THE WORLD AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
The smartphone has become an essential, never-to-be-lost item for the modern traveller. It’s your travel agent, city guide, navigator, entertainment consul, camera and interpreter all rolled into one. You can even use it to make and receive phone calls. New travel apps are being launched all the time but you don’t want to clog up your phone with too many. You just need the best. The following are all free (unless noted) and come highly recommended.
There are many fare aggregator options but I haven’t been lured away from Skyscanner. Launched in 2002 it is now used by more than 60 million travellers in 30 different languages. The layout is uncluttered and navigation easy. A colour-coding system simplifies things further (green means cheap; red expensive) and the app finds the best, cheapest and quickest flights in seconds. Price Alerts keeps an unblinking eye out for discounted fares so you can swoop on bargains. The app performs the same task for finding hotels and hire cars. SKYSCANNER.COM.AU
Translation apps have vastly improved communication – especially for independent travellers. Google Translate translates instantly – select a pair of languages, tap the mic symbol and voila! you can understand your French waiter. Google’s Word Lens app even translates written language. Simply point your phone at a sign or some text and it instantly converts to English. Note: the technology is not yet perfect and mistakes still occur (especially after a few wines). TRANSLATE.GOOGLE.COM.AU
If you’re eager to make the most of your limited time, Nearify suggests local gigs, events and activities. Prime the app with your preferences in music, comedy, dining and festivals and let it do all the work. Nearify will give alerts for upcoming events and allow you to follow bands, buy tickets and get venue directions. Less helpful in regional areas. NEARIFY.COM
CheckMyTrip is your travel guardian angel. It keeps travel information together so you don’t have to dig through luggage looking for flight times and booking numbers. Forward your booking info to the app and it collates it into a trip itinerary. It will inform you of delays, flight cancellations or terminal changes. Other features include planning tools, parking directions and a currency converter. You can also use it to check in to your flight. CHECKMYTRIP.COM
The Detour app uses GPS to guide you around a location while a local expert brings the surroundings to life with engaging anecdotes and information. Production values are high and the guides always have a special affinity to their subject matter. Explore San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury with local actor and former hippy Peter Coyote. Follow Vivien OrbachSmith around the same Berlin districts her Jewish father hid from Nazis in the 1940s before making his daring escape. Detour is still USA focused but is expanding globally. Individual tours are $7.99.
GUIDES BY LONELY PLANET
The world’s largest travel book publisher has embraced the digital age and you can access its most relevant sections direct from your phone. The free app includes offline maps, suggested itineraries, currency converters and audio phrasebooks. Guides covers 177 cities and it’s still expanding and improving. Lonely Planet has also released Trips, a crowdsourced app which encourages travellers to add recommendations and photos to help build a constantly updated resource. It’s like a love child between TripAdvisor and Instagram. LONELYPLANET.COM/GUIDES
Roaming Tip: Data roaming prices have come down but if you’re going on a long haul it’s still often cheaper to buy a local SIM card and a data plan. If you haven’t organised data roaming with your phone provider, keep Wi-Fi switched off until you’re somewhere that has free access (airports, hotels, some cafes).
Travel’s so much easier with apps that provide guides, currency conversion, translation services and more.