Alright good, so you leave tomorrow and you’re loading up your iPhone with music and games for the long flight. While you’re doing so I recommend checking out these apps to help simplify your traveling experience:

Best Travel Apps for Making Backpackers’ Lives Easier

CityMaps2Go

   CityMaps2Go is my main app for getting around while away from home. CityMaps2Go offers you the ability to download the map of any city, country, or region ahead of time and track yourself using GPS, even in offline situations. While the maps are fantastic, what’s even better is that the app also allows you to download a fully integrated guidebook with restaurant ratings, accommodation locations, information on local landmarks, public transport pickups and dropoffs, and loads of other helpful information. This app is a must.

Google Translate (formerly WordLens)

   The first time I saw WordLens it blew my mind. Basically it acts as a camera app that translates whatever words are on the screen IN REAL TIME. So if you are at an authentic Polish restaurant in Kazimierz and cannot read the menu just whip out your phone and this app will translate the descriptions instantly. As far as pronouncing “Jajecznica z kurkami i boczkiem” (scrambled eggs and bacon) when the waiter comes…. you’re on your own. I’d recommend pointing and grunting. Google recently bought out WordLens (of course) and paired it up with their extensive translation services, so when it comes to language apps this is the way to go. The dictionary currently translates 90 different languages, and the real time camera translation can handle 26.

ÖBB Scotty

   Scotty Mobil gives you access to every train/bus schedule in Europe. However, as far as I know, you still cannot buy tickets via the app. While it is a noticeably dated app, it is still the best at what it does. What puts this Scotty Mobil app over the top for me is the new GPS integration, and the fact that it lists every stop between your starting point and your destination, which makes it easy to monitor where you are and when you will arrive (and also helps you when tagging your pictures’ locations when you catch a glimpse of a beautiful castle or lake out of the train window).

Skype

   By now everyone knows about Skype’s worldwide video calling. However, not everyone has realized that it also turns whatever WiFi device you are using into one of the most user friendly and cheap worldphones in existence. Any time you are connected to a WiFi network you can call any phone on the planet for as low as 2 cents per minute for landlines and 10 cents per minute for cell phones. While this is rarely useful at home, while traveling I probably use it every day to book a bed at a hostel or a dinner reservation on a Saturday night. In fact, living in Prague I still use it when I call my parents so they don’t have to deal with computers and webcams just to talk to me.
Note: You just need to register your account and throw 25$ on there to draw from. I highly recommend it, if nothing else, as a safety measure.

And An Important One for Travel Safety

SmartTraveler/Smartraveler

   SmartTraveler (or Smartraveler for you Aussies) is the app run by our State Department and while hopefully you won’t need its emergency services, it is incredibly important particularly in this increasingly volatile world (I mean it really isn’t, but the news definitely makes it seem that way doesn’t it?). If nothing else, just tell your mom about it and she will be more at ease about you traveling alone.
The app itself is really quite fantastic. It provides you with information on seemingly everything you could need regarding your destinations: from Embassy Locations to Visa Requirements to Health/Transportation services to Local Laws and Punishments. It also integrates the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) which is a program where you are registered with the different Embassies along your journey so they can keep tabs on you and be prepared to provide you with what you need in the case of emergencies.

Mike Risser

http://www.escape-backpackers.com

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