In our day-to-day lives, most of us can’t imagine being too far away from our smartphones. And while it’s good to take some time and “unplug” while you’re on the road, smartphones can be incredibly handy tools for navigating foreign lands.
Before you leave on your trip, it’s a smart idea to delete extraneous apps off of your phone, since you’ll want the extra space for photos and music, and you’ll likely be in situations where you need to find information quickly (and where wifi connections are weak/Internet access is slow).
With that in mind, here are the 10 apps that I found myself using time and time again during my recent travels in Southeast Asia, India and Sri Lanka (FYI I have an iPhone 4S):
- TripAdvisor – I have a shelf full of Lonely Planet guidebooks in my house; at one point, I would have never considered traveling without one. However, I’ve started to rely more often on TripAdvisor for its rankings and up-to-the-minute advice.
- WhatsApp – It still baffles me that more Americans don’t use or even know about WhatsApp, as it’s the go-to texting platform for most of the world, since allows you to send and receive text messages without using data. I used Facebook Messenger with friends and family who didn’t have WhatsApp.
- Instagram – I’ve had more fun with Instagram than with other social media networks. The followers I interact with usually my closer friends and/or those interested in travel and travel pics (i.e., not everyone you went to high school with like Facebook).
- Google Maps – You can also be a little more discreet with your phone than with a guidebook or map, so you don’t give off the “’Oh my god, I have not idea where I am!’ tourist vibe.” Google Maps can also be saved to view off-line.
- Google Drive – Speaking of Google, I saved a folder called “important information” in my Google Drive, in order to easily access, well, important information like passwords and scans of my passport and credit card.
- Agoda/Booking.com – These are the two hotel apps I bounce between when looking for accommodations, since they typically have the best prices for guesthouses and budget hotels. In Southeast Asia, where you can get a really nice hotel room for $20/night, I also used Hotels.com, which gives you a free night after booking 10 nights. Other accomodation apps I’ve used are AirBnB – most helpful in big cities – and I’ve had luck with HotelTonight in the U.S.
- Mint.com – This is the app I use to track my finances in one place. Just by opening it you can get a quick snapshot of your bank account, credit card balances and other assets/debts. I also used the Bank of America app for managing deposits/payments, and the Verizon and Comcast apps to check in quickly to view/pay bills.
- World Clock – No matter how often I try to commit to memory the time difference between where I am and where everyone else is, it never works. I am embarrassed to admit that I sometimes had to check this app several times a day.
- XE Currency Converter – Just as I am not skilled at remembering the time difference, I also have a hard time remembering the conversion rate (and doing the necessary math).
- TinyScan – I got more use out of this app before I left. I used it to scan my credit cards, insurance card and passport, to save as images on my phone (and in the cloud). I also converted the images to PDFs and saved in my Google Drive, as well as emailed to my dad in case of emergency.