If you’re going abroad this summer, your phone could prove handier than a guidebook as long as you use it wisely. For finding your way around an alien city, working out how much things cost, finding out what’s on the menu if there are no English-friendly versions available.
Don’t forget: if you’re going abroad you could end up with a hefty bill on your return home, despite the fact that roaming charges are now capped at £45, that could still leave you with a hefty phone bill on your return home. We’d recommend turning 3G off and only using Wi-Fi if you absolutely must check Facebook to tell everyone you’re outside the Sagrada Familia.
Offline maps for cities and metro maps
Google Maps obviously gives you a good general overview of your surroundings and is available on virtually every phone platform for free. However it requires a data connection so you could be limited to using it only where you can find some free Wi-Fi. Instead check out a static map which, once downloaded, keeps you in the know, completely offline.
SmartMaps for iPhone is a series of highly detailed offline maps for some of Europe’s major cities, costing about £0.59 a piece. Like Google Maps, you can easily zoom in and out with pull and pinch gestures and search for landmarks and locations all offline. Mapdroyd for Android (free) is similar app with more locations all around the world.
As well as street maps, if you’re away on a city break you may want to invest in an underground map for getting around. The DK Eyewitness Guides for BlackBerry ($6.99/£4.50) include metro maps as well as bus routes and city maps. Alongside the detailed maps, you also get travel tips, top ten places to sight-see and restaurant recommendations – a one-stop shop.
App developers Nanonino have created detailed maps of all of the underground networks of Europe’s capitals and major cities as well as Tokyo and Singapore’s metro systems. They can be downloaded for $0.99 (£0.63) a throw from the Android Market – simply enter ‘nanonino’ into the search tool to bring up a list or check out the link below. iPhone owners can make use of the AllSubway app (£0.59) which features over 100 metro maps from locations all over the world.
Translation and Currency Conversion
Google Goggles is an amazing app. When you find yourself trying to decipher a menu with no English translation and no photos, for example, just pull out your Android phone and scan the menu to get a rough translation of what’s on offer. You can also use it to get information about famous landmarks and local venues but we think it’ll be most useful as a translator when abroad.
As well as translating menus, you should probably check out a currency converter app to help you keep an eye on your spending.
When you think currency conversions on the web, most people think of XE.com – and there are now official XE apps available for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry. All three XE.com apps feature really simple calculator style interfaces, allowing you to quickly enter an amount in one currency and convert it back into GBP, euros or whatever you want. There’s also an ‘update over Wi-Fi only’ option in the settings of each of the apps, which means that the app will only refresh conversion rates when you’re connected to Wi-Fi, saving you from sneaky data roaming charges.
[Image via Wolfgang Staudt on Flickr]