When you are travelling, especially in foreign countries where everything feels alien – from the people to their clothes, names, places, and food – it’s easy to be intimidated. You might have no idea of the cost of everyday items, or how to behave according to the local customs. Of course you can make use of Google Translate, Wikipedia, and Google Maps, but the cost of using these on your home data plan while abroad can really add up.
However, if you decide to take your Android with the right selection of apps already downloaded, you can find yourself surprisingly at ease. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best apps for travelers like you.
Remember how I warned against using Google Translate? Jibbigo is similar to that app, except that it works offline. You can download it for free, but each language pack costs $4.99. The only downside of using this app online is the amount of space it occupies on your SD card: a few hundred MB, so you’d better use Wi-Fi.
Do not expect to become a master in Mandarin or any other language using just this app, but at least when you need to ask for directions, you will be able to make yourself understood. A history function keeps track of used phrases, too, so it’s easy to find things you need to say often.
Price: $4.99 per language
Requires: Android 1.6 and up
Market Link: Jibbigo
Having local currency is useful and often necessary, and it is not uncommon for a traveller to run out of cash as one tends not to keep a large amount of local currency on his person, for fear of theft. If you are in an area where no authorized currency dealers are available, you will be happy you downloaded XE Currency Exchange as it will let you know instantly the current exchange rate. This can save you from being duped by unscrupulous dealers. If you so desire, you can store the exchange rates in offline mode to avoid having to keep downloading them.
Do you often forget the roads and signposts and thus fail to get to destinations, even in your home country? Then NavDroid could be handy for you, as it contains Open Source Maps (OSM) of whichever country you need. NavDroid is available for under $7 and takes up just 9 MB (plus an additional 40-50 MB for each country’s maps, though these can be deleted later).
One feature that I particularly like is the ability to “pin” a place, like a hotel, on the map; you can then feel free to wander anywhere in a city, as the app keeps on showing the map with the distance of the pinned hotel. You can also pin any restaurant or market that you would like to return to later.
This one app is worth several travel apps once you are in a foreign country. Why? Because although the app is meant for reading eBooks, you can easily download any guide book about the county you are in and read the relevant sections from it. Kindle lets you clip or bookmark anything you find relevant or important, so you can easily find it later.
If you’re disorganized, and know that you cannot keep your travel itinerary or your documents safe, then this Android app will save you a lot of worry. Just email your flight confirmation, hotel accommodation, car rental, and other similar emails to Tripit, and it’ll all be kept organised and safe. Any reservation made by you is put in your trip itinerary so you can look it up at any time on your phone.
Rhymes with “help”, and is indeed a great help in a foreign country – as indicated by its five million downloads. Yelp comes up with nearby hotels and restaurants based upon popularity and the ratings of actual users. Members share their opinions about food and hotel rooms, which is very useful for those who are in the place for the first time.
This is a free cloud storage app that allows you access to your files without having to carry them manually. This includes all sorts of data and media files, like the photos and videos you take on a trip. There are two big benefits of this cloud storage: first, it’s a quick and easy form of backup, and second, you can share those files with anyone, anywhere in the world.
Are you a frequent flyer that travels to lots of countries as part of your profession or even just as a vacationer? FlightAware lets you know your exact location during a flight. Just type your airline and flight code and the app returns with the location the plane is at. It also offers you notifications about flight delays, cancellations, boarding, and anything that can affect your journey.
If you are sensitive to weather changes or do not like snowfall or rainfall, you would obviously be interested to find out about the weather in the places where you are going to be during your trip. WeatherBug gives accurate and reliable weather information, letting you know beforehand the kind of weather you can expect during your stay in a foreign city.
This app allows you access to the most reliable weather stations across North America to find out the exact weather conditions at thousands of locations around the world. You can thus avoid places where weather is not to your liking if you have this app installed.
What is a traveler without a camera? Of course, when you have your Android you don’t need to worry, as you carry your camera with you all the time. LightBox lets you make changes to a photo taken by you as it has many filters to allow you to do so. The most relevant feature for travellers is that which lets you tag any picture with your location; you can also upload the photo to Twitter or Facebook to show your friends where you are at the moment.
Requires: Android 2.1 and up
Market Link: Lightbox
This app gives you a new phone number that, when dialled by someone else, can connect to your Android or computer no matter where you are. You have access to all your voicemails and text messages on the internet. You can also hide your identity using this app, as making an outgoing call using this app makes receivers get your Google Voice number and not your real mobile number. But most importantly, Google Voice allows you to converge all of your landline and mobile numbers to a single number. Unfortunately, it’s only available to USA residents.
Requires: Android 1.6 and up
Market Link: Google Voice
Developer: Google Inc.
All travellers know TripAdvisor; it’s perhaps the most popular travel portal on the internet. The app comes in handy when you are in a foreign city as you get to know the best places, hotels and restaurants, which, like Yelp, are recommended by actual travellers. Whether you are looking for a restaurant serving a particular cuisine or for the cheapest flight to your next destination, TripAdvisor can handle it, with information that you know is reliable. The reviews of real travelers can be extremely useful and also save you money, especially when you haven’t visited the places before.
This personalized internet radio will never let you feel bored on a train. Although you probably have all your favourite tunes stored on your phone already, there are times during a foreign trip when you feel like listening to something else – and this is where Pandora comes to the rescue. It offers music based on your interests, over the Internet, through radio stations around the world. You just need to feed your favourite artists and albums into it, and the app will create a virtual radio station that plays music from similar albums and artists.
Requires: 1.5 and up
Market Link: Pandora
You know how important your Android is when you are in a foreign country, and with all those apps listed above loaded onto your phone, you can’t let it run out of battery! There is one Android app that can help you in this regard: JuiceDefender. It’s designed to extend the battery life and is packed with dozens of power saving features. It is easy to use, as it asks the important functions you want to keep running while switching off functions that are unnecessary. Make the most of your phone when you really need it.