Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Top Twenty Apps for Travelling (OK, It's Twenty Two...But I Just Couldn't Decide)

Final post for this trip...and I am not being payed by Apple...

This is the first trip I have taken where I decided that I needed to absolutely have some sort of data connection.  Suffice it to say that I was still working on my travels and I would need to have an internet connection and reliable access to the world wide internet.

My first challenge was using data without paying thousand in roaming charges.  This actually proved to be extremely easy.  My first outing when I arrived in China was to a China Mobile store.  As we travelled to our first hotel I noticed a store every five hundred metres or so and one was conveniently at the end of the drive of our hotel.  I walked down there after settling into my room and despite the language barrier, I was able to quickly switch my sim card and was up and running with 6 gigabytes of data that would last 6 months for about $50.  The only difficulty I had was of where to store my Telus sim card so that I would have it after six week of travel.  I tucked it into my folder that has my little tooly thing for opening my sim card drawer on my iphone.  I was using my iPad for most work and blog stuff so having the data on my phone was super handy since I was now able to use it as a hotspot or connection for my ipad!  The only caveat is that in order to use a SIM card from another country your iphone must first be "unlocked".  Now, I don't really understand how a corporation can "lock" a device, that you have paid for, to their company but apparently this is allowable, in Canada at least...I did call Telus, my provider, before leaving on my trip and asked them to unlock my phone.  At first they wanted to charge me $30 but when I objected, strenuously, they did unlock it for free.  When I tried to do the same for my daughter, with Bell, they were unwilling to budge on their $75 fee...

I basically did the same thing in Indonesia (the store was called Smile) and Thailand and the cost was actually much less.  I just showed someone my iphone and used my translation apps to ask where I could get a Sim and someone pointed me in the right direction.  The store people put the SIM in for me, reset the phone and made sure it was working and I was on my way!

It was very comforting knowing that I could check my phone whenever I thought I was lost and to know where I was and to be able to translate a few english words and communicate with non english speaking people.  I was also able to talk to my kids and stay in touch on a real time basis with everyone at home.  This might seem to take some of the adventure out of the whole travel experience thing but it is also very liberating and I don't think I would have had as many adventures as I did if I wasn't relying on my technology!

I had researched many apps before I left for Asia but I actually fully relied on just a few.  Here are my top travel apps, for now...

  1. Viber.   This is a free app for just about very device out there.  In layman's terms, if you have the app and one of your contacts has it then you can call and text, for free, from anywhere in the world.  The negative is that some conspiracy theorists think this is an app which is designed to track your every movement and thought.  Personally, I really don't have much to hide so I will take full advantage of this freebee.  Just make sure that the people you want to call also have the app.  There is a bit of a delay when calling across the world, but still, it beats the post system that I relied on some thirty five years ago when I took my first trip abroad.
  2. Google Translate.  I tried a lot of different translation apps, including "SayHi", and other apps that weren't free (Google Translate is free) but this turned out to be my "go to" app when I needed something fast, quick and reliable.  I especially liked the fast, full screen written view as most people I tried to speak to, preferred reading rather than listening.  Drawback is you need wifi or data connection but usually I found it was too inconvenient to ask someone to wait while I tried to find the correct word or phrase that was stored when I didn't have a data connection. When this happened, I usually resorted to sign language or my few phrases in the local dialect that I had committed to memory.
  3. Compass.   Free compass app was a godsend.  If you are told to go East (or West, or North, or South) while coming out of a subway there is no way to do it unless you have a handy, dandy compass on your phone!
  4. TextPlus.    Text anyone, anywhere, for free....'nough said.
  5. SayHi   Translation app but I actually used it to learn how to speak.  If the app recognizes what I say in Mandarin (or whatever) it gives an accurate translation!
  6. Google Maps  Absolutely accurate and invaluable...especially riding a motorbike on my own in Bali!
  7. Blogsy.  Terrific app for making blogging easy!
  8. Panorama.   Great photo app for taking panoramic shots.  I will print these one day!
  9. Instagram.  Cool little app that allows you to zip up your photos a bit and easily post them to your followers or faceboook.
  10. Flashlight.  I also had an old fashioned, LED, flashlight in my purse but on those very dark walks this was very handy!
  11. XE Currency.  Easy and free currency converter.  You can get very confused about currency after numerous countries!
  12. Card Mate Pro.  Great app for keeping contacts and hotel information handy.
  13. Pocket Guide.  This and Rick Steves are my favourite travel guides.
  14. Tripit.  I never plan a trip without this cool free app.  I just forward all my information and make a few edits and all my information is handy even without an internet connection.
  15. TripAdvisor.  I always check this for hotels, activities, and outings...
  16. Agoda.  Never used it before this trip but after ending up in a dive in Bangkok and finding a five star, luxurious hotel for $50 a night in Bangkok, I'm hooked!
  17. Aviary.  Cool photo editing tool!
  18. iBooks   iOS Standard    I really couldn't travel without downloading a load of books onto my iBooks app.  What a difference from lugging a load of books with me!
  19. Travel Charger.  Ok, this isn't an app and I didn't have one but I did see many people with one and I did get a charge from many kind fellow travellers.  I will definitely pick one up the next time I am out and about.  Basically, this is a device that holds a charge and provides you with a portable charge when an outlet is just not handy.
  20. iPhoto...damn, I went over the twenty, but I nearly forgot...after 2000 plus photos and videos on my iphone (i didn't bring another camera with me) I needed to dump my photos somewhere so setting the automatic upload to iPhoto was invaluable.  I was then able to delete the photos from my camera app and free up a lot of space.
  21. Youtube...and finally, my videos took up way too much space on my phone so whenever I had wifi, I would upload my videos to my youtube account.  I set them for private until I was sure they were suitable for public viewing and then deleted them from my phone.
  22. Dropbox - useful for uploading photos but you may need extra storage

I'm sure that other smart phones probably have the same capabilities but I must say that I was very happy that where ever I went, and even with language barriers, if I showed someone my iphone they were able to set me up with whatever I needed.  My phone worked flawlessly and got me out of many difficult situations.

The best fun I had was when I was in a remote area of Bali and I was using iTranslate with a group of people.  Once they realized that they could just speak into my phone and it would translate for me into English, it was awesome!  We had a great time conversing after that.  Great way to make new friends!


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  3. Hi Wally, I've been playing around with mine quite a bit too...comments seem to be difficult. I keep playing with the settings.

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