Pack your smartphone with these apps and never look back.
ORGANISING BEFORE TRAVEL
First off, what good is a browser if it won’t open the pages you need. Your best bet in this case is the Opera Mini browser that shrinks data by up to 90 per cent, so webpages open faster and you save money. Download and get saving.
Use SkyScanner for when you’re looking for the best international flight prices.
TripIt or TripCase lets you store all your documentation on accommodation and travel in one easy-to-access place. You can refer to your itinerary, flight/train tickets, hotel confirmations on their handy interfaces. You can also share your itinerary with friends, family and social media followers.
Also install Google Now on your phone – it goes through your e-mail, and uses your GPS coordinates to determine where you are, where you are travelling to and automatically shares info on weather, things to do, currency conversions, and flight times.
Google Maps guides you around whether you are on foot, bicycle, car or public transport. It also acts as a handy guide enabling you to check out what’s around with an arsenal of data on stuff nearby – restaurants, museums, bookstores etc. The offline maps feature is good for when you don’t have data.
Some people swear by HERE maps which lets you download maps of countries for offline use, including searching and route finding. HERE maps also has a built in Glympse app, which enables you to share your location to your chosen contacts or broadcast it on Twitter and Facebook.
Travelling solo means you can create your own itinerary and pace. And apps are your perfect guide to new places. Foursquare is an app which uses crowdsourced info with feedback from locals to help you find places to eat and explore. The tagging feature in popular photo app Instagram makes it doubles as a guide. “I have been to a place, tagged it in my picture and after posting, I click on the place tag to see pictures taken by others at the same location. This helps me find good vantage points for my photos,” says architect and frequent traveller Kunal Gandhaikar. Before going to a new place, Gandhaikar searches the city/country as a hashtag to see what photos people are putting up. “You can use it to find cool things to do, great cafés and restaurants.”
Lesser known is WikiTude, an augmented reality app that uses your GPS, content sources like Wikipedia, and inputs from other users to give you information on the place. You pick the category you want to explore like eateries, accommodation, sights etc., and see Flickr photos taken by other travellers.
Some apps are great for keeping people in the loop about your whereabouts. Glympse is a Webby award-winning app which you can use to share your GPS location with people you choose. You can define exactly how long your location is visible, and also who sees it. This can be useful when you are struggling with directions to give to someone.
Another great feature comes in play if you want to revisit a certain route you took to get somewhere. Or want to know exactly how long your hike took. You can save your travelled routes and sites you visit along with time taken to Evernote, so you can reference them later if you need to.
It’s not always a breeze to strike up a conversation with a stranger. You can find and interact with like-minded travellers before you even reach your destination through the Meetup app which helps you find local events set up by folks with similar interests as you from cocktail hours, group runs and museum visits.
Travel Buddies is another great app if you’re looking to link up with someone on your trip or want to meet backpackers. You can find people with similar interests and travel plans through the member profiles and itineraries.
Outbound is a social network app which helps find travellers around you, match travel plans, find events and deals, and interact on the noticeboard. Their events section is driven and created by fellow travellers.
Couchsurfing helps find free accommodation with locals, and you get to meet other travellers. CS hosts will take you to restaurants, parties, and interesting places to see. It began as a way for frugal travellers to see the world and stay with locals. Today it has some nine million members in 120,000 cities worldwide. It offers weekly Couchsurfing art gallery tours, hikes, dinners or gatherings in coffee shops and bars in cites.
I like to use Airbnb to find homestay options and guest houses. The reviews make it foolproof to pick the right one to suit your specifications.
Another app budget travellers swear by is Hostelworld. Check out hostels via comments and reviews. You can also connect with other travellers and check out local events.
These three apps are India-based: check out the safety quotient of an area with Safetipin which provides crowd-sourced user-based info on cities. It has GPS tracking and alarm features. Users rate neighbourhoods on the basis of parameters like street lighting, open spaces, availability of public transport, visibility crowd density, etc.
Pukar is another good safety app that connects to friends, family and local police in case of an emergency. You press the SOS button and send an alert message with GPS location to emergency contacts. The alert is displayed at the police control room with your GPS location.
I would pair these with a quick-reaction app like iGoSafely – the alarm system is triggered when you unplug your headphones, or shake the phone vigorously. The phone then messages your contacts.
Lonely Planet India produced this article for Opera India in November, 2015. All editorial views are those of Lonely Planet alone and reflect our policy of editorial independence and impartiality.