As the world becomes more digital, electronics are replacing even the most basic tools like dictionaries or flashlights. The best travel apps are the ones that don’t use data… depending on how long you stay or your budget, you might not have a local carrier or be interested in paying the hefty fee for roaming.If you don’t plan on buying a local SIM card and are sticking with your American service provider, make sure to restrict your cellular data before taking off. That is where a lot of cell service providers make money. Whenever possible, try to use your apps in free wifi zones so that when you are out exploring on the street you don’t rack up a crazy phone bill.
Here is a guide to the best travel apps for 2014 featured by Forbes
1. Google Maps
One of the best apps for the road because you can still use the GPS function without a data plan. Although Google Maps can’t search for a location without internet, you can use it to see where you are on the map and what is close by. If your accommodations have wifi, save a page of where you are going and then open it when you are in the vicinity to see how to get there. If you are planning on spending a long time somewhere, it can also help to get lay of the land. A former roommate of mine in Beirut used this when she arrived to quickly understand the layout of the city. She would open Google Maps as we walked or drove around and in a few days was a master of Beirut.
2. WhatsApp Messenger
Thanks to high text and calling rates in most of the world, this app is fairly common for internationals. If you have a data plan or internet connection, sending texts, videos and messages is free to any number in the world, as long as they are added to your contacts. This means wherever there is wifi you can send photos of your trip, hook up with the new friends you met in a hostel, even send voice recordings to family at home. Added bonus: you can use WhatAapp to stay in touch with your new international friends, wishing them happy birthday in a more personal way than Facebook.
3. World Clock
A standard feature on an iPhone, it is great when you are jet setting and need to keep up with different time zones since you can look at multiple clocks at once. Tip: if you have a layover in a different time zone than your departure city or destination, use the World Clock to sync with your new time zone. If you had a long flight and are sleepy, it takes away the fear that you might miss your connection due to bad math. Android users, check out Perfect WorldClock.
Swedish girl-on-the-go Hanna Skipper has lived in Colombia, England and the Dominican Republic among other locales, and she loves this currency converter app as a quick way to change local Pesos to the Swedish Krona. A perfect tool if you are backpacking and will be hitting up several countries with different currencies, as it can be tough to keep track of how many rupees or euros equal a dollar. Featuring a wide variety of currencies including Bitcoin, you can save different money denominations on your homepage. Although you can convert money without using data, make sure to download all the currencies you will need before leaving a wifi zone as downloading the information requires internet.
5. Tipping Bird
Americans tend to overtip while traveling, as we are used to adding anywhere from 10 – 20% gratuity to our bills. In most other countries, tips are minimal or not even expected. Use this app to figure out if you are tipping the appropriate amount. Make sure to check your bill before paying because in many European countries like France, a gratuity can already be included. Note, this app is only available for Android.
Seems simple enough, but if you are traveling in a part of the world where electricity cuts are the norm, this gratis app is a lifesaver. It is almost as powerful as a normal flashlight so when the lights do unexpectedly shut off, you will always have a good source of light nearby.
A great tool for the business traveler, WorldMate sync flight information, hotel bookings and business meetings for you. Note that in order to sync these things, you have to forward your travel email confirmations to the website. For business meetings, make sure they are added through Outlook. This might be best for someone with an assistant, but it can definitely keep you organized if you have a hectic schedule while overseas. Founded in 2004, this is one of the most tried and true methods to find a tasty restaurant at your destination because of its flexibility. It is available for most major cities in America, many countries in Europe and a few other hot spots around the globe including Brazil, Singapore and New Zealand. The app is free, but it does use data so figure out your next meal before leaving that wifi zone.
Although it is best to finish all of your business before you leave, this free app lets you schedule bills using any payment method from anywhere in the world. Try to use it where wifi is available, as you need a data plan for Check to work.
Featuring 8,000 campsites all over the UK and Europe, iCampsites makes it easy to search for exactly what kind of camping services you are looking for, from dog friendly to sites with RV hookups. Since it relies on users to upload reviews and pertinent information, you might have to do additional searching on the internet to find out contact information and book a campground. Note, this is only available for iPhones and needs either wifi or a data plan to work.
For those living in Spanish-speaking countries, this app is a great find. In addition to a full dictionary and word-by-word translator, SpanishDict has daily practice tests and even gives you a word of the day to learn. In no time you’ll be hablaing espanol. The best kind of travel app, this one is fully functional without wifi access or a data plan.
Happy traveling in 2014. This is an overview of apps I like or ones that friends have used while on the road, so add your favorites in the comments below.