Ever needed to make a cheap international call without the internet, or been worried about security as you move between Wi-Fi hotspots? These apps make travel safer, easier and cheaper. And no, we’re not covering the obvious ones like Lonely Planet, Airbnb, AccuWeather, and even Tinder (wink wink). Here’s a list of our favourites.
For phone calls: Rebtel
While you could always fall back on the trusty Skype and WhatsApp for international calling and messaging, a Wi-Fi connection is needed to use them. To make cheap calls around the world without the internet (or faffing around with phone-cards), the app to choose is Rebtel. By hijacking local phone-lines, it gets the best available calling rates.
Free, iOS and Android, rebtel.com
For digital itineraries: Google Trips
Trips is the culmination of more than two years of work on improving Google’s travel products. The app serves as a trip planner and travel guide for anyone who is exploring a new place. The free app will organise your plane tickets and hotel reservations, offer editorial guides to more than 200 cities, and make personalised recommendations based on your Google history. Best of all, it works offline: you can download everything to your phone before you leave, including maps and walking directions — sparing you from having to use an expensive international data plan.
Free, iOS and Android, get.google.com
For secure and unfiltered internet: Tunnel Bear
VPNs like Tunnel Bear allow you to get around internet filtering. If you encounter blocked sites while you travel, simply connect your VPN to a country that doesn’t block the site you’re after, and the problem disappears. We’ve used this method to read blocked news stories from Chiang Mai, watch Vimeo videos in Bali, update Facebook statuses in Hanoi, and visit the Uber ride-sharing site while staying in Porto. Additionally, it lets you access blocked content like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and the BBC while overseas. Importantly, it also helps keep your internet connection secure while abroad - which is worth it if you connect to lots of random Wi-Fi spots. VPNs hide your IP address and location and can “tunnel” you to another country. There are lots of apps to choose from, but TunnelBear is a particularly easy one to use, and has a free version for those who don’t use much data, or just want to test it out before going premium.
Free, iOS and Android, tunnelbear.com
For flight booking: Hopper
Predict. Watch. Buy. Fly. With Hopper, booking flights is just that easy. What sets Hopper apart from other flight-booking apps such as Skyscanner and Cheapflights, etc. is that it not only lets you book flights on your phone, it tells you when to do it, and how to get the best price and the biggest savings. Once you’ve searched for a flight, the app will let you know whether to wait or buy. If it’s best to wait, it will send you a notification the moment the price drops. The app can do this thanks to an archive of trillions of flight prices, which its makers say gives its predictions 95 per cent accuracy.
Free, iOS and Android, hopper.com
To help you with packing: Packpoint
Packpoint automatically generates a bespoke packing list for your trip: A free packing list organiser for serious travel pros, it will help you organise what you need to pack in your luggage and suitcase based on length of travel, weather at your destination, and any activities planned during your trip.
Free, iOS and Android, packpnt.com
Beating jetlag: Binaural
The changing time zones can sometimes throw your sleep cycle out of sync completely. It is important to get the jetlag-induced sleep cycle back in sync as quickly as possible. Binaural uses repetitive sounds to relax your mind. All you need to do is plug in the earphones, select a colour choice for your mood and close your eyes. There is the optional rain element too, to block out any ambient noise.
Free, iOS and Android
To help vegetarians and vegans find places to eat: Happycow
Everyone has a great veg travel food story. I do, too. From finding shrimp in a fruit salad in Thailand, to finding out (years ago) that a McDonald had no veg burgers in France. For vegetarian travellers, things can get a little tricky – and for many Indians, vegetarian food is not a matter of choice, but of compulsion. So, knowing which destinations are veggie-friendly can be a deciding factor when it comes to choosing a travel destination.
HappyCow is an app that curates places that don’t make vegetarians jump through hoops for a satisfying meal! It’s is an app for vegetarians and those on vegan diets, too. It lists popular restaurants and cafés that will serve your preferred food and cuisine choices in 10,500 cities across 180 countries. The app also lets you search for stores that sell healthy food items, and has detailed guides on vegetarian diets.
Free, iOS and Android, happycow.net
Staying safe: GeoSure
We live in tumultuous times, and you could be unlucky enough to get caught up in unrest.. So how can travel – for business, for pleasure, for study – focus on the good, and steer clear of the bad? Utilising up-to-the-minute data drawn from hundreds of sources, including narrative data sources and shared intelligence from its own global community, GeoSure delivers vital travel information based on data and predictive analytic methodologies not available to most travellers. Sources include CDC, WHO, United Nations, State Department, Interpol, and data from many national and local authorities and updated global threat statistics.
Free, iOS and Android, geosureglobal.com
Splitting and settling travel expenses: Splitwise
Settling and maintaining travel expenses can spoil an otherwise great trip with friends and family. I discovered Splitwise on a recent road trip with friends from Mumbai to Goa – it was simply brilliant and brilliantly simple, and went on to remain on my phone for continued use. Splitwise makes it easy to split bills with friends and family. It organises all your shared expenses and IOUs in one place, so that everyone can see who they owe. You can split an expense with the entire group or even a select few, and the settle-up feature tallies the expenses and simplifies the settling up process. It also has an email feature that reminds friends how much they owe you, so you don’t have to do it yourself. What’s more, for users in India, Splitwise has integrated with Paytm! Now you can repay any friend on Splitwise in seconds, using your Paytm account.
Free, Android & iOS, splitwise.com
Last-minute stays: Hoteltonight
Airbnb fall through? Flight get delayed at your layover? You never know what will happen with your booking, and Hotel Tonight is a reliable service that thrives on last minute deals. You also get 24/7 customer service from the Hotel Tonight team, in case something goes awry. It’s especially great for bookings in the Americas, Europe and Australia.
Free, Android & iOS, hoteltonight.com
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