Essential for Travellers - 3 FREE Useful Travel Apps
Contributed by: Saffron Bloom
Language, food and location — three things you have to manage whilst travelling. Here are three apps that address these. All are free and available on iOS and Android.
1. Duolingo — a language-learning app
Duolingo does not promise fluency but it is a fantastic app to use before your trip to help you learn or brush up on a language.At the time of writing, the languages available are Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Russian, Romanian, Greek, Esperanto, Vietnamese, Hebrew, Norwegian, Hungarian, Welsh, Ukrainian, Turkish, Polish and Irish.
Although English is very widely spoken, you may find yourself in a town where very few people are able to speak it. Even if people do speak it, from my experience (most) locals, although they can speak English, are very happy when foreigners say something in their language even if it is just “thank-you”. It shows that you have taken an interest in their culture.
The app asks whether you are a beginner or not; if you are not a beginner it will test your knowledge so that the activities are suitable for your level. Activities are short and a great way to pass time while you’re commuting. A fun feature that Duolingo has is known as Clubs. As the name suggests, you can create language clubs with your friends; so if you and your friends want to learn Spanish, you can form a club in which you can compete with each other and track one another’s progress. It’s a great way to generate hype before the trip.
Note — it is useful searching through the app store if you want an app for a specific language to use whilst abroad. There are some apps designated to one language that will allow you to download offline translations. Also, completely unrelated to apps but in the realm of languages, there is a photobook called Point it: Traveller's Language Kit which contains photos of possibly everything you may need whilst away. All you have to do is show the photo to someone in order to communicate what you need.
2. Foursquare — search for places to eat and things to do
This app was introduced to me by my cousin a couple of years ago. We use it a lot while abroad to find places to eat nearby but it can also be used before the trip if you’re trying to put an itinerary together. Foursquare has put us onto some gems—my favourite being Pjoltergeist, a bar in Oslo. It was the only nearby place opened as we arrived late at night and it was indeed a pleasant surprise. If you’re in Oslo, I recommend trying it out. The food is a fusion of Scandinavian and Asian and tastes delicious. Service is great.
Back to the app, the search categories available are: Top Picks, Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner, Nightlife, Fun, Coffee and Shopping.The app gives an indication of price as well as ratings and reviews from other users.
Do use caution though — if you notice a restaurant hasn’t been reviewed for awhile then do a Google search to check that it is in fact open or ask around — especially if the place you are in isn’t very popular. I learned this the hard way.
3. Maps.me — download maps for use offline
If you are not going to have data on your trip then downloading a map to use offline is certainly a good idea. Maps.me is respected for the incredible amount of detail the maps contain. You can bookmark places of interest and even search the maps offline. It is very useful if you want to go on a self-guided walk. You can either download the map beforehand or while you’re abroad connected to wifi, once opened the app will determine your location and download to your device.