“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
For lots of people, the idea of “travel” is daunting. Sure, there is nothing wrong with spending your two-week vacation lying on a beach in Mexico, but to really learn about the world, you need to lose your inhibitions and immerse yourself in different cultures, lifestyles, and languages.
Thankfully, travel is actually much easier nowadays thanks to technology. We no longer need to use faded maps and the stars to navigate, and no matter when you go, you can be reasonably certain of finding some decent accommodation.
But which are the best Android apps for traveling the world? MakeUseOf investigates…
Book Your Trip: SkyScanner, Orbitz, TripAdvisor
SkyScanner, Orbitz, TripAdvisor are the holy trinity of Android-based trip planning. Use SkyScanner for flights, Orbitz for hotels, and TripAdvisor for photographs, reviews, and activities.
Of course, you shouldn’t take SkyScanner’s prices as gospel, but using it in conjunction with a couple of other apps and services (such as OnTheFly — the service that powers Google Flights) can help give you a rough understanding of what you can expect to pay.
TripAdvisor has its detractors, but the customer reviews and user-supplied photographs are second-to-none and provide valuable insight.
Before You Go: WorldMate
The key to any successful trip is to plan ahead and be organized. When you’ve got multiple destinations in multiple countries, things can quickly start getting out of hand if you’re not on top of everything.
WorldMate is arguably the best planning app in the Google Play Store right now. It’ll manage your bookings, track your flights, suggest accommodation, plot services such as car rental on a map, and inform you of the best deals out there.
It also includes a weather forecast tool, a currency converter, and world clocks. Plus, it has a home-screen widget — so the current day’s information is always right in front of you.
Uber and Lyft are the two big hitters in the ride-hailing scene. Both have been around for a few years, and they are similar in many ways.
- Prices are closely matched
- Both allow you to order a ride from an app without making a phone call
However, there are some key differences:
- Uber trys to offer a more professional service — think getting the door opened for you, bottles of water as you travel, smartly-dressed drivers, and nicer cars
- Lyft’s brand is orientated around friendliness; riders will often sit in the front seat and chat more readily with the driver
- Lyft has far more female drivers than Uber
- Uber operates in more locations
To ensure you’re covered regardless of where you are, it’s probably wise to set up accounts on both before you leave home.
If traveling underground is more like your cup of tea, you should download aMetro.
It boasts subway maps from hundreds of cities around the world, as well as bus and train guides from lots more. It even includes station layout maps in some select locations.
Finding an Activity: Gogobot
Participating in some activities is one of the best parts of traveling — it’s where the memories of your trip are often made.
The problem is that when you arrive in a new destination, the amount of information thrown in your face is often overwhelming. Gogobot helps by alerting you to the best nearby events, restaurants, and attractions.
Best of all, it’ll let you enter all your personal preferences before giving you suggestions — so whether you’re looking for family fun or extreme adventure, you always be given an idea that matches your ideals.
Change of Plans: Roomer Travel
Missed your flight? Hotel not as good as it looked in the pictures? You might need to make a last-minute change of plans.
The answer is Roomer Travel. It allows users to book hotels directly from other people who’ve had to cancel their own trips, thus providing seriously discounted rates. The developers claim that discounts of as much as 80 percent are common.
The flipside of the app is that you can use the service to sell your own hotel room, thus recouping at least some of your lost money.
Language: Google Translate
Surely the least surprising entry on the list, the Google Translate app is a must-have any time you leave your own country.
It has three key features which make it stand out:
- Downloadable language packs: if you’re away from the Internet or in a foreign land where data is expensive, these are a lifesaver. You’ll retain all the functionality of the app without spending your money. (Note: they are upwards of 300MBs in size, so make sure you have enough free space).
- Instant camera translation: Unsure what that item on the menu is? Struggling to comprehend a sign at a train station? Just point the camera at the words in question and let the app do its thing.
- Two-way automatic speech translation: If you need to have a conversation with a local, an official, or a bus driver, you can prevent problems by speaking to the app. It will translate your words on-the-go and throw out an audio translation in the other person’s language.
Stay in Touch: Touchnote
Remember postcards?! You’d spend a whole day by the pool writing them, only to get home before any of them had actually gotten to their intended recipient.
Drag yourself into the 21st century with Touchnote. You can use your own photos, upload them to the app, and add a personalized message.
It then creates real, physical postcards that can be mailed anywhere in the world, with a maximum delivery time of 10 days. The cards themselves cost $1.99 – $2.99, depending on location. Discounts are available if you send in bulk.
What Are You Recommendations?
Which apps do you rely on when you head out into a far-flung land? Have you found a little gem that your fellow Android users need to know about?
Let us know your tips along with your thoughts on our list in the comments section below.