Smartphones are now the most important tool for anyone living or retiring abroad. Whatever you are looking for – there’s an app for that.
We have scoured Google Play, the App Store, and recommendations from fellow travelers to compile a list of the best apps for your phone. Whether you are an Android or iPhone user, this list of the best travel apps is going to make your overseas adventure a whole lot easier.
The good new is that most of the applications on this list are free. There are a few apps that you need to pay for, but we’ve included them as they have unique features which could be very useful for some people. In each case, we’ve listed out the price and provided a link so you can decide if it’s really worth the money.
Here are the categories we’ve divided the most useful smartphone apps into, so that you’ll be able to browse the ones that are most interesting to you and provide the most value to you during your next overseas excursion:
A global favorite, this user-friendly and widely used application can be accessed from a computer, a smartphone, a tablet, and many kinds of “smart TV.” If you don’t already use it, get familiar, because this may be your best way to stay in touch with friends and family back home. It’s free to use with other Skype members—you can call, chat, share screens, and video call (even in groups) for free. You’d only have to pay if you call someone’s regular phone, and rates are very reasonable.
This app allows you to call and receive phone calls from any U.S. or Canadian phone number. Keep your existing number and make calls over Wi-Fi, you also get unlimited calling to other magicJack customers worldwide.
Similar to magicJack, with this app, you can call and text anyone who also has the app for free worldwide. Has a group chat feature enabling you to talk with up to 250 people at once.
Get a U.S. phone number so that anyone can call and text you. It’s great because anyone without a smartphone can still contact you through this app. Unlimited SMS and MMS picture messages are the main reason to go for this app.
Ubiquitous and necessary in Central and South America, even business use it. More often than not, people ask for your Whatsapp contact instead of your phone number. Whatsapp allows you to text anyone who also has the app for free worldwide; you can also use it for calls.
Basically a free Rosetta Stone, Duolingo works on smartphones and tablets, so you practice Spanish (as well as many other languages) while on the go. With this app, long lines at the grocery store becomes an opportunity for learning a second language.
Sometimes you’ll draw a blank when trying to think of a certain word… or when you need to know a word that you’ve never used. It’s easy to be able to whip out my smartphone and get an instant translation with this app. But be cautious when using it for more than a word or two or a phrase; mistranslations tend to occur with longer translations or entire sentences.
This app allows you to hail the nearest taxi based on your GPS location and can be used on an international scale in 420 cities worldwide. Especially good for South America.
Probably the most popular worldwide car service app. The app uses GPS to send a car straight to your current location, all you have to do is input your destination. UberPOOL lets you travel with other folk going the same way to lower the fare.
This is the best map app to use for walking directions anywhere in the world. Definitely the most detailed and best maps for Europe and North America. Indoor maps feature will allow you to quickly navigate big places like airports, malls and stadiums.
This is the best app for getting around if you’re driving. The maps are accurate, and it also updates you with traffic conditions and police stops. Because many cities in Central and South America do not have street signs or addresses, this app really comes in handy. Just type in the name of the building, restaurant, etc., and it knows the GPS coordinates of the location.
Airline prices are constantly changing, to the benefit of the airlines and not the passenger. This app shifts the balance of power back to the consumer by analyzing price trends and letting you know when they should be at their cheapest.
Take the stress out of packing while minimizing your chances of forgetting something. Personalized packing lists based on destinations, planned activities and transport. Helpful suggestions mean the app will advise you to pack things you may not have thought about beforehand.
Available on: iOS
Stay up to date with the latest exchange rates. Oanda has a simple layout with access to daily filtered rates for more than 190 currencies, which are used by corporations, tax authorities, auditing firms, and financial institutions. Also gives you access to Interbank rates, which are seldom available to the general public. Check out their Forex Trading Platform.
Having any kind of medical issue is the last thing you would want to happen whilst abroad. But it pays to be prepared and the app keeps details about your medical conditions, your doctor’s primary contact details and insurance information that can be accessed even if your phone is locked. It can also translate into 10 different languages.
Available on: iOS
Used by 50 million people around the world each month this is easily the most popular dating app out there. Although apps such as TourBar, MileHi and AirDates have tried to specialize in finding you company abroad, your best bet is still the swipe left/right classic.
An app from the makers of the renowned travel guide books. Packed with maps, advice, and information the offline features mean that you can use this app even without connection to the internet or Wi-Fi. Currently has over 100 cities with more being added all the time.
Available on: iOS and Android
The number one app for international forecasting is Accuweather. The website and app, which provides services in over 100 languages, is used by around 1.5 billion people and offers everything from general long term forecasts to minute-by-minute precipitation forecasts tailored to your exact address.
Over 500 million reviews and opinions from travelers enable you to make an informed choice on the best hotels, finest restaurants and fun activities wherever you go. If you’re stuck for ideas about what to do this is the app to consult.
Great for small businesses and business trips. Expensify will import purchase info from your credit card for IRS validated eReceipts. The most useful feature is the Smart Scan, simply take a picture of your receipt and have it generated as an expense. Positive reviews from Forbes and the Wall Street Journal mean this is definitely an app to take a look at.
EyeEm has a range of filters to improve your photos used by over 20 million round the globe. The real benefit is that you can upload your photos onto their market and make money selling them to brands and media.
Strava allows you to map out your route, either running, cycling, or biking, and provides data on how you perform. If you normally run 5k, you can plan out a 5k run, wherever you find yourself. You can also connect with other Strava users, in the spirit of friendly competition. If you’re in a new town, you can find out which routes are safe to travel.
This app allows you to stream things such as iPlayer and Netflix while also keeping your internet connection secure. Especially useful if you connect to lots of different wifi spots. TunnelBear VPN encrypts your web browsing and data (making it unreadable) as it leaves your phone or tablet. This keeps your browsing private and also means advertisers and websites will find it harder to track your physical location.
And there you have it, the 24 best apps that I’ve found useful when traveling and living abroad. Hopefully you’ll find these apps useful on your next overseas trip.
Leave a comment below to let me know your favorite apps. If there are any really good ones that I’ve missed, be sure to share those as well.