone, and even if you don’t have access to Wi-Fi, you can still use it (though it’s very limited). Because I’m too cheap to buy a data plan, I’ve only been able to use free Wi-Fi whenever I can find it, which isn’t always guaranteed when I’m out and about. However, I’ve found it useful to load up my maps/directions before I leave home (where I’m guaranteed to have internet), and then my maps will continue to provide directions to my desired location when I’m on the road. Even better, if I’ve favorited a specific place on Google Maps online, it’ll show that place when it’s offline as well.
Given that public transportation in Australia is not bad at all, especially here in Melbourne, I haven’t had to use Uber since I’ve been here. However, it was extremely convenient during my time in Israel, and I used it all the time. It’s always my backup option that I can trust to be available no matter where I’m at or what time it is. With Uber I have the option to link it to my PayPal account, making it super easy and secure to pay without needing cash on hand, as well as easy to handle the currency exchange if you don’t want to deal with the fees that come along with using your credit/debit card. If you’re in a country where communication can be a bit tricky, the app takes away all the stress. You simply punch in where exactly you’d like the driver to drop you off, and you don’t have to worry about trying to explain where you’re wanting to go and risk getting things lost in translation. Select a pick-up/drop-off location, input your payment method, the app will notify you when a driver is available or has arrived, and all you have to do is hop in, enjoy the ride, and hop out.
A great app to use for communicating with people you meet abroad is WhatsApp. It’s easy to communicate with other iPhone users through Apple’s Messages, even without a data plan, but for the people you meet abroad who don’t have iPhones or phone numbers from the same country, WhatsApp is the perfect go-to. Most of the people I’ve met through Couchsurfing whom I’ve continued to speak with, I’ve done so through this app. You can also make calls, leave voicemails, and even if you are no longer using your home country phone number while abroad, the app will still receive messages/calls through that number. The best part is that since it’s entirely operated on Wi-Fi, you don’t have to pay for a thing. Boom.
Not so good with math or wrapping your head around what price equals what in various countries like me? Well XE Currency is there to help. For people that are traveling to numerous countries with different currencies, this is definitely the app to have for keeping up with exchange rates. Even if you’re only travelling to one country, it’s still useful. You can pick multiple currencies for each of the countries you’re going to be traveling to and see the different exchange rates, which will automatically update to the correct and current rate. I’ve whipped this bad boy out many a time to see what my bill adds up to in American dollar signs, which as an American, is the only language I speak when it comes to money.
As an added bonus, here is another app tip for ya. If you’re going to be staying in any given country for a substantial amount of time, and it’s worth setting up a bank account in that location, check to see which banks have mobile apps. It’s easy to lose track of how much money you’re spending whether you’re using cash or cards. At least with bank cards and a mobile app, you can see exactly where your money is going, have a log of all of your transactions, and be able to transfer your money back and forth from your original bank accounts in your home country. What’s more, you only have to pay international transfer fees as little or as much as you transfer money between accounts, rather than every single time you use your personal credit/debit card for a transaction, which adds up much quicker. All of this you can do on a bank app. This is also helpful if you’re planning on working in that country (like I’m doing in Australia now), so my earnings can be directly deposited, and I don’t have to carry loads of cash with me, or wonder how I’m going to convert my paper cash into computer money if I need to buy things online.