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What Apps To Use While Traveling....and Why

Posted by Kayla McGill on 8/18/14 11:49 AM

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When traveling in a foreign country, guide books and language books are all awesome to have...however, you probably end up holding a map in your hand looking dazed and confused wandering around a city. Trust us, there is a faster, easier, and extremely less stressful way to get around when traveling abroad. Keep reading for a HUGE list of recommended apps that are great to have when traveling abroad. 


No matter where you travel to, chance are you'll be bringing your phone, laptop or tablet with you. International Language Programs sends volunteers to serve abroad in  countries around the world. And, during your semester abroad you'll have vacation time to see even more, which means you'll need lots and lots of apps to help you out, right?

Haven't applied to be a volunteer yet? Apply here!

To try to make this as easy as possible, we've sorted these awesome apps into the following 6 groups: 
  • Travel Deals and Planning Apps
  • Staying Connected and Social Apps 
  • Translating Apps 
  • Public Transit and City Map Apps 
  • Restaurant and Entertainment Apps 
  • Currency Conventer Apps
The best advice we can give you is to download apps that can be used both on WiFi as well as without service of any kind. I'd also suggest to download these BEFORE you go abroad- some apps need you to confirm your identity with a text message...which isn't really possible if you don't have a data plan abroad.

Travel Deals/Planning Apps  

Hostelworld
This is a GREAT app to use when traveling around and trying to find a place to sleep. This can only be used when on WiFi.


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Venmo
This lets you add your bank account to the profile you create and enables you transfer money to another person who has Venmo. This app is super helpful when you need to pay someone in your ILP group back for booking train tickets or hostels. 

Travelsafe Pro
This one is actually only available to Android users…and it does cost a little bit. BUT it also comes fully stocked with a list of emergency phone numbers for whichever country you plan to be in. Quite convenient actually. See if one or two people can download it in your semester to keep you all safe.

Hopper
This app has been a huge money saver! Find the lowest airfares ever thanks to Hopper's price-prediction feature. The app shows you the best times to fly and tells you when the best time to purchase tickets! 

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Staying Connected and Social Apps 

I'm sure you have already heard about Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Facetime/Skype right? Well here are some more apps that help you stay connected while traveling. 

VPNs
Some countries, such as China, restrict certain social media websites, but downloading VPNs can help you get around these restrictions. Click here to learn more about VPNS. 

Hey wire
This app lets you talk and text for FREE while you are using WiFi. As a general disclaimer, there are a TON of different apps you can download to talk and text for free, but this is one ILP volunteers and alumni have had a lot of success with and have really enjoyed using.

Onavo
Even though we recommend suspending your data, if you do have an international plan with your carrier….download this app. This lets you drastically reduce the amount of data which is used and the overseas costs which will be there if you choose to use your phone that way.

WeChat/QQ
For all you living in China for a semester, be sure to download thess apps to talk with your Chinese students and your Chinese friends.

Translating Apps

Google Translate
If you want, you can use it to point at certain words in a foreign language and it instantly translates them to English for you! Pretty cool.

Translators
There are some awesome ones out there, like MyLingo, TripLingo, Waygo, SignAloud and more. 

Pleco
This isn't exactly a translator app, but it's pretty handy for those going to China. Pleco is an online dictionary that lets you type in an English word and get the Chinese equivalent (and vice versa); helpful when trying to order vegetarian noodles for lunch. 

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Public Transit/City Map Apps 

Like a Local
This lets you get maps and other things to do in a TON of European Cities. You can download the maps and such when on WiFi, and then use them when you are walking around and not on WiFi…perfection.

Vayable
 Similar to Like a Local, this app is a way to discover "unique experiences offered by locals". Definitly worth checking out. 

Google Goggles
If you use data or have WiFi and want to know about a specific place, pull this app up, point your camera at the building and if it is famous enough, there will be a bunch of relevant links that pop up so you can be educated quickly!

FourSquare
We love this app! It is pretty popular already, but when you are traveling abroad, open it up when you get to a specific place (restaurant, store, historic place, etc.) and you will see tips and tricks from previous travelers on what to do there. I.E. what to order that is delicious, where to sit, special deals, best times to be in a certain place, etc.

Uber
If you are going to spend a semester volunteering in Europe with ILP, see what countries you can use Uber in  to make your life exploring so much easier. 

CityMaps2Go

Download the city map ahead of time and you'll be ready to have the time of your life exploring foreign cities. 

Moovit/MetroMan
We love these apps. Use Moovit to get public transport info about tons of large urban cities. Buses, metros, etc. All there!

MetroMan can be used offline, giving you a map of the metro in (mostly Chinese) cities. You can also put in your metro stop and where you want to go, and it will pull up about how long it should take you to get there. 

Wi-Fi Finder
The name says it all, but the app finds locations where you can use the wi-fi for free. Download it before you go to and never pay for wi-fi again! 

Restaurant and Entertainment Apps

Foodspotting
This is for all you foodies out there! This app is unique in that you can search (on wifi or data) for a specific dish in a specific city and it will show you where you can find it! Yay for food!

Happy Cow
This is a must for all of our vegan and vegetarian travelers! It can be so hard to find meat-free options around when traveling, but this app does all the work for you! You're welcome!

Goldstar
Find half price tickets to live entertainment all around the world. 

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Currency Converter Apps

XE Currency
This app gives you live currency exchange rates and lets you know all the latest info about all the currencies you could ask for. A kind of cool and super great tool to use.

Currency Converter
This app can do calculations for over 160 currencies from all over the world. 

Fancy Tips
Wondering what the typical tipping habits are across the globe? This app will tell you what the typical tipping habits are in over 240 countries and regions... plus it includes a tip calculator. For a refresher, here's how to tip around the world. 

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This is a list of the most general apps we could find to help you navigate through your semester abroad easily! We recommend looking these through and finding some that you think would help you best.

Use these, have fun, give us some feedback or recommendations on what ones worked for you or didn’t work as well for you. We love to hear about everything! Also, remember to either suspend your phone service or upgrade to an international data plan. We've got more on how to avoid data charges while abroad right here. 

Want to learn more about how you can not only travel abroad but live abroad? Click the button below. 

International Language Programs 

Topics: Semester Preparation, Travel Tips, Life Abroad

Exploring The World For Over 25 Years

Over the years of assisting more than 6,000 volunteers in their desire to travel and make a difference in the lives of others, ILP has seen what works and what doesn't.

We've gathered our tips here for making your semester abroad a successful one.

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