The internet, it is often said, has succeeded in making our world smaller. We can chat with someone halfway across the world by means of any number of social media services or a quick Skype call. We can conduct business multinationally and even exchange contracts with overseas partners, without ever needing to meet them. We can watch Danish noir dramas on TV, listen to Korean pop music, and become enthralled by the vlog entries of everyday people from all corners of the world, all thanks to tech.
This doesn’t stop us from wanting to see a lot of the world for ourselves, of course. If digital services have allowed us to indulge a certain kind of cyber-wanderlust, it’s not quite the same as getting out there and seeing these places for real. Indulging our actual wanderlust is not something that you can do with just a phone, it means picking up your luggage and going to the actual spots. But to get there, and once you are there, digital services can be of use to you, as the list of apps below makes entirely clear.
One or more language apps
Depending on when you’re travelling, a language learning app is a potential boost to your ability to make yourself understood when you reach your destination. Duolingo and Babbel are two popular options with useful free content, while Rosetta Stone is more in-depth but will cost you some money to use. It will take some weeks and even months of use for these apps to get you to a place of confidence in speaking. For more specific circumstances and emergencies, it’s worth downloading Google Translate as well. It has a camera-based function that allows you to get translations from road signs, public notices and packaging, which can be exceptionally useful.
At least one accommodation booking app
Even if you’re travelling on a package deal, there may be some evenings where you find yourself wishing to explore further and wider, and not be limited in this by having to get back to a hotel. To find somewhere to stay for the night at an affordable rate, it’s a good idea to have AirBnB, HomeAway or VRBO downloaded, while Booking.com also has a useful app for booking hotel rooms. If you’re the type who likes to travel freely without too much forward planning, these apps are essential.
It’s one thing when you’re at the local supermarket and move, unknown, out of the WiFi area and start using data for something. It’s quite another, and potentially very expensive, if it happens while you are in another country entirely and subject to data roaming charges. Available for both iOS and Android, WiFi Map has details – including passwords – for more than 100,000 WiFi hotspots all over the world. So wherever you are in the world, you can connect and use the internet for free.
While travelling within Europe has become more straightforward since the adoption of the Euro, those of us who move outside the Eurozone still have the hurdle of currency conversion to overcome. Landed in Seoul and want to check if those cheap Samsung deals are as competitive as you thought? Shopping in Dubai and want to comparison-shop something on the basis of its value in dirham and sterling? It’s important to know the exchange rate as it stands, and XE gives the up-to-date numbers. Given that you can hand over the same cards in most countries worldwide, shopping can be hassle-free. Knowing the exchange rate should mean that receiving the bill is also a relatively serene experience.
An offline reading app
With luck and the WiFi Map recommended above, you shouldn’t find yourself in a position of having to be without an internet connection too often while on holiday. However, there may be cases where you have to pay for use of WiFi or are travelling – and if you’ve ever used the free WiFi on a bus or train you’ll know how temperamental they can be. Having an app that allows you to save news articles, parts of books and other useful reading materials – such as Pocket – can be a useful way to pass some time when you’d otherwise be stuck with nothing to do. Similarly, if you’re into podcasts, there is no end of apps which will allow you to download something to listen to.
Recent times have made it hard to think about going on holiday properly. But the better times will be back, and when they do it’s going to be useful to have everything you need right there on your phone.