I’ve recently realised that, unless you’re on a tour, travelling can be stressful. I saw a little kid the other day at Incheon International Airport, swinging her legs and chewing on a snack as she sat, bored, on a suitcase. Her parents, meanwhile, fussed about the luggage, passports and tickets- just like the rest of us adults.
I’ve forgotten that, once upon a time, travelling was nothing more than following your parents to strange and exotic lands who pointed out to you new and wonderful things.
Nowadays, travelling brings a lot more responsibilities and is no longer just about fun and adventure, but a lesson in managing your finances while overseas, making sure your passport isn’t lost or stolen (and if it is, how to get a new one!), making sure you’ve reserved hotel rooms and flights, getting enough sleep at night, waking up early, etc, etc. Luckily, our mobile phones have made the work of travelling a little easier with handy travel apps we can download, use and rely upon in a variety of situations overseas.
Below are a brief list of some of the travel apps I’ve come to depend on and which I would recommend to any traveller before trotting around the globe.
1. Google Translate- That old man over there, he looks like he’s been alive for a thousand years. Maybe he can point me in the right direction. But how do I ask him? Hell, I don’t even have the address in Chinese… In these situations (and trust me, I’ve been there) I invariably pull out my Google Translate app. It’s generally accurate, can translate over 90 different languages, and there’s even voice translations of what you want to say! This is by far one of the most useful apps I’ve used while travelling- I even use it with my parents when I don’t know how to say something in Cantonese! (Download here on: Play | App Store)
If you’re staying in a country for longer and would like to learn the new language that’s surrounding you in your everyday life, I suggest downloading Duolingo, a free language-learning app offering 9 languages in bite-sized lessons that you can listen to and play anywhere you are. (Download here on: Play | App Store)
2. Stylebook- A closet-organiser I recently discovered that allows you to curate all your clothes so you know what you have and can wear on any occasion. It’s also a handy little app to use when packing, as it allows you to plan outfits in advance so you won’t take too many clothes with you (as I’m apt to do myself). Currently, it’s only available on the App Store (priced at $4.99), so look around for similar apps on Play. (Download here on: App Store)
3. Airbnb– Airbnb is an online community of hosts in different countries and cities who have a spare room or two (and sometimes, an entire house) for travellers to stay. I’ve had mixed experiences with Airbnb (I’ve had good and bad hosts, and hosts that are reliable and unreliable) but it’s useful when you’re travelling to a small township or village, and there isn’t a hostel or hotel nearby. With this app, you can find and reserve accommodation, and private message your host to keep them updated about your travel plans. If you’re interested in trying Airbnb out, you can use the code ‘lwu277‘ at checkout to knock off $30AUD on your first booking with them. (Download here on: Play | App Store)
4. Tripadvisor- This has been my go-to website (and app while travelling) for all travel-related recommendations, suggestions and reviews on restaurants, hotels and flights. I don’t book until I’ve seen some good reviews! Tripadvisor also offers city guides and they’re apps you can download for free. (Download here on: Play | App Store)
5. XE currency– Both the website and the app provides accurate and live updates for foreign exchange rates. It’s a good idea to download this app, especially when you’re travelling to two or more countries in a short period of time and you have trouble remembering not only the conversion rate, but calculating them in your head, too! Simple to use, reliable and fast, this is one of the more useful travel apps out there! (Download here on: Play | App Store)
6. Worldmate- This app has come in useful in consolidating all my itineraries for flights and hotel bookings into one convenient place. You can manually add reservations and meetings into the app, or you can simply email all your confirmations to email@example.com and they will do it for you. You can also book hotels (powered by Expedia), search for flights (but can’t book) and reserve limos (!!) through the app. Other handy tools include a weather forecast, currency converter, and even a tip calculator. (Download here on: Play | App Store)
7. Public Transport- Without a car, public transport will usually get you places, and as most public transportation options nowadays are fast, convenient and cheap, the only problem for travellers and locals alike is knowing when the next bus, train, ferry or tram is due. Public transport apps (most of which are free) therefore come in handy for important information such as estimated journey times and the cost of fares. Recommended apps that I’ve tried and tested:
HK: MTR Mobile (Download here on: Play | App Store)
Seoul: Subway Korea (Download here on: Play | App Store)
Taipei: Explore Taipei Metro (Download here on: Play | App Store)
Sydney: Tripview Lite (this is the free version- the paid one is priced at $3.99 and, TBH, isn’t worth it unless you want your favourite trips remembered). (Download here on: Play | App Store)
8. Google Maps– Another fantastic and free Google app that will come in handy when you’re exploring foreign cities. Although it wasn’t very accurate in Bali or Seoul, it’s still helped us in many other places such as Vietnam, Germany, HK and Taiwan. So, if you’re like me, directionally-challenged and can get lost just about anywhere, then Google Maps is the next best thing to an up-to-date physical map. (Download here on: Play | App Store)
9. Skype– I found this app so useful when we lost our passports and had to contact our embassies and our travel insurer by their landline phones (remember those?). All we had to do was add some Skype credit and we could call any mobile and landline across the world!
If, however, the people you want to contact are just friends and family with mobiles, any free telecommunication services app like Whatsapp, Wechat, Line, Kakao and Facebook Messenger will do the job as these allow you to text or voice message, or even call loved ones back home so long as you have a wifi connection. For free wifi in public spaces, most cafés and restaurants are your best friends. (Download here on: Play | App Store)
10. Food Apps- Hungry? Tired? In a foreign city? These three factors don’t make the best combination for a happy traveller, so finding a good food & drinks app is next to paramount. Or if you’re just a foodie with a passport, these apps will recommend popular and hip places for you to order your next food selfie. Here are some suggested apps that I currently use, or which my friends use:
Openrice– HK’s most popular dining guide based on reviews by people. It’s also a good guide to use in Singapore, Macau, Indonesia, China, the Philippines, and Thailand. (Download OpenRice HK here on: Play | App Store)
Urbanspoon– popular in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the UK and the US. You can find information such as opening hours, price ranges, links to menus, and dine-in or takeout options, too with this one app. (Download here on: Play | App Store)
OpenTable- find and make reservations for restaurants near you in the US, Canada and the UK. (Download here on: Play | App Store)
To take advantage of these apps, just remember to keep your phone charged while out and about, or invest in a good portable charger 🙂 Hope these help and happy travelling!
Please note: the logos of the mobile applications in the image above do not belong to me, but are the copyright and intellectual property of their respective owners and corporations.