Must have travel apps

Apple iPhone 5As we’ve discussed before, a few of the right gadgets are invaluable travel tools to the Single Dude. Right at the top of the list has to be a smart phone, preferably an iPhone or a higher end Android phone like the Gallaxy SIII, due to the fact that it is many devices in one small light weight package (ebook, telephone, camera, map, electronic translator, travel guide, etc.) and for the apps of course. Apps become better and more useful every day and it’s getting to the point where a smart phone is like having a mini Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in your pocket. Most of these apps are free but some cost a dollar or two – don’t be cheap – a well informed traveler always saves money over all. So let’s get to the apps:

Guides – these are apps that help you find food, accommodation, activities, etc. and often rank them in terms of value, quality and perhaps a few other metrics.

  • Tripadvisor – Tripadvisor is neither my favorite website nor my favorite app, I think it kind of sucks actually in it’s highly commercialized (read: full of bullshit ads for stuff you don’t want or need) – however, it’s widely read and widely used. This means a huge pool of rankings. I find the rankings to be fairly accurate with one exception – take every ranking and subtract one. The vast majority of trip adviser users must be western idiots with low IQs and low expectations. This is easily controlled for by subtracting one from all rankings though
  • Travelfish – Travelfish is a great website and app travel guide focused on southeast Asia.
  • Zagat – Zagat is one of the best restaurant guides known to man. It was recently bought out by Google and the former pay app has been discontinued and will be replaced by a new one. Let’s hope Google doesn’t fuck this one up because it was the holey grail of finding quality dining for cheap prices. The caveat here is that it’s only been available in a handful of major cities but let’s hope Google will spread the appeal
  • FourSquare – The whole “let’s tell all my friends where I am and what I’m doing every minute of the day” is exceptionally gay, however I still like Foursquare. Foursquare lets you use the GPS feature of your phone to find out what’s around you and what people have to say about it. Foursquare has permeated the globe quite well but of course depending on your location you may have more or less success. Occasionally Foursquare will even inform you about a deal such as a happy hour special or a live music event.
  • Yelp! – Kinda like a cross between FourSquare and Zagat. It helps you find what’s close to you, see what others have to say about it, rate and rank establishments and notifies you of specials
  • AirBnB – great for finding cheap and / or less expensive alternative accommodation. Make sure your prospective host has some positive prior reviews.
  • Couchsurfing – This isn’t really a guide but I put it here because it will help you to find a place to stay in a pinch.

Language and TranslationNothing beats being able to communicate with the locals, if only a little. Leverage your technology to accomplish this goal!

  • Google Translate – This is one of the most badass free apps out there, like something straight out of Star Trek, you can now just talk to it and it will talk back in your language of choice for most major languages (for others it’s just text based). You can’t beat the price either.
  • Michel Thomas Method – Want to learn the basics of a language without any real study? This is the app for you, just throw on your headphones and listen. Perfect for long boring, boat, train, bus, plane or car rides.

Communications – You need to stay connected to keep your personal relationships as well as your business alive and well. Here’s some apps to help you do just that.

  • Viber – One of the coolest apps ever, as long as you’ve got a data connection (either WiFi or 3G/4G) you can make voice calls and send text messages with anyone else who has it for free.
  • Skype – A Skype account with the quarterly unlimited world calling subscription (~$36 / quarter) is a must have for world travelers who run a business on the go. It’s usually quite reliable even in remote locations and if need be you can get a “Skype In” number which will allow you to have a local number in your choice of a wide variety of countries that rings to your skype account. It’s also now possible to buy a VOIP number from DIDWW which gives you an even wider selection of countries from which to choose numbers than Skype.

Travel – apps to book tickets for travel.

  • Skyscanner – I used to like but now I feel like Skyscanner is the ticket search tool that covers more budget airlines than any of the others. It doesn’t always get you the best deal but it’s a good starting point and they have a handy app to help you run quick searches
  • Google Maps – If you actually have a smart phone so shitty it doesn’t have a built in map app use Google Maps’ mobile enabled website.

Entertainment & Music – We all need a little entertainment while on the road.

  • Shazam – one of my favorite apps of all time. Are you in some bar hearing some song you really like but no idea what it is? Just hold out your smart phone and press the Shazam button, wait five or ten seconds and you will have the answer. It works amazingly well even when the volume and background noise conditions are not optimal.
  • Pulse – this is a great app that lets you view the latest from all your favorite blogs and news sites in one handy place – don’t forget to add!
  • Kindle – access your entire Kindle library on your smart phone including the ability to sync to the latest page read in any book you’re in the middle of.
  • Grand Theft Auto III – I’m not much of a gamer anymore but GTA works surprisingly well on a touchscreen phone. Nothing like beating up some pimps, stealing some cars and banging some hookers to pass the time.
  • Soundcloud – there’s tons of free quality music available on this app. Check it out. You can even upload your own mixes to share with your friends worldwide.

Miscellaneous – Everything else not covered above.

  • XE Currency Converter – a nice free app to check out how much something really costs in a currency you understand
  • Any Flashlight App – stupid I know but most smart phones have a flash on the camera and many have a cheap or free app that lets you turn that flash on and use it as a flashlight. Stupid and simplistic, yes, but very useful!
  • Any QR Code Reader – there are tons available for every platform, doesn’t matter which one you get, just get one that works. QR codes are popping up everywhere.
  • iMediaShare Lite – cool app that let’s you control a wide variety of TVs and other devices that are WiFi enabled. If you find a bar that has a TV that has this feature but isn’t properly secured you can have shit loads of fun (read: you can beam midget porn from your smart phone to the bar TV).
  • WordPress – Got a WordPress blog? Want to run it remotely? There’s an app for that.

So that about does it for my personal “must have apps”. What are yours? Let’s make this an open thread, post your favorite apps in teh comments and let us know what platforms they’re available for. As far as I know everything I recommended above is available for both iPhone and Android if not also on mobile web. Also let me know if you think any of the apps above shouldn’t have made the list and why. Happy travels!

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