Every traveller knows that a little local language mastery opens all kinds of doors that might otherwise remain closed while exploring the world. The fun and super well-designed language learning app known as Duolingo is an ideal way to shake the dust off any existing but rusty linguistic skills or to start from absolute scratch. It offers 23 languages and is so popular it now has more than 120 million users. You set your own daily learning goals, working your way through various levels which unlock your next level, increasing your fluency percentage as you go. The app allows you to practise both reading and writing skills as well as listening and speaking and you can also take proficiency tests if you earn yourself enough ‘lingots’. You can even measure your progress against that of friends if a little competition helps to keep you motivated.
This 40 million times over downloaded app has tons of features but most simply – and of most relevance to the traveller – it instantly converts every single world currency known. When you are online you will have access to live exchange rates while if you need to access it offline this clever little app will have saved the last rates it used. Never again will you have to risk getting ripped off because your brain has to struggle with the mental gymnastics required to convert a few pounds, Euros or dollars into the local currency.
Never again miss a birthday, Mothers Day or otherwise important date which might risk getting you into trouble with loved ones back home as you explore the far-flung reaches of the planet. The Touchnote app allows you to create your own greetings cards and postcards using you own photographs and then takes care of printing and mailing the end result straight to your chosen recipient. It currently has print centres in the UK, USA, Germany and Australia so even if you only remember it’s your parents’ silver wedding anniversary at the last minute your card will still stand a chance of arriving on time, no matter where you call home.
If you’re travelling with friends or in a group, trying to keep track of who has paid what, who owes what to whom and ensuring everything is fair can be a pain in the backside. The Splittr app does away with all that – all you have to do is enter expenses as you go and leave the rest to Splittr’s internal workings. The app works offline and has features which allow you to do such things as mix currencies (great for that round-the-world trip) or split expenses unevenly.
Most travellers will only book their first few days of accommodation when staying in hostels, so being able to easily search for and book your next accommodation before you head for your next destination is pretty handy. The Hostelworld app is a great way to search for your next hostel and has a simple booking process, you can also view last minute availability.
Available for iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows
This wonderful flight search app won’t just save you heaps of time but potentially save you tons of money too. In common with many other flight search tools, Scottish-owned Skyscanner pulls up the results from hundreds of airlines but its special features give you so much more. Searches can be made by ‘cheapest month’, ‘whole months’ and – most wonderful of all – by just entering a departure airport to see all the cheapest options of destinations from there. This completely does away with the lottery of entering and re-entering different combinations of dates and destinations in the time-consuming and headache-inducing search for affordable options.
Skyscanner doesn’t sell flights itself so once you have found the perfect deal – and Skyscanner now offers hotel and car hire searches too – you are transferred automatically to the agent or airline website to complete your booking.
Typically, the number one difficulty travellers face is that of language barriers. Google Translate allows a free multilingual instant translation service for text, speech and images which means even such things as signs and menus can suddenly become intelligible. Helping millions of users every day, Google Translate’s inner workings are not error-free but its services are always going to be a better bet than elaborate mimes which many of us have had to fall back on in the past. This app will help save you a world of time, costly mistakes, getting lost and all the other frustrations which arise from foreign language difficulties and misunderstandings. Simply put this app is an essential for all travellers.
Arriving in a new city can be bewildering; it’s easy to miss out on all kinds of attractions, top bars and restaurants, sights, festivals and one-off events without something to guide you. Travel guide books take up valuable backpack space, weigh a ton and are often outdated even in their newest editions. This is where apps such as Time Out prove invaluable. It’s coverage of what to see and do in the cities of the world is extensive and features include an event-finder, a concert and restaurant booking service and a customisable travel planner.
Available for Android, iOS, Blackberry OS and Windows
As you wander around a country or region there is a song you keep hearing over and again. Eventually it becomes a theme tune to that particular leg of your travels, reminding you of special times and people and instantly transporting you back to the sights, sounds and smells of a place you will have forever in your heart. If you happen to be in a country where you understand not one word of the language and therefore have no idea what the lyrics are you might never know what this song is. Luckily all you have to do is download Shazam for free, hold up your smartphone or device in the vicinity of the music being played and the app will detect the song’s title and performer.
This one is a must for any disorganised or forgetful traveller. The Tripit app creates an easy to access itinerary for your trip, simply forward your booking confirmation emails for flights, hotels/hostels etc and it transforms your confirmation emails into a master itinerary. You can access this from any device, as well as when you’re offline.