This is a blog about the apps frequent travellers actually use, which may not always be designated ‘travel’ apps, but are definitely our go-to when navigating an unknown city, getting around on public transport and just generally making life and travels easier in a new place. Best of all? These apps are free, available on iOS and Android and probably already downloaded on your phone.
1. Google Maps
Hands down, this app is the most used and useful icon on your smartphone.
“Google Maps is for ‘Where am I?’ and Google Translate for ‘What am I saying?’” says graphic designer Dianne Pittaway. Account manager Maddison Done uses Google Maps for finding landmarks and places to eat. You can also download Google Maps to use in offline mode when you don’t have a local SIM card, notes digital direct marketing manager Cameron Robert. Drop pins to meet up with friends and bookmark recommendations from other travellers on the go.
Travel writer Jess Holmes, who flew to 12 cities in 12 months last year, swears by MAPS.ME. “It’s free, works offline, tracks you and has a huge range of major and small businesses listed. You can add notes and markers, colour code and even add stars. I hardly used anything else!”
It’s our go-to in Australia, and our fave ridesharing app is also a lifesaver overseas – available in 633 cities worldwide. “Uber is a must when getting around in foreign countries,” says The 48 Hour Destination TV series creator Luke Wheatley. “There’s no lost-in-translation moments, you can see where you’re going and the best part is paying without using cash.”
Publications sub-editor Anna Howard agrees: “I can’t live without Uber when travelling. Who wants to decipher public transport systems when you can affordably get around with just the touch of a button?”
Need to keep in touch on the go and don’t have a local SIM card? WhatsApp instant messaging is the app of choice to send text messages and make voice and video calls with internet access. All of our frequent travellers surveyed use WhatsApp to keep in contact with friends and family.
5. Google Translate
Fake being multilingual at the touch of a button. Project manager Aditi Acharya Parekh says Google Translate (Google’s free service that instantly translates words, phrase and web pages into over 100 languages) is a lifesaver when ordering food from a menu written in another language.
6. HyperDia/Japan Travel – Route, Map, JR
When we’re not Uber-ing, our savvy travellers are using these public transport apps to decipher the colour-coded Japan Rail system. Graphic designer Dianne Pittaway used HyperDia for the routes and timetable of trains and planes in Japan, while designer Keiichi Enomoto swears by Japan Travel – Route, Map, JR to navigate Japan Rail’s extensive system.
“This English-language app was essential for me in Tokyo and on the bullet train. It shows train lines in the same colours and symbols as written at stations, which platform to go to in each station, and also has maps if you have to walk between stations to change lines.”
Doing the DIY transport thing? In New Zealand, graphic designer Sarah Collins used the free CamperMate app (which can also be used offline when out of Wi-Fi range) every day to find campervan sites and compare the facilities, costs, reviews and photos of each listing. This camping app also displays public toilets and petrol stations across Australian and NZ, plus users can list their driveway for campervans to stay overnight.
Digital marketing account manager Alesha Greer used Roadtrippers on her USA holiday. This US, Australia and NZ-only app allows you to plan routes with a fuel estimation and find and save interesting and off-the-beaten track POIs along the way.
As travel writer Jess Holmes says: “Does an overseas trip count if you don’t Insta?”
Digital marketing account manager Alesha Greer agrees: “It’s about posting those amazing moments and making people envious.” Yep, our fave photo-sharing app is also our travellers’ most-used social media platform while on holiday. Our travel tipsters like Snapseed and Litely to edit pics on the go.
9. World Time Buddy
Digital marketing manager Tom Herbert-Doyle says this app is super helpful when travelling across multiple timelines. The world clock/time zone converter/online meeting scheduler lets users compare multiple time zones (and from over 20,000 cities) at once, so you can easily see the local time in your destination against the time back home minus the mental arithmetic. The app is also handy to figure out when to call home at a decent hour.
Travelling with your mates? Splittr syncs with your friends to help you manage any shared travel costs so you can all get on with your holiday. Project manager Aditi Acharya Parekh says this handy app also automatically convert currencies and works offline. Or you can use your phone calculator when you can’t figure out the math in your head, like publications sub-editor Anna Howard.
Feature image: Getty; other images: Flight Centre