Travelling the world is a now seemingly ubiquitous pastime for everyone from students to pensioners. With smartphones and tablets equally as ubiquitous, we thought we’d put the two together to come up with the definitive list of eight Android apps that every world traveller needs.
Before beginning, it’s important to consider what are the essential bits of information that you need while travelling? Apps with offline capabilities are certainly preferred, you’ll need currency data, a way to contact home, on-the-go translations, and a way to record all your wonderful memories.
Let’s see what the Google Play Store can offer.
Packing and Organising
Before you even leave for your trip you’ll be faced with a growing to-do list. Flight tickets, hotel bookings, and car hires all need to be logged, and you’ll need to make sure you don’t overlook anything while packing, especially if you’re going for a long time.
The answer is the TripIt Travel Organiser. The app lets you create lists for packing and organising your holiday, but also gives you a way to forward any important email to the app and get it automatically added to your itinerary. Gmail users will even find that details from any emails sent to their inboxes will be automatically added to their TripIt schedule without any human input.
Google Translate is known by everyone. If you live in a foreign land, have foreign relatives, or travel with any degree of regularity, you’re bound to have used it. Two Google Translate features stand out for a world-weary traveller: the ability to translate offline while travelling, and the ability to talk directly into the microphone and let the app give an on-screen translation. If you do plan to use the app offline, be aware that you need to download the language package you want by clicking on the pin next to the language in question.
Word Lens is an augmented reality translation app. In practice that means that you open the app, point it at the text you want to translate, and see the translated text on your screen. It means no more typing in long and complex sentences — making it particularly useful for things like menus, signs, and labels. Like Google Translate, it is also available offline. Its number of languages is more limited though. Whereas Google Translate boasts 80 languages, Word Lens only has English, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, German and Portuguese.
Word Lens was actually recently bought by Google, which means you may be seeing its features get baked into Google Translate as time goes on.
There’s only one app worth mentioning here: XE Currency. The app lets you convert amounts between virtually any global currency, meaning you’ll never give accidently give a taxi driver in Thailand £500 instead of £5.
Like the two translation apps, XE Currency works offline, meaning you’ll never be caught out if you’re without signal. You can save ten favourites that can be simultaneously monitored, removing the need to awkwardly jump between screens. You can even see historic rates, thus letting you know whether or not it’s a good time to visit a certain country. With 20 million downloads, it’s comfortably the best and most popular currency app in the Play Store and a must-have for any trip, no matter how short.
After a few days, weeks, or months on the road, you might eventually feel the need to contact your parents, partner, or friends.
Sadly, given the nature of communication, there’s no offline apps in this category. There are the apps such as the ever-present Skype and WhatsApp that should be on your phone regardless, but you should also consider Tango.
Tango is a Skype alternative that lets you make free video calls, voice calls, and texts. The app includes “channels” that let you stay on top of news and sports, and you can even discover and share songs on Spotify — perfect for letting your friends know about that jam you heard in a little bar in New Zealand! On the downside, your contact list could be more limited due to lower levels of adoption, but it’s still a worthy addition.
Eventually the time will come to go home (or go to the next place). When that time comes, you’re going to need a flight app.
Flight apps can be broadly split into two categories: meta-search services and online travel agents (OTAs). Meta-search apps include well-known websites such as Seatguru, Kayak, and Momondo, while OTAs include companies such as Expedia, eDreams, and Travelocity.
With flights, one factor is important above all others: price. There are lots of tips to find the best prices, but the best prices offered by meta-search engines are normally on Skyscanner. Research suggests that the well-known flight searcher is on average one percent cheaper than its rivals — so that makes our must-have list.
Of course, all meta-search services share one inconvenience: travellers are usually redirected to an OTA or airline website to make a booking. If you want to cut out the middle man, you need to be prepared to pay more, but it is a faster experience. The cheapest OTA is the little-known Cheapoair, which is typically four percent cheaper than its rivals. Be warned though, the app lacks the polish of behemoths such as Expedia.
One of the best parts of travelling is recalling your memories once the trip itself is in the distant past. To do this, you’ll need a great way to organise your thoughts, photos, and videos. Looking beyond standard apps such as Evernote and Facebook, you could consider trying the free Vacation & Travel Journal.
The app lets you track and document your journey by using images, video, audio recordings, and text, and it lets you sync all your data onto a website which can be shared with family and friends.
It has several cool features, including automatically logging the weather, longitude, latitude, altitude, time, and date for each entry you make, logging your entire trip via GPS, and making shared trips so multiple people can upload memories to the same log.
What are your must-have travel apps? We’d love to know! Leave us your thoughts in the comments.