Travel Apps, Money and Contact

Qat sellers and cases of money in in Sana

Useful World Travel Apps

Easy to use and playful, Citymapper offers detailed journey planning, real-time departures and disruption alerts, as well as Uber integration and cycle routes. It is available in around 30 cities worldwide. Free.

A free and well-designed language learning app, though not a replacement for proper language tuition. The app is a fun way to get the basics or to freshen up on grammar and vocabulary before a trip abroad. Free.

XE is the go-to site for currency conversions on the web, so it’s no surprise that its app is so popular. It has lots of business-oriented features but for the regular traveller it is most useful for the simple fact that it’s able to convert every world currency. Free.

Tripit pulls together travel information from your confirmation emails for flights, hotels, rental cars, events bookings and converts it into a single itinerary. Just forward your emails to the app and it will do the rest. If you’re travelling with others you can easily share the plans, making this a useful app for coordinating a group trip. Free.

A simple ‘Personal Flight Assistant’ that offers excellent coverage of airlines and airports. It will keep you updated about flight status – even if you don’t have internet coverage – and helps you manage your time at the airport. Free.

Google Translate

This translator can be a useful tool to support your own, more serious language learning, but realistically, it’s most useful on a practical level quickly translating day-to-day words you come across on your travels. For example, you can hold your camera up to text – such as a sign, or a menu – and Google will translate it for you instantly. Free.

Time Out

Time Out app is a great directory of ideas of things to do in cities around the world. With coverage from Accra to Amsterdam, Edinburgh to Singapore, the app covers everything from bars, restaurants, attractions and events. The event finder is a particularly useful tool, meaning you’ll never struggle to find the most popular concerts, festivals or one-off happenings going on around you. You can also book restaurants and concert tickets through the app and create a customised travel guide for your holiday. Free.

Splittr is geared up for travelling, providing a simple platform to share costs between friends. You can enter expenses as you go, including who paid what and the app will do the rest. A nice touch for longer, multi-destination trips is that all currencies are supported and you can mix currencies without having to do the conversion yourself. $1. 99/£1. 49.

Travel Money

Buy goodies or pay bills (checks) with credit cards when on vacation as they provide insurance as well as delayed repayment but don’t draw cash out from ATMs with them (unless it’s a new-wave, no-fee card). Interest starts accruing immediately and bank exchange fees in addition to the ATM fee may be unreasonable.

It’s better to buy foreign cash at home from a commission-free provider though, of course when you travel you’ll have to carry a fat wad around, so the best solution depends on the security of your holiday destination. If you travel a lot and want to get cash from an ATM do some research on transaction fees and get the lowest fee debit (not credit card) card you can find.

Gap Year travellers might consider also acquiring a prepaid Travel Money Card (aka Currency Card) which can be loaded with any amount of any currency before travelling and then topped up by family or friends while the Gappist is still in the big nowhere. Compare prepaid Travel Money Cards.

And of course never pay for anything abroad in your home currency (the exchange rate will be absurd), insist on paying in local currency.

To summarise, buy stuff abroad with a credit card, but try to pay off the balance each month before interest charges blow the wheels off your trolley; get cash from ATMs with a debit card.

Finally, don’t go short of travel insurance if you’re going to be participating in any kind of marginally dangerous activity, or even a non-dangerous activity in a third world location, that’s NOT the way to save money! Use your brain while it’s intact!

Staying in touch

Keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues while traveling abroad has become so much easier thanks to the internet and social networks.

Travelers logging onto social networks while abroad should ensure that they properly log out before leaving an internet café or similar because in some areas of Africa, East Europe and India it’s not unknown for a watcher to access a tourist’s Facebook (or similar) account after they leave and send a desperate message to family members about an accident/hospitalisation and needing money urgently. Money transferred of course disappears into a mystery account and no one’s the wiser, for the time being.

Best way to communicate while travelling (updated December 2015)

1. Using your own mobile/cell phone

– Check out your provider’s deals for using an extended service outside your registered country and check if your phone works over the network at your destination, as well as the cost.
Turn voicemail off as some companies charge for incoming calls. Also it’s best to switch off the cloud service, mobile data and roaming data as those apps can really rack up the charges. Use free local Wifi instead.

– If your trip is long or you use the phone a lot, the best way to save money is:

If your phone is unlocked, get a local sim card and buy prepaid credit, possibly with data too so that you can use 3G or 4G. The downside of a new sim card means the number will be also new.

If your phone is locked, either get it unlocked or buy a cheapo unlocked local phone.

2. Using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services such as Skype, Facebook Messenger, Google+Hangouts, WhatsApp, Viber, LINE and Tango with your devices.

This involves contact via the internet, though nowadays it’s not only speech or video calls but all sorts of communication ranging from instant messages and chats to sharing images and videos from anywhere worldwide free of charge, so long as each party has access to WiFi.

Although WhatsApp is only free for the first year – with cost of a dollar per year after that – WhatsApp is a brilliant service and currently the most popular app on the planet, with 900 million users worldwide.
LINE has 50 million registered users in Japan and nearly 600 million worldwide.
For a faster and more secure service, the newish Telagram is recommended. It’s a cloud-based messenger with seamless sync, ad free and costs nothing.

3. Sign up with a global WiFi internet service such as Boingo and Fon WiFi.

You pay a small fee per month (from US$4. 98 for the first months then $9. 95; a higher price for laptops) for access to WiFi hotspots such as airports, stations and cafés worldwide.
Alternatively Skype users can use Skype credit to connect to WiFi.

– For those who need to be connected to WiFi or data all the time, you can rent a portable WiFi-enabled device or a pocket WiFi. This is a wireless modem from companies such as XCom Global and Tep wireless that gives have access to high-speed Internet at a flat rate (from €8. 95/$9. 95/£6. 50 a day).

4. Not a cheap options but if your purpose is limited to emergencies, buy or rent a prepaid phone, online or at the airport on your arrival.

5. Old fashioned but check out the new generation phone cards to call just about anywhere, though public pay-phones are disappearing so it’s hard to find one that works properly when you need to make a call! Also others can’t to reach you, unless that is precisely your point!