Being so far away from home, it is easy to lose that sense of comfort that you have when you are in your normal environment. At home you are surrounded by people who speak the same language, roads that you’re comfortable driving on and there is an overall sense of contentment. All of these things seem to slip right out of your hands when you are in another part of the World. Hell, I have felt quite uncomfortable plenty of times since we walked out of our front door and trotted across the globe. However, with the help of technology, there are ways of bringing that serenity back to you even if you feel like a total stranger in your new element.
Here are some of my favorite apps that can help you when you are traveling the World.
This one may seem obvious, but it is pretty crucial especially when you find yourself in a location where you do not speak the language. We have been fortunate (thus far) to spend our time in countries where they speak English commonly or we are semi-versed in the native language. However, apps like Google Translate come in handy a lot for us when we are shopping, eating out or when communicating with locals who don’t understand our attempts at their language (happens often in my case unfortunately.) There is a feature in the app that even allows you to hover your camera over words and it will instantly translate the world to whatever language you have it set to. Even better than that is the ability to download specific languages so you can use the translator offline.
Oh, Yelp…how you have helped me find so many amazing eateries in so many foreign lands. Yelp is a must have for Aaron and I both at home and when we are traveling. We love the features of the app including the photos that are uploaded from people as well as the review section. It allows you to get a feel for a place based on real experiences from real people. I will say to be wary of the comments though as some people can use Yelp to blow off steam on a small scale issue. Overall this app is genius when traveling as it helps you find places close to your location and organizes them by cuisine and price point. [Another great app for searches is TripAdvisor]
Ah, the dreaded task of trying to figure out how much you are really spending on that meal, rental car, t-shirt, and martini you have your eye on. If you are from the United States, this task can seem a little easier when traveling to places throughout Europe as the Euro is relative to the U.S. dollar right now. However, when traveling to places with vast differences in currency (Asia, Mexico, etc..) it is always a good idea to have a currency calculator around. This app will help you quickly calculate how much you are spending on things and can also help you when looking for a place to travel. You can quickly see how far your dollar will get you. [Beware – this app will calculate the formal currency exchange; however, lots of places will charge fees or fluctuate the exchange rates when you purchase something. If you are not sure, ask the exchange rate before purchasing something.]
Since we have been roaming around Europe, I have to admit that I have mostly been using Messenger via Facebook to communicate with family and friends; however, I have been hearing a lot about WhatsApp. This tool, like Messenger, uses Wifi or 3G to message people without using data from your phone provider. This is clutch as a lot of people tend to spend a lot of money on International data plans so that they can keep in touch with loved ones. I would encourage you to do that if you are going to be outside of an area with Wifi, but now and days there is Wifi almost anywhere so using an app like WhatsApp is ideal for secure messaging. You can use the app on a phone or on a computer and you can also video chat.
Not gonna lie, I have been a loyal user of Google Maps for a long time and while I still do use them (especially when I am home) there has been a lot of chatter about Citymapper and I have to give it to ’em, this app is good. It’s quite similar to Google Maps as it allows you to search business/addresses and lets you save favorite locations so you can easily access them in the future. I really love the feature that allows you to search bus and train schedules within the area that your are in. These routes can often be the cheaper means of getting around a city and knowing both the times and locations of these routes is super helpful.
There is nothing worse than planning a trip and then getting to your destination only to be met with horrible weather. While you can never fully predict or control how the weather is going to be, you can get a sense of what you are in for with apps like this. In my experience, the Weather Channel app has been super reliable and has pretty much any feature I could want/need. They use maps, graphs, tables, and show weather predictions up to 15 days in advance. They also calculate weather hourly so you can get an estimate of how long you can be in any location before that dreaded storm hits. Another great feature is that you can allow notifications on days you are anticipating bad weather so you stay on top of when to get indoors.
There are plenty of affordable ways to get around different places in the World, but one convenient means of (almost) universal transportation right now is Uber. Personally, Aaron and I rely on Uber when getting ourselves to and from airports since you can order the Uber minutes before their arrival and you know ahead of time what the cost will be. Obviously using Uber often can become costly, but depending on your budget, it might be worth it. You can determine what ‘grade’ of car service you want and my personal experience with their customer service has been great. You can also use services such as Lyft or you can rent a car and get yourself truly acclimated with your new environment. [Side note: I have noticed that Uber drivers in Europe tend to dress and treat you like an actual hired car service, even when you are being driven around in a Volkswagen. The experiences I have had in Europe are much different than the experiences in the States and it is quite refreshing.]