Travel apps can help you find everything from the best food in an airport to the best seat on a particular plane. But which of these apps are essential, and which are just fun to have? When you're traveling overseas, what you need most are apps that can help you with navigation, translation and medical emergencies. Unless you're springing for an international data plan, you also want apps that can function without a Wi-Fi/data connection.
We’ve found 11 of the top travel apps for international trips. Most are available for both iOS and Android devices. One note: Pay attention to your surroundings before pulling out an iPhone or other expensive devices while you're traveling overseas. In many countries, no one will give you a second glance; in some, you're issuing an invitation to thieves.
Remember flipping to the back of your guidebook and trying desperately to sound out the German words for "May I use the restroom?" With powerful translation apps, communicating in a foreign language has become vastly easier. The best travel app for translation is Google Translate because it can translate between 103 languages — and can translate half of those languages without an Internet connection.1 One amazing feature is instant camera translation: For 30 languages, you can translate written text just by pointing your camera at it. Google Translate also can translate bilingual conversations in real time.
Google Translate may have a hard time with some Asian languages. The best translation app for written Chinese, Korean and Japanese is Waygo.2 Waygo recognizes Chinese, Japanese & Korean characters and translates them gracefully into English text — even without Internet access.
Speak & Translate is a powerful app for super-speedy voice translation, and it works offline.3 Speak & Translate, available for iOS, does text-to-text translation in 117 languages and voice-to-voice translation in 54 languages. It’s not free, however; this translation app is priced at $19.99.
Sure, your phone already has at least one map or navigation app -- but these rely on data. City Maps 2Go4 lets you download maps of thousands of cities with tourist information, and even without an Internet connection, your position is shown on the map. The free version of the app allows one map download, while the Pro and Premium versions offer unlimited access to destination maps. Another app with offline maps is the TripAdvisor app, with reviews, maps, and photos for more than 300 cities.5
Sidekix is a fun, free travel app, geared toward people who like to explore on foot, that provides detailed information on local attractions.6 Tell the app what you like — fashion, food, culture, art or nightlife — and as you walk along, recommended destinations will appear on the map. “Think of it as Yelp meets Google Maps,” Forbes says.7 Data is required, however, unless you download a map ahead of time.
Just need to check your email? The free travel app Wi-Fi Finder8 helps you find Wi-Fi spots around the world. Be very cautious when using unsecured wireless networks, however. An app like Secure Wi-Fi can encrypt your data when connected to an unsecured network (for a fee), protecting your privacy.9
Medical crisis overseas? Instead of trying to remember if you need to call 911 (in Liberia) or 119 (in Jamaica), use the free TravelSmart app from Allianz Global Assistance. It’s an all-in-one travel advisor that lets you access your travel insurance policy, file travel insurance claims, check your flight information, translate medical needs into foreign languages, find the nearest pre-screened medical facility, call local emergency numbers, and contact our 24-hour emergency hotline when you need assistance from our team of travel experts. Good Morning Washington reviewed it as one of the six travel apps to score a last-minute deal.
The ICE Standard ER 911 app and similar apps add your emergency contact and medical information to your phone lock screen, making it easy for emergency responders to access.10 Also, make sure you download the First Aid by American Red Cross app. One of the must-have free travel apps, it includes instructions for administering first aid in various situations, and no Internet connection is required.11 There’s an app for pet first aid too!
Remember that when you're protected by travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance, help is always just a phone call away. Get a quote for your next trip.