6 Free Travel Apps (That You’ll Actually Use)
Gone are the days of paper maps and asking for directions in incomprehensible French. These days there are travel apps for pretty much every aspect of your trip. While some may take a bit of the spontaneity out of a trip (who doesn’t enjoy getting lost in a new city, when you have a day to spare?), others can make your trip significantly less stressful (who does enjoy getting lost in a new city, when you have a flight to catch?).
Here are 6 free travel apps to download that will enhance your next rail journey.
Free travel apps
1. Google Maps
There’s not a lot that Google Maps can’t do when it comes to getting you from point A to point B, and helping you pick a few places to stop off along the way. While the integrated reviews and suggestions are helpful, Google Maps is still most valuable when it comes to directions. These days it’ll help you pick the best public transport, driving, walking, or cycling route in most cities around the world. You can now download the map and directions to use offline.
2. XE Currency
You may think a multi-country European rail trip will have you dealing mainly in Euros, but there are a surprising number of currencies used throughout the continent. If you don’t want to spend your time figuring out how many Hungarian forints you can get for your fistful of Euros, or if that €7 beer in a Parisian bar is good value or not, download a currency app. There are several on the Android and iPhone app stores, but XE is one of the most feature-rich and reliable. It’ll convert most currencies in real-time and store data offline until you’re able to refresh it.
Traveling is all about getting away from it all, but there are times when you want to keep in touch with friends and family back home, and even new pals you meet on the road. WhatsApp allows you to send free messages and make free calls to other users. If you’re traveling in a group, it’s also great for facilitating messages to multiple people – perfect if you want to spend a bit of time exploring on your own, and then organize a meetup to reflect on your experiences later in the day.
There’s a certain enjoyment that comes from stumbling into a random bar or restaurant on a quiet street that’s free from tourists, and also happens to serve up a memorable experience. But there’s also something incredibly frustrating about stumbling into a random establishment and leaving poorer and disappointed. Many travelers have a love / hate relationship with Yelp, because it deals less in the hidden gems and more in the safe and predictable. But when you’re looking for a cheap and reliable meal or a popular drinking spot after a day of traveling, it can be an invaluable tool.
Bear with me here. Dating app Tinder has the potential to transform your trip, and not for the reasons you may think. While companies like Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Foursquare work hard to offer good recommendations on a city’s top attractions, nothing quite beats a personal recommendation. You can ask your hostel and hotel receptionists for their favorites, but any cynical traveler also knows that kickbacks and commissions are the lifeblood of the industry. Tinder has the ability to connect you to a local with intimate knowledge of the neighborhood, and it’s the best way to find out about that hidden bar, quirky coffee shop, or secret rooftop party – whether you end up going alone or with your new best online friend.
6. Rail Planner
If you’re departing on a European rail journey, you can’t leave home without the Eurail Rail Planner app. The app works offline and it can be a true lifesaver when you’re planning the best way to get to where you’re going, or can’t remember which stop you’re supposed to get off at en route. Think of the app as your comprehensive guide to practically every train route in Europe.
Apart from automatically suggesting the best possible train route based on your criteria, the app also delivers up-to-date timetables, details on stops and connections, if there are food and beverage services aboard, and whether you can transport your bike on the train. For the budget conscious, it can help you avoid trains with reservation fees, and also has details on Eurail Pass benefits in each country.
These days travel seems to be about finding a balance between spontaneity and predictability. Spend your trip with your face in your phone, and you’ll leave wondering if it was all worth it. Spend your days getting lost on the back roads without finding the big attractions, and you’ll leave frustrated.
There are times when a little help from technology goes a long way – just be sure to put that phone away and live in the moment when you do eventually get to where you’re going.