Apps that will save your life when travelling
Here are the best free travel apps that can save you life and make it easier, when access to the Internet is limited. Believe me, I’m so grateful for them; they’re vital for surviving in a foreign country. Hence why knowing what apps you need on your travels is so important. Below are apps that will improve your traveling experience and get you out of some sticky situation. There are apps that are completely offline; some have an offline function and these that require the Internet.
5 Best free travel apps
Google Maps (offline and online)
Google has dominated the maps market for quite a while and the app version is no exception. Google Maps (IOS/Android) has an offline function, where you first have to download an area the map you require using the internet, for example, a town, city or a whole island and thereafter you’re able to use it offline. So must sure you download while you’re in a wifi zone before you sent off your travel or you’ll be caught short.
How to create an offline map:
- Select an area that covers the screen of the phone.
- Press on the screen until the dropped pin appears.
- Press on the down menu and press on download.
- It will ask you if you want you ‘download this are?’
- Zoom in or out to adjust the area you want to download. At the bottom of the screen, it tells you how much memory it will take up.
- Press download at the bottom of the screen.
- You can use the route feature and it’s pretty useful. You can also save locations that you’ve been to or plan to go to. I’ve used this feature to plan routes, for example back to my hostel. Furthermore, if you save an address in your phone calendar it will also show up on Google maps.
- The route feature is available offline, but it’s only for the car, so it thinks you’re in a car. Consequently, it won’t necessary give you the quickest route if you’re walking but it’s better than nothing. The solution is to select the route via transit or walking with the Internet and complete the journey without it. As the app logs the route and it’s able to continue using the offline map.
- You can save locations, which is useful to show the places you’ve been and/or want to go. However, you need to be online and logged into your Gmail account. This can be annoying if you’re offline and want to save a location. By the time you have wifi access you would’ve forgotten the place. Meanwhile, by having the ability to save location on you Gmail account means when you’re logged on the desktop version you can see and add more locations.
- It gives you information about landmarks and transport. For example, it can tell you the opening hours of a place and it’s most busy times of the day and all offline. Furthermore, it shows you people’s comments and you can add to them as well.
- Look for a restaurant or cafe, click on the knife and folk icon and you’ll get reviews from people who’ve been there.
Overall you need Google Maps on your phone and in your life. Using the offline map when I haven’t had wifi has been a life saver because I don’t speak the local language, thus asking for directions is extremely difficult, and trying to find street signs in some countries is like a pirate trying to find treasure underneath the open water, it’s insanely hard. The only drawback is that it will only give direction for a car in the offline mode.
Google translate (offline)
Yes another Google app and like Google Maps, Google Translate (IOS/Android) has an offline feature, where you can download a number of popular languages e.g. English, Spanish, Italian, French, German, Portuguese and Russian. It’s been a massive help, when speaking to people and reading in a foreign language, e.g. menus, signs and products.
- Press on the language at the top of the screen
- Select a language and press the download icon next to the language to begin the download (not all language can be downloaded).
Although it does have a few shortcomings:
The translation itself can be just about comprehensible; as a direct translate of a language doesn’t always make sense. Anyone who speaks more than one language will understand. For example, ‘ciao’ in Italian can mean hello and goodbye. A human would be able to know the difference depending on the context of the conversation but a computer can’t. In any case, you’re able to understand the gist of the translation.
It has a live view feature where you put your camera over a piece of writing, but you need for the Internet for this feature. The main problem is that it doesn’t work, as it constantly changes the words and in the end, you resort to using the typed version.
Like the Google Maps, it has saved my bacon and has been very helpful, for things like reading menus and going food shopping. Furthermore, it’s helpful when speaking with people as the whole pointing and making hand gestures to communicate with people just doesn’t cut it and makes you look like a complete idiot at times. The only thing that lets it down is its lack of accuracy in translating, but again people usually understand the gist of what you’re trying to say.
Bla bla car (online)
As a driver
You can be a driver by signing up with details of your car and driving license. Then log your future journey and how much you want to charge per person.
As a passenger
You search from a journey and the date you want to go. Then select the journey and pay via card. You can message the driver to arrange to a meeting point.
The benefits & drawback
I took bla bla car in Italy from the airport and the driver was kind enough to drop me off at my accommodation and speak with my host is Italy. It’s far cheaper than a taxi and sometimes buses. Plus you can have a chat with the driver and travel in comfort. Meanwhile, you have to pay with your card but I would’ve preferred paying by PayPal. PayPal is a more modern way of paying for things and they always try to keep security up to date.
Overall using bla bla car is usually cheaper than using a long distance bus or an alternative to using public transport. I’ve used it in Mexico, unsuccessful the driver was unreliable and keep changing the date for the journey because he wanted more passengers, in the end, I took the bus. On the other hand, I used the app again in Italy with success. So it can depend on the driver on what experience you have.
WhatsApp & Facebook Messenger (online)
These apps are very similar, as they both allow you to message and call people from your contacts for free using wifi. You can also write a status to share your thought and feelings. I’ve been told by American travelers that WhatsApp isn’t used in the States, even so, Europe and South America use it along with other countries. And for countries that block these social media apps, they usual have their own version. WhatsApp (IOS/ Android) and Facebook Messenger (IOS/ Android) has allowed me to stay in touch with people that I’ve meet on my travel from all over the world.
Skype credit works like a normal sim card: where you have two options.
- Pay as you go what they call ‘prepaid credit’ that starts from 10 (€/£/$)
- Contract called ‘subscription’ that gives you unlimited calls and can be cancelled at any time. Subscription is for those who frequently call people. The rate of calls can depend on the country you register from and the country you want to call, for more information check here.
How to pay for credit
There is a range of methods of payment such as visa, Apple in-App purchase, MasterCard, PayPal, Skype vouchers and more (for UK customers).
I’ve been able to call Skype contacts to keep connected with friends and used credit to call people in my home country. Skype deserves to be on this list because you can avoid racking up roaming charges. Moreover, as long as the person you want to call has Skype it’s free.
What apps have saved your life when travelling?