As a seasoned traveler, I’m always looking for apps that make my trips easier while taking up as little room on my phone as possible. Having just gotten back from a multi-month trip around Europe, I’m able to say with confidence that these five travel apps were absolutely essential to my trip!
Let’s talk maps! These days, not many people are using physical city maps; they often mark someone as a tourist and a target for theft. I had decided not to get a European SIM card for this trip, and the new “passport plan” with my domestic provider was far too expensive to be sustainable, so I needed to figure out a way to find my way through an unfamiliar city without cell data or a paper map. This is where Maps.Me comes in!
This app allows you to download a map prior to your arrival in a city, and uses your GPS location to guide your journey, data free. There were some bugs, like certain locations had to be spelled out very specifically in order to show up on the map (good luck guessing which language its looking for), and it would occasionally get lost in cities with narrow streets, but the pros far outweighed these inconveniences. I particularly liked being able to pin my favorite locations as I passed them (my pins are filled with pastry shops), and the bathroom locater came in handy more than once.
The best way to communicate while traveling abroad! This popular app allows you to use your phone much like normal, as long as all parties have the app downloaded and are connected to data or wifi. Texts, phone calls, and video calls are all supported by the app, and you can customize your background and profile picture as you like. WhatsApp has been bought by Meta, so there has been some increasing competition from other apps such as Signal, but in my experience, WhatsApp is by far the most commonly used messaging app and therefore the most useful while traveling abroad.
In addition to communicating with friends and family across borders, many businesses and even taxis will communicate through WhatsApp, which makes life much easier when trying to minimize international data usage! It was incredibly helpful to be able to schedule a taxi through WhatsApp on our trip!
This app was essential for maintaining a budget and splitting bills fairly throughout our trip. I was turned on to this app relatively recently and I honestly don’t know how I got by without it- was I just doing the math in my head? Unreal. Splitwise allows its users to input bills and list how they were paid for so there is no guessing about who is owed what.
This was essential for the length of our trip. We didn’t want to annoy vendors by splitting every bill, so we’d take turns paying for things, input the data into Splitwise and settle up every time we moved to a new country. This made sure that no one overpaid on the trip and it was helpful to keep track of how much we spent overall. It’s also useful for smaller events with friends, like brunch or a night out.
The app does not use your card information, so it’s up to you to keep track of payments and settling up.
Viator is functionally a site that collects tours that can be booked through the one platform. It is a third party site, which means that it does not operate these tours, but I find it easy to use and helpful to have all of my details listed in one place. They’ve launched a Viator app that I find helpful to keep track of my booked tours and details. Guests and tour operators are able to communicate through the app if necessary, and Viator sends alerts for any changes to the user’s phone, rather than an email that may or may not be checked in good time. I also liked the digital QR code and easily accessible tour notes for the confirmed trips.
For visitors looking for things to do, the app also recommends popular tours in the area to kick off new adventures. I booked my Neuschwanstein, Mont-St-Michael, and Meteora tours through the app with no issues!
A classic ride-share app, Uber is not available in all countries, but it’s common enough that it’s worth checking for. Occasionally, in cities like Rome, the app won’t have Uber drivers per-say, but it will allow users to book taxi drivers through the app. On my trip to Portugal, we used Uber pretty much constantly, and found it to be a convenient way to get around the area.