9th January, 2020
The 27 best travel apps for 2020
Whether your trip is for business or pleasure, phone apps are essential tools when travelling
Long gone are the days when a foreign phrasebook and a dog-eared guidebook were the most useful additions to your suitcase. Today the most valuable thing we take anywhere is our mobile phone. From changing currency, translating the language, finding your way around or even checking whether the local delicacy is safe for you to eat, all this can be done through an app.
Here are 27 of the best travel apps to help you on your trip.
Planning your trip
Before you head off, it’s worth downloading these apps to help you plan and prepare for your trip as well as to stay safe and organised while you’re away.
1. CDC TravWell
Want to know the vaccinations you’ll need for a country or what’s advisable to take to a certain area? This app by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a thorough and trusted source of information. No connection is needed to access it and it includes emergency service phone numbers. You can also store travel information, records of your medication and immunisation, as well as the vaccine boosters you’ll need during your trip.
2. App in the Air
Keeping all your flight plans in one place is a lifesaver, especially when most of your travel will involve digital boarding passes and flight details. App in the Air is able to connect to your email account and draw the information from your calendar too. So, you don’t even have to worry about that three-month-old email with the details of your next flight. It also offers stats on your flights if you’re a fan of data.
3. Pin Drop
If you like to have a plan, this is an app for you. It looks a bit like a map app, but Pin Drop is far more than that. It allows you to group together a trip – or several trips on different lists – and organise your favourite places, shops or bars to visit. It’s free to download and prides itself on being private. Not only can you use it to plan your trip, but it also keeps track of the places you’ve visited as a reminder of your adventures.
Money and Currency
You may be able to draw out money from any cash machine, but there could be times when you need to transfer funds to pay for accommodation or change your currency. So, it’s worth knowing some of the best apps on the market to help.
Developed by leading global bank Santander, PagoFX is a low-cost international money transfer app that provides bank-level security and dedicated customer service – regardless of the bank you use. With no hidden fees, the app is a secure and effortless way to send money abroad. PagoFX is great if you’re looking for a way to save money on international payments, whatever your reason for travelling. You can download the mobile app for free on the App Store or Google Play, currently available to UK residents only.
2. Elk Travel Currency Converter
How much is the handmade bag you’ve spotted on that market stall? Are the cocktails ‘on offer’ really cheap? Use Elk to convert it and check the price. What’s great about Elk is it knows which country you’re in and the currency it needs to convert to. It’s free to download with the option of a Pro version for multiple currencies.
One of the greatest joys while staying in a different country is trying out the food. However, no one wants to end up spending the following hours locked in the toilet or finding out they’ve ordered something they can’t eat. These apps should help prevent a dietary disaster!
1. CDC Can I Eat This?
Avoid having your trip ruined by an upset stomach and download this helpful app from CDC. You choose the country you’re in and then answer a series of questions to help check the food and drink you’re thinking of consuming.
HappyCow serves up the eating options near you that are vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and more. If your diet is more specific than some, it may be worth downloading this app, which plots places by map and is supported in a variety of languages.
Finding a restaurant or a takeaway that you find interesting is likely to be covered by Zomato. Online menus and in-app table booking are key features, and if you’re in India, UAE or Lebanon, you can order directly through the app too. Zomato is available in a wide range of countries such as the USA, Australia, Indonesia, Qatar and Sri Lanka.
Staying safe and being aware of potential dangers in the country you’re visiting is vital. It is essential to know which areas or zones to avoid, understand certain cultural dangers and have an idea of what to do if something goes wrong.
This free app for iOS devices translates complex data about a country and scores the risks out of 999, ranking the area into very safe, safe, risky, dangerous and very dangerous. The higher the score the safer it is. Users are provided with a profile about their intended destination, featuring everything from a detailed risk analysis, to visas, vaccinations and even what to do should the worst happen. Travellers can then monitor the countries they’re visiting. The app includes free international SOS, detailed advice if something goes wrong and personalised security strategies for different countries.
Paid for through a subscription, FoneTrac is a potentially life-saving app. It enables you to check in with friends or family and alerts you to risks in the area where you’re travelling. If you fail to check in, then the app sets off alerts and contacts your loved ones. You can also hit a panic button within the app.
3. SAS Survival Guide
You may not plan on being the next Bear Grylls, but if you’re travelling off the beaten track, this app, based on classic SAS survival, could be invaluable. A sun compass, Morse code signalling, poisonous plants and a comprehensive first aid guide are just some of the elements included.
