As someone born in the late nineties, I remember life without smartphones, but I have still pretty much grown up used to taking my phone out whatever the problem is. When traveling, I try to take the opportunity of not having an internet connection 24/7 (and don’t buy a local sim card on purpose) to have some no-phone time, but my phone is probably still my most important tool for getting around, and without it, I would probably be pretty much lost. Imagine having to use a paper map, having to ask people on the street for directions and taking notes on local expressions or currency conversions! That’s crazy, right? Fortunately we live in the 21st century 🙂
I also try to avoid having tons of useless apps on my phone, but I love trying new apps so that’s usually not with too much success. Still, there are some apps I use on a daily basis, and when traveling, some apps make my life a lot easier. I made a list of the five apps I use the most often when traveling, most of which can also be used offline. These are also all free. There are so many apps out there that these are of course just examples and you can try different ones to see which one works the best for you.
1. An offline map
This is probably the most useful and important app you can have when trying to navigate in new places, in which in the best case you can’t even read the language. I use maps.me, it’s quite popular among travelers because it’s easy, it has the search option even offline, it’s quite accurate (once or twice I’ve not found the places I’d been looking for… then again the problem might be me, not the app), works everywhere as long as you download the maps when you do have the internet connection, you can find itineraries, and even save or pin places for later. In some places, it also shows a map of traffic or the metro.
2. A currency converter
This is a must, especially if traveling to several countries during the same trip. It makes life so much easier to not have to think of currency conversions, the bigger the total, the bigger the relief when you can just take out your phone and tap the sum on on an app. There are tons of apps for this, and many offer an offline version. I use Valuta+ (Valuutta+ in Finnish), on which you can add all the currencies you need and it’s as easy as it gets. It also gets up to date information on exchange rates when you are connected to the internet. But again, there are tons of options and you could test which one works the best for you.
3. A translator app
In many places, you can get around with English or some other language you have in common with the locals. But sometimes, languages barrier hits you and it’s hard to get people to understand what you’re going for. Sometimes they will themselves take automatically their phone out and push the microphone version of Google Translate under your nose, but in case they don’t, it’s good to have your own translator app. On Google Translate, you can download languages in order to be able to use them offline as well. I don’t use this often, but in some situations it can come in very handy.
4. The local transportation apps
As you would maybe use Uber at home, there are dozens similar apps, and different ones are used in different places. It’s good to research which ones are used in your destination, because sometimes ordering a car can be so much easier than dragging a big bag around, looking at maps and learning the public transportation system, finding your way back late at night or bargaining with taxi drivers. In Southeast Asia, one app that is very often used is Grab or Go Jek, in Finland we have our own Yengos and such, in the US you can take a Lyft. The problem with these is that you need to have an internet connection to order the car and see when and where they arrive, but whenever you have access to the WiFi, they can save the day.
5. An offline game
Okay, this one is maybe not a must, but especially while traveling alone, there will be a lot of waiting. For buses. In buses. At hostels. At airports. In planes. In immigration queues. In restaurants. Everywhere. There are obviously other ways to kill time, but having some stupid game on my phone has saved me from many moments of frustration in moments of boredom and wait. Lately I’ve played 1010!, which is a variation of tetris. But you do you.
Ps. After taking this screenshot I made a new record of 14299. Do I really even have any other life when I travel?