Dec 14, 2012 12:17:51 PM
Top travel apps for smartphones
Smartphone apps are a dime a dozen these days – or in Apple’s case, generally about a dollar each. Ditto, Google’s Android platform. So which ones should you get for your next trip? A quick browse under the Travel section of Apple’s iOS store reveals a mind-boggling choice of apps; here are some that we think are worth downloading.
Word Lens (Apple & Android; from US$4.99)
We’re really waiting for Word Lens (www.questvisual.com) to take off. The concept is brilliant: launch the app and it fires up your iPhone’s camera. Point it at printed words (such as a sign, newspaper or menu) and it will translate the text into your language of choice. Current languages available include French, Italian and Spanish. It’s not perfect – we’re waiting for more languages and more polished translations – but there’s nothing like it on the market at the moment.
Hipmunk (Apple & Android; free)
Sure, there are plenty of flight and hotel search apps, but this one presents your options in a very different manner. Hipmunk (www.hipmunk.com) doesn’t just show you the cheapest flight first, but instead sorts by ‘agony’ rating, which incorporates important factors such as how long you’ll be travelling and how many stops you’ll make. Its hotel results are pinpointed on a map, but users can also turn on ‘heat maps’ that show where to stay based on unique interests like food, landmarks or nightlife. Best of all, it’s free.
TomTom GPS software (Apple & Android; from US$38, varies by destination)
This app is pricey but works really well if you’re going on a road trip. The software (www.tomtom.com) essentially turns your smartphone into a satnav device, complete with turn-by-turn voice navigation. The maps are stored offline, so once you download them you won’t have to worry about hefty data charges while on the road. You might also consider purchasing a dashboard mount and car charger to complete the experience (they’re cheaper on eBay). Other satnav apps for smartphones are available from Navigon (www.navigon.com; from US$29.99) and Sygic (www.sygic.com; from US$29.99).
City Maps 2Go (Apple & Android; US$1.99)
Yes, there’s Google Maps or Apple’s built-in maps on your smartphone, but you’ll also need mobile data when using those apps – and we all know how expensive roaming data charges are. City Maps 2Go (www.ulmon.com) provides offline access to 7800 maps; once you’re downloaded them, your phone’s built-in GPS chip can pinpoint your location and also point out neighbouring points of interests (sights, bars, restaurants, shops, services and so on). The Wiki Plus functionality (an extra US$0.99) links points of interest to its relevant Wikipedia articles, essentially turning the maps into a basic online travel guide.
Lonely Planet Guides (Apple & Android; from $3.99)
Aside from having Lonely Planet travel guide content in electronic format in the palm of your hand, our offline maps allows you to navigate your way to sights and businesses without incurring any data charges. If you’d still prefer a traditional ‘book’ format on your smartphone or tablet, download the ebook version via iBooks (Apple) or Google Play (Android).
Local tourism apps (Apple & Android; free)
Before you head off on your holiday, do a search on your device’s app store for any free apps provided by local tourism boards, such as travel guides listing the top tourist sights, restaurants and hotels. While the quality tends to vary, they can be invaluable when it comes to researching for a trip. Some of the better apps include offline maps and integrated social-media functionality.
Local bus and train apps (Apple & Android; prices vary)
If you’re planning on travelling by public transport, search out local transport apps on your app store, such as SBS Transit iris (Singapore), Metlink/PTV (Melbourne), London Tube, Subway Korea (Seoul) etc, which include local subway and bus maps, timetables, and in some cases trip planners.
Food apps (Apple & Android; free)
Sick of eating fast food while on holiday? Seek out food apps such as Urbanspoon, HungryGoWhere, Foodspotting and TruxMap for access to local eating and drinking spots. If you have specific dietary requirements, seek out apps such as Find Me Gluten Free and VegOut. Once you find that restaurant, use OpenTable to make your reservations.
Triposo (Apple & Android; free)
A free travel guide to more than 8000 destinations, complete with offline maps? Why not? Triposo’s (www.triposo.com) data is culled from gigabytes of freely available sources such as Wikipedia, Wikitravel, OpenStreetMaps and more. You can also keep and publicly post a travel log (including tagging places you’ve visited, adding photos and notes) if you log in via Facebook.
Looking for non-travel travel apps? Here are some other useful ones for your travels:
- Zinio (Apple & Android; free) Being on holiday doesn’t mean you’ll need to miss out on your magazine reading. Some Zinio (www.zinio.com) magazines, such as National Geographic, come with enhanced content like videos and interactive pages.
- Kobo (Apple & Android; free) Forget about lugging hefty tomes while on holiday – Kobo (www.kobo.com) offers an ebook reader and online bookstore with a nifty clean interface. Features we like include sharing passages with friends on Facebook and the ‘Pulse’ function that lets you add have a discussion with fellow readers. Other ebook reader apps to consider include Amazon’s Kindle and Stanza.
- Flixster (Apple & Android; free) This movie app (www.flixster.com) not only lets you connect to Rotten Tomatoes reviews, it also points out nearby cinemas and show times. Perfect for those who like watching movies on holiday.
- Nike+ Running, Endomondo Sports Tracker or RunKeeper (Apple & Android; free) These apps (www.nike.com; www.endomondo.com; www.runkeeper.com) track your runs, map your routes, count the number of calories you’ve burnt and can even connect to heart-rate monitors.
- Instagram (Apple & Android; free) Everyone knows Instagram (www.instagram.com) lets takes cool photos and share them with friends, but turning on the Photo Map functionality also lets you remember where you’ve travelled via GPS-tracked pinpoints.
- Bear Grylls – Bear Essentials (Apple, $2.99) Don’t laugh – celebrity-endorsed apps might not sound like they’ll be any good, but this one is. Chances are you won’t have to chow down on slugs or drink your own urine on your trip, but why not be entertained by Bear Grylls schooling you on survival tips and how to tie knots?
Planning a trip? Get more advice from the experts from Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Travel Tips.