Any trip to another city or country will involve finding your way around, and whether that’s on foot, bus, train or rickshaw, some help will inevitably be needed.
Waze is more than a map. It’s a real-time app that shows you exactly where roadworks are, where accidents have blocked routes and even where the cheapest fuel is. The app enables you to choose your voice and listen to music or podcasts while using it – making it useful for those who often travel by car. It’s available in more than 40 languages too.
This app hasn’t won several awards for nothing. It’s a real-time city-based app for the world’s most celebrated destinations, helping you work out the best mode of travel. If you’re in Melbourne and want to know when to get off the bus or want to compare whether to walk or order an Uber in Mexico City, this app is right up your street.
Another favourite for travellers is maps.me, an app that helps you move around locations but doesn’t use up your data – which you may find you need if you’re trekking in Nepal without any phone signal.
4. Flight Radar 24
Imagine an app for trainspotting, but rather with planes. That sums up Flight Radar 24. Free to download, you can watch planes move around maps and track their locations, as well as find out what aircraft they are, what speed they’re travelling at and even see images too.
The ixigo app is specifically for India’s train system, but worth mentioning as it’s well thought of among seasoned travellers to the country who recognise that its rail system is complicated. This is a crucial tool to help you plan, book and pay for tickets, as it even links to your Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) account.
You may already be a regular user of Uber. If not, download the app to ensure that you have access to reliable transport across the globe, with Uber now covering more than 500 cities worldwide. Through the app, you can also order an electronic JUMP bike, opt for UberPOOL to share travel with others or book an UberBLACK for a more exclusive journey.
Budget or blow out, it’s worth having a few apps ready to find the best option of where you want to stay when you’re on the move. Here are a few gems.
For the uninitiated, Airbnb is the online global accommodation site that allows people with spare rooms or properties to rent out to travellers looking for low-key accommodation. Airbnb has more than six million homes listed across the globe, making it an obvious choice when it comes to viewing and booking the right accommodation for you.
If you’re looking for a hotel, Trivago promises to check hundreds of hotel rooms in different destinations to find you the best option for the best price.
Many hostels have moved on from the undesirable dormitories of yesteryear, and so too has the way you can book them. HostelWorld allows you to view accommodation and book private rooms as well as shared dorms. Its free cancellation policy makes it perfect if you’re jetting around and need to change your plans at the last minute.
4. Home Exchange
If you want to travel but need to cut costs, using Home Exchange may be the perfect way to do it. The app, which offers properties in 187 countries, lets you opt for short or longer stays, staying in someone else’s home or freeing up your house for another person or family.
You can book hotels, as well as flights, car hire and bundle deals through the Expedia app. There are frequent deals for bundles and, by booking through the app, you can earn Expedia points each time.
Exploring the area
Unless your trip is strictly business, seeing the sights, shopping and exploring the area is a must. These apps will help find corners of the country you may not know existed or get you to that bucket list must-see for less than expected.
1. Culture Trip
Some of the best places to visit won’t appear in any mainstream guidebook, but they may have been featured in an article on the Culture Trip app. It’s a magazine-style guide offering information and suggestions by local writers, photographers and filmmakers. You can also create wish lists of places you plan on visiting.
A well-known app for good reason, TripAdvisor is worth checking before you book accommodation, a restaurant or a place to visit. You can view other people’s images – not just the PR photos on websites – and read up on other visitors’ reviews to find out whether it really is worth the trip and the price.
Award-winning and popular, it’s easy to see why TravelZoo is a go-to app for accommodation, as well as days out and local deals. Check for vouchers and bargains for points of interest near to where you’re staying.
Speaking the lingo
Even if you’re in an area where they’re speaking your language, it’s courteous to try and talk in the local lingo – and there may be times when you have no other option than to translate. These apps will help.
1. Google Translate
With the clever feature of taking a photo to find out what the information says, it’s hard not to love Google Translate. The app has the ability to translate when you’re offline by downloading an online translation file and using speech. However, you can also write in the words or symbols if you’re unable to take a picture or type them in. Google adds languages all the time, with the list already covering more than 100 for text translation. You can also save frequently used phrases or words.
Possibly one to download and use before your trip, Duolingo is a free app to help you learn a language. Practise reading, writing and speaking with the chatbot to help improve your skills in a range of languages including Spanish, French, Russian and Italian. You can pay for an upgrade to Duolingo Plus to be free of adverts.