Preparation for travel in the past consisted of digging out the right backpack or suitcase, stacking the clothes and supplies inside, and making the entire thing close, one way or another. But today we not only pack our bags, we tend to pre-pack our devices with supplies to help us on our travels. As a serial-loser of phones, I give props to those who don’t bring a cellular device along on their trip, but for those who do, I’ve compiled a list of what are generally some of the more useful (in my experience) applications to download ahead of time. Sure, you can download them on the fly in the airport, or if you stay somewhere with Wi-Fi, but it’s far easier to download big data files while still in the comfort of your own, dependable, Internet.
Before going further, it should be stated that this list is written with the assumption that travelers are going without data. I make that assumption for two reasons. The first is that many people don’t want to pay for overseas data, and it’s often not included in their cellular plan. The second is that even with data, or if you’re willing to make the effort to buy a cell phone, card, or plan, that’s functional for that area, that doesn’t mean you’ll have consistent and reliable access to that plan. It also should be said that many countries and cities have amazing travel applications designed just for them, and those are sometimes – though not always – worth seeking out. One recent example I personally was pleasantly surprised by was the Triposo Cuba application. While it was a fairly large application, access to so much offline reading and information was amazing given how difficult Wi-Fi access is to obtain in parts of Cuba. That said, here are some general apps worth considering:
This is a fairly common way to do data-free chatting with just Wi-Fi. There are other options, and everyone tends to pick one they prefer. Line is another one with some very unusual Japanese emojis sometimes worth a laugh. Whatever you happen to pick, it’s just a nice way to keep in touch with friends and family through text or calls without having access to your phone’s texting or call functions.
These are three popular options for offline maps. If you’re as directional as I am (or even if you don’t get lost coming out of the bathroom) offline maps are a necessity for navigating new cities. Paper maps are really great backups, but phone navigation can be pretty great if you get turned around, and Google Maps will now allow you to do what these other maps do and download a chunk of are in totality so you can navigate from point a to point b even without internet.
This one should go without saying. Which is how you’re trip will be if you need help communicating in a foreign language but forget a phrase book. Luckily Google Translate can be great on the fly for back and forth question and answers from hotels, hostels, restaurants, and ticketing agencies. A phrase app can also be a good alternative for more colloquial phrases, but Google Translate’s offline download is a really safe bet for most things.
Uber isn’t an option in every country or region you visit, but on the off chance, it’s been popularized in the region you’re visiting it can help avoid a lot of confusion or potential fraud from taxi drivers that aren’t on the up-and-up.
This last is specific to U.S. travelers and is the U.S. Department of State’s app for travelers going overseas. It has features for alerting you to travel advisories, locations of embassies, and important official information about a nation you’re visiting (legally speaking). It has somewhat imperfect and doesn’t have spectacular reviews on the app store, but is probably one of those things that you won’t ever be that bummed you downloaded, but might one day be glad to have.