Smartphone and Tablet Apps for World Travelers

It’s time to ditch the heavy guidebooks, the huge fold-out maps, and the “learn in the car” language CDs.  If you’re traveling with a smartphone or tablet, you’ve got all the tools and resources you need right at your fingertips.  Few apps work for every destination, but a few minutes of research and a dozen or so downloads can save you time, money, and frustration.  Get the most out of your smartphone or tablet with these apps the next time you travel!

 

Public Transportation

There’s no universal transportation app, but almost every major public transportation system in the world has an app these days.  Whether it’s the MTA in New York, the BTS in Bangkok, or the Paris Metro, you can use the power of your smartphone or tablet to check routes, timetables, delays, and more.  Some apps, like the Seoul Subway app, will even plan the best route for you based on the time and your current location.  Public transport doesn’t have to be scary!

Translators & Languages

Forget the phrasebooks and the learn-on-the-go audio CDs.  Today there are apps to learn the basics of almost every language on the planet.  If the pronunciations are hard, there are also apps that will speak important phrases for you at the push of a button!  Many of these apps are offline, making it easy to communicate even without an internet or network connection.   Apps like Google Translator are good for short phrases that can be typed or spoken, and there are several apps (some of questionable efficacy) that will translate text from photographs taken by your phone or tablet.

Offline Maps

Many, if not most, parts of the world don’t have reliable access to internet, making offline maps an important part of your travel arsenal.  And because they’re on your device, you don’t need to wait long for the data to load.  While it’s still a good idea to carry a backup map (in case your battery dies), you can download extremely detailed maps of entire countries to your phone or tablet.  These maps can also show points of interest, such as tourist attractions, public transport information, airports, hospitals, and more.  There are many app options, depending on what you want from a map.  Basic apps like MapWithMe show detailed street maps and nothing more, while TripAdvisor’s offline map app offers suggestions about shopping, dining, etc.

 

Organizers

You’ve got a lot of emails about your trip.  Flight confirmations, hotel bookings, car rental agreements, flight change notifications, online visas—there’s a lot to keep track of.  Make it easier by downloading a travel organizer app like TripIt, which scans your email for travel-related information and compiles it into one place.  Easy!

Emergency Information

Bad things can happen even while you’re on vacation.  Whether you lose your passport, suffer an injury, or worse, having important information on-hand can make a big difference in the outcome.  Apps like TravelSafe provide a listing of emergency service numbers and embassy information for just about any country in the world.  Country- or region-specific apps may also show the location of hospitals and police stations.  Keeping photos of your passport, tickets, and other important documents on your phone can also help in the event that they are lost or stolen.

  1. Jessica Ward Reply

    I use offline maps all the time – I feel so sneaky preloading a map but I find it so helpful on my iphone when i can use the little blue dot to save me from getting crazy lost

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