Travelling is an opportunity to see the world beyond the confines of your office desk and experience something new. It is a chance to immerse yourself in the culture, cuisine, and chaos of countries on the other side of the world.
Preparing for travel can be stressful. There’s so much to do and so much to see that it is impossible to fit every attraction in. When planning, you need to be ruthless, and decide what is a must-see, and what is more of a we’ll-see. For occasions such as these, TripIt works as a handy travel itinerary organiser.
And now, there is no need to drag around maps of every country that you’re going to visit. Instead, you have on your phone every conceivable service to make your odyssey through an unfamiliar land as comfortable as possible. Here are some of the best and most useful apps to use when travelling.
Specifically, Google Maps, which despite the occasional hiccough when it thinks you’re in the middle of the ocean, is the most comprehensive platform available. In some areas of the world, Google Maps will also offer traffic updates, so you know how long you’re going to be stuck in the laborious Bangkok (or any major city’s) traffic.
But, Google Maps only tends to work along with wifi, or with a local SIM. For those who don’t want or need a local SIM of the country you’re travelling in, Maps.me works very much the same, but it is all offline. The maps are pre-downloaded to the app and, while it won’t offer you the wealth of information that Google can, Maps.me will be able to tell you if you need to go up the mountain or down, without requiring a connection.
So you’ve ended up in a foreign country, and the taxi driver picked you up from the airport and you had a nice chat about the food, the people, the places, and you think to yourself, ‘Oh, they must speak good English here, if this taxi driver knows enough to have a full on conversation with me.’
But upon getting to the hotel or the hostel you find that the taxi driver is one of the few in the country who actually can speak English, and the rest of the country stare blankly at you as you talk slower and, eventually begin relying on gesturing. But you don’t want to be doing this throughout the whole journey.
For this type of problem, Google Translate contains all global languages that, unless you end up on a remote Pacific Island, will allow you to communicate, if a bit slowly, with the locals. Its new photo-translate feature, which uses your camera to identify words in other languages and translate them into English. Translate is particularly useful in countries which use their a different alphabet, such as Thailand, as opposed to the Roman one.
If you want to go one step further and really immerse yourself in the culture, language-learning apps like Duolingo or Memrise are useful for on-the-go familiarisation with the local language for you to show off in front of the locals – or perhaps get laughed at for dodgy pronunciation.
Throughout your travels you’re going to need somewhere to stay. Depending on what sort of traveller you are, there is always somewhere you can find that will suit your sensibilities. Websites like Hostelworld, Booking.com and TripAdvisor offer a wide range of places to stay for whatever your budget might be. From huge luxurious hotel chains to little homestays out in the country, you can pick and choose depending on the type of experience you want.
Searching for a place to stay can often be needlessly complicated, and you might find yourself trying to decide between two places that are practically the same, with perhaps a £5 per night difference. A lot of the aforementioned accommodation platforms offer filters to select your preferences on what type of room you want, be it a shared dorm at a party hostel, or a nice, quiet private room (with bathroom) in the countryside.
But sometimes, these places can be too much money to justify the spend if you’re planning on being there more than a few days. For these types of situations, Airbnb offers an alternative to hotels and hostels. If you’re planning on an extended stay in a city, it is normally cheaper and more convenient to book either week-by-week or by month with the owner. Having an AirBnB means that more often than not you will also get a kitchen, which can save you money on eating out every night.
Another solution to finding accommodation can be found on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Many times, hostel owners will be looking for volunteers to help out with day-to-day operations. Generally, this comes with a free room along with other travelling volunteers, as long as you pay the owner back by working in the hostel during your stay.
Keeping In Touch
While you might be too busy to remember anybody at home, it’s is important to remember that people at home want to know what you’re doing. If you’re travelling for an extended period, friends and family like you to check in with them every once in a while to make sure you’re still alive and having fun.
Skype is perhaps the easiest way of keeping in touch with your loved ones on the other side of the world. For this, you’ll need a decent wifi connection or a (really good) local data plan. Other messaging apps like WhatsApp or even Facebook Messenger now also offer video calling services, whichever your preference may be. Unless, of course, you want to go old school and send a postcard, this is the easiest way to keep in touch.
Getting From A To B
Before even jetting off on your adventure, you need to decide how to get there. Websites like Skyscanner and Kayak can offer cheap deals in a pinch. This is particularly helpful if you find you’ve gotten so swept up in the joys of travel that you’re about to overstay your visa and need to get out of the country. However, be warned, these types of websites often use your cookies and raise the prices if you access them too frequently, for the best deals, it’s best to browse possible destinations in incognito or private mode.
And once you’re there, you need to get around, you’ve already got your maps sorted, but what about transport? Some countries, such as Colombia, offer an Uber service, but it’s all done on the down-low so you’ll need to sit in the front seat if you choose to go ahead.
Other apps and services include Citymapper, a platform that gives you all the options to help you get around, from driving around to walking as well as an emphasis on public transport, depending on how you choose to explore this new city.
However you choose to approach your travels, it is essential to have all the best apps and platforms at the ready, so you don’t find yourself stuck and lost before you’ve even got going. Using the right apps will streamline the whole experience and means you can make the most of seeing and doing everything you want while allowing the technology in the palm of your hand to do all the hard stuff. The whole point of travelling is the experience, don’t let that be ruined by being underprepared before even touching down on the other side of the world.