If you’re like me – and you probably are when it comes to your cell phone – you don’t go anywhere without it. Cell phones have become an integral part of our everyday lives. So what do you do if you are traveling outside of the country? Do you leave it at home, or tucked away in your suitcase, turned off except in the case of an emergency? Well, there’s good news for you. Now you can put it to good use anywhere in the world with such apps as Skype; CityMaps2Go; Google Translate and more. But before you go, check out the Pocket Travel Consultant. This will help you plan your trip before you leave.
Pocket Travel Consultant
The Pocket Travel Consultant is a FREE mobile travel app that is available to all TravelPlex customers. It allows you to carry all the destination information you need while traveling, right in your pocket!
Version 2 of this app was launched in May, 2013, and includes both a new interface and a cleaner look and feel. Updated with content from travel42, this resource provides access to thousands of pages of information to help you research and plan your vacation and business trips. When traveling, it puts a world of information about the destinations you visit at your fingertips
When it comes to communicating internationally, Skype has become the de facto way to get it done. Compared to the $1, $2 or even $3 a minute charges you’ll pay calling from one country to another on your stock cell phone, with Skype you’ll knock those charges down to the realm of 25 cents per minute or less—and that’s for exotic locales like Yemen. Major nations like France, Italy, China, Japan and Argentina all come in at under 3 cents a minute, and that’s if you’re paying as you go. Subscription plans (usually a few bucks a month) knock the prices down even further. And of course, if the person you’re calling is also using Skype, all calls worldwide are completely free. Skype can be buggy at times due to the vagaries of world Internet connectivity, but until we all get gigabit wireless, it’s the best thing we’ve got. Free, plus per-minute charges; iOS, Android, Windows Phone; skype.com
Google Goggles/Google Search
Turn your smartphone’s camera into a search helper by simply snapping a picture of what you’re interested in. Works of art and landmarks are recognized and Google-driven information about them pops right up on your phone; or shoot a picture of a bar code or QR code to get more data about whatever it’s attached to. For international travelers, the app does one better: Shoot a picture of text written in a foreign language (eight are supported), and Google Goggles translates it for you on the fly. (Note: Google Goggles is the Android app. For iOS users, the function is built into the broader Google Search app. Both versions are free.) Free; Android, iOS; google.com/mobile/goggles
JiWire Wi-Fi Finder
There are a ton of Wi-Fi hotspot locators available, but JiWire’s version is the most complete and the farthest-reaching. JiWire has 650,000 hotspots and 144 countries in its database, so if there’s a wireless hotspot (free or paid) near you, it’s probably listed here. Pro tip: Download the database to your phone for offline use so you don’t waste your data plan when searching for a hotspot while you’re overseas—or find yourself stranded when you’re out of range of a cell tower. Free; iOS; jiwire.com
City Maps 2Go
Yes, you need a standard map app on your phone (Google Maps is still the best), but these tend to gobble up the megabytes as they download update after update to your phone. With City Maps 2Go you can get the essentials for offline use. Just download the maps you need (they’re free) for as many of the 6,700 world locations you require, so you can find your way without having to resort to a guidebook. And if you manage to plan a trip to somewhere that’s not already on the list, the company will make a custom map for you on request. $1.99; iOS; ulmon.com
There are a dozen ways you can convert dollars to euros with your phone, but none is so comprehensive as XE Currency, which offers live exchange rates for every currency in the world (plus a few precious metals). Need to exchange your cash for Sudanese pounds, Turkmenistan manat, and more. You can even use the app in speech-to-speech mode: Just talk into the phone in English and have it output the translation via audio so your barista can understand your order. Free; Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Nokia; google.com/mobile/translate
Just as Skype has become the low-cost standard for communicating via voice when you’re overseas, WhatsApp Messenger has become the alternative for text messaging without having to pay for it. Just load up the WhatsApp system and send real-time messages to friends and colleagues without having to pay SMS fees (which typically cost 20 to 25 cents a pop when you’re overseas). WhatsApp actually throws in more features than your standard SMS system, including the ability to have group chats and support for sending photos and videos. Free; iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Symbian, Nokia; whatsapp.com