Got an iPhone? Yeah, me too. Hopelessly addicted to aimlessly flipping through its stupid, beautiful screens? Yeah, me too. They’re everywhere, and whether you like it or not, these things have changed our lives. They’ve also changed the way we travel, for the better in the most part. Read on for a list of, in no particular order, the 10 best travel apps, as voted by a carefully selected panel of one. Me.
This app almost makes it too easy. We used this throughout Europe to book pretty much all of our hotels. I don’t like to pre-book things, so we’d pull this out the day before heading to a new town, find something, and book it right there on the phone for, what was always, a ridiculously cheap price. Maybe it was the time of year, but we were getting rooms for a tenth of their advertised price with this app, freeing up plenty of money for beer. Excellent.
When you want to try something that’s not from your guidebook (that you bought from us. Right?), or you’re sick of trying random places, see what a bajillion other people reckon you should do. With over 75 million reviews of hotels, restaurants, attractions and stuff, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything that hasn’t at least had one person has pipe up about it. The app is filled with photos, prices, maps and opinions to help you choose the things you want to do.
Word Lens (free, $2.99 per language pack)
Augmented reality and optical character recognition have been jammed together into this just incredible instant translation app. If you haven’t seen this thing in action, go download it now and prepare yourself for awesomeness. You fire it up, point it at some words in a foreign language, and it replaces every word with one in your native tongue, right there on the screen, in real time! Menu roulette is thing of the past! The best part is that all this magic doesn’t require an internet connection. It’s free to download but you have to buy each language pack and it currently only supports English, French, Spanish and Italian.
Take your crappy holiday snaps and make them instantly cool. I don’t know why it’s so awesome, it just is. Seriously, you can take a photo of your fungal foot infection and make it look appealing with Istagrams effects. If you’re posting photos online to make people jealous (don’t deny it, everyone does), run them through Instagram first and easily triple your like count. (Yes, I did make that figure up.)
Wi-Fi Finder (free)
A lot of these apps need a data connection, as does your internet addiction. Have you ever, in a fit of hilarious cat video withdrawal, “accidentally” turned on data roaming while overseas? I highly recommend not doing so. Instead, download this free app that uses your phone’s GPS to tell you exactly where the closest free (or paid) Wi-Fi hotspots are, and how to get to them. Their database has over 650,000 locations in 144 countries, all of which you can download so the app works offline. If you, like me, start twitching a little bit at the thought of no internet connection, don’t leave home without this app.
Rail Europe (free)
This app has terrible reviews in the app store and I just don’t understand why. We used this to get all over Europe for 2 months and never had any issues. Put your departure and arrival city in, choose a time of day and it tells you what trains are available, what station they leave from and how long the trip takes. Easy. What I don’t like is the icon, it looks like a neglected homework assignment their Mum did for them in the car on the way to school. Rubbish, but that’s incredibly superficial of me and in no way impacts on the functioning of the app… (I hide it in a folder so I don’t have to look at it)
iTorch4 Flashlight (free)
I know it sounds stupid, but you’ll be surprised how often you get this out. I don’t know why, but I seem to find myself fumbling around in the dark considerably more often while overseas. Are light bulbs a scarce commodity everywhere else? There are hundreds of apps out there that do pretty much exactly the same thing, but this one has a pretty icon and a nice interface. And a strobe effect, which is fantastically irritating for anyone else you happen to be travelling with.
iTranslate Voice ($0.99)
This is one of those ‘holy crap, the robot apocalypse is nearer than ever’ apps. Tap the button, say something at your phone and it speaks it back to you in one of 31 different languages! And it’s not a one way street either, hold it out in front of you like an idiot and get nice people you meet overseas to speak their gibberish into it and it will translate into English and speak it right back at you. Incredible. It also seems to be really accurate, which helps. If you could paint it yellow and jam it in your ear, Douglas Adams would be a happy man.
XE Currency (free)
Maths is hard and you’re on holidays, so let this neat little app think about money things for you. Convert from any currency in the world to any other currency. The app uses live currency rates if you’re online, or stores the last updated rates so it’ll still work when the internet doesn’t. It’s simple, but it does exactly what it says it does, and you can’t ask for more than that.
Angry Birds ($0.99)
Let’s face it, waiting around for buses, trains, planes, anything is as inevitable as it is boring. Playing silly little games is an amazingly effective way to hasten the tedium. Really, you could insert any game here, it’s just that Angry Birds seems to be able to hold my attention better than most, 80 trillion dollars people can’t be wrong. Alternatively, you could, like, read a book or something, they do still make those you know.
I didn’t start out with the intention of listing free apps, it just happened to turn out that most of the apps I use overseas don’t cost any money. Interesting. There are loads of other apps out there, and these aren’t the only ones I use, but this is a pretty good selection of nifty little apps to get you started.
Anyone have any other suggestions? Share them in the comments below ↓