Leave the heavy guidebooks and cumbersome maps at home (who can re-fold those things, anyway?) – we’re sharing our top ten picks for the best apps to enhance your travels and help you live like a local on your next home exchange.
Walk Score calculates the walkability of any location based on the proximity of different necessities such as grocery stores, restaurants, and more. It will also show you a map and photos of neighborhood gems like parks and public art spaces. The app is currently supported in the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. iPhone/Android
Currently available in the major cities of 18 countries, Uber allows users to request a ride, track its progress, and receive a text message when the car has arrived. Best of all, you can calculate an estimate for your fare in advance and keep a credit card on file, so you never have to worry about monetary language barriers. iPhone/Android
Navigating public transport in a foreign city can be tricky. Luckily, HopStop simplifies things with quick and easy door-to-door transit directions (including walking) and travel time estimates. HopStop is currently available in 600 cities worldwide. iPhone
Consider Mapkin a virtual city guidebook for your guests. It’s GPS navigation for locals, combining a great map and personalized voice instructions (think “our favorite restaurant is just ahead on your left” or “there’s usually parking available up ahead”). Choose your own route and markers, like your favorite scenic drive and the best coffee in town. This brand new app is currently available only in the USA. iPhone
Stay.com is a great way to plan your sightseeing activities. It allows you to create your very own tour book with only the things you want to see. You can share it with friends and family to get their recommendations, and it will automatically sync to all of the travelers in your party. Best of all, once you get started it’s available offline, meaning you don’t have to search for wifi or rack up your data charges while browsing. Stay.com is currently available in 140 cities worldwide. iPhone/Android
Instead of searching for restaurants by name, Foodspotting lets you search for specific dishes by image. Want to see what looks good in your area? Fire up the app and browse away. Craving noodles? Search by keyword and see which dish people near you love. Note: you won’t find any negative reviews here; this app is all about sharing great food, not bashing meals you didn’t enjoy. iPhone/Android/Blackberry/Windows
Field trip is the perfect companion for exploring a new city. It runs in the background on your phone and alerts you when you’re approaching something interesting. If you have a headset connected, it will even read you the info. Just select the feeds that interest you, such as food, shopping, and history. The perfect way to live like a local. iPhone/Android
Just like the Skype you know and love on your computer, the Skype app allows you to talk with any other Skype user for free…no matter where you are in the world. Skype is perfect for keeping touch with family, friends, and even your exchange partner while you’re overseas without racking up insane phone bills. iPhone/Android/Blackberry/Windows
Help Call is a must-have for any foreign traveler. In the USA, 911 is the go-to number for emergencies, but what about Spain? France? Norway? This extremely simple app automatically detects your location and places a call to the nearest police dispatcher, fire station, or health emergency number. You can also program in an “emergency friend” to call with just one tap. iPhone
We’ve all experienced language barriers when traveling. Google translate allows you to type or speak a word in one of more than 70 languages and have it translated almost instantly. You can then have the app speak the translation – no more butchering foreign languages! iPhone/Android
Do you have an app that you can’t live without while traveling? Share in the comments!