10 Free Apps to download before you go

The Digital age is upon us and we now live in a world where everyone seems to have the internet in their pocket. You can update your Facebook status from a sailboat on the Mediterranean and tweet a Twitter update from Timbuctoo. We’ve all got email, Facebook, Twitter and games on our gadgets, but which apps are worthwhile? There are so many apps out there for iphones and ipads. Here are my favourite 10 free apps to download before you go which are especially useful for travellers.

1. Free Wi-Fi Finder
Let’s be honest, however fantastic your gadget is, you’re not going to get far without an internet connection and roaming is expensive. This app finds free Wi-Fi connections globally. It can do it using your GPS location or it can search by address, city or postcode (useful if you want to know how available the internet is at your next destination). The results are shown clearly on a map or a list. Great stuff.

2. XE Currency  
Ringgits? Dollars? Lira? Aargh! What’s that in real money? I hear you say. The XE currency convertor application is very quick and simple to use. You enter the currencies you need converting to and from, then select the currency you need converting and enter the amount. The screen displays that amount in all the other currencies you chose. Snappy enough for shopping in any souk!

3. Convert units

Why is Europe metric but the USA still uses the imperial system? Why does the UK use a mixture of both? I can’t tell you why, but this app will take away a lot of the conversion confusion. It opens to show two columns. Beneath them is a field dictating what you are converting (distance, mass, etc) Select the correct one and then in the left column above select the unit you need to convert and in the right column, the unit you wish it converted into. Use the number keys beneath to enter the amount.

4. Google Earth

Are you naturally blessed with a sense of direction? If not and you’re the type to get hopelessly lost instead, don’t worry Google Earth will save you! Open the app and after a few seconds it traces your GPS position and shows you on the screen, with fantastic graphics and surprising detail. You can then zoom in and out to work out how to get back on track. There’s a handy compass heading so you know which direction you are heading in too.

5. Fit for Travel

This app has some handy information about which immunisations are recommended for global travel (probably best to check it out a few months before you go). You select the continent you will visit from the map and then the country. It was clearly written by someone whose mother tongue is not English, as occasionally something is phrased strangely, but if you apply a little common sense it is all comprehensible. The first time I opened it, it opened in German initially but by the second page was in English, but that’s only a tiny problem (and only for non-Germans-speakers!)

6. First Aid Emergency Handbook

If you’re planning to go somewhere really remote then you might be wise to do a First Aid course before going. You don’t have to be somewhere dangerous for something to go wrong after all. But, that thought aside, this app gives clear information on what to do if you find yourself in an emergency situation. Scary thought – eh? This clever little app will even talk you through what to do. If you enter the country you’re visiting into the app then it will also give you emergency services contact information. Reassuring to have, but here’s hoping you never actually need to use it.

7. A News App

As proven by history, it is prudent to keep an eye on the country or region you are heading to ahead of arriving there. Even in places that are generally considered very stable the situation, if it is going to, can change quickly. You don’t want to arrive in the middle of a natural disaster or a political coup. I haven’t specifically recommended one news service app as there are so many out there. You may choose to use an international one, or you may choose to use one reporting on a specific region. For all I know you’ll use a news app to follow what is going on at home. Whatever you use them for, keep an eye on the news whilst travelling and keep informed. It helps you keep safe.

8. Ultimate Camera Free

Obviously this is more relevant for an iphone user than an ipad user. The built-in camera on iphones is very basic. This app offers several handy features to enhance your photography including zoom, anti-shake, photography guides, date and time stamp, photo timer, multi shot, flash mode and sepia settings. You can also save photos at a higher quality setting. If you’re taking photos, they might as well be as good as they can be.

9. Adobe Photoshop Express

Your gadget has removed the need to carry a separate camera. This app removes the need for a computer in order to edit your photos. Features include crop, straighten, rotate, flip, colour adjustments, filters, effects and borders. Simple to use and it gives good results.

10. Pen My Blog

If you write a blog and intend to continue whilst on the road a blog writing app will make things simpler. My preference of all the free options is Pen My Blog. It is clearly laid out and simple. You can view several blogs (other free blog apps only load one) and it doesn’t ‘chew’ your blog post (by this I mean throw all the formatting into wild disarray. This happened to me when I tried various other apps.) The only downside is that it doesn’t show photos.

Those are my favourite 10 free apps for travellers. What are yours?

Photo credit: Apricot Cafe


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    Hi Kieron
    In my mind I had put Skype into the ‘everyone’s got it’ category, along with Facebook and Twitter apps, which is why I didn’t mention it. I suppose there are plenty of people who still haven’t discovered Skype though, so on that basis (not to mention it’s sheer brilliance) I think you are probably right to highlight it!
    My recent post Free Things to do in London

  • Greg

    I’m sold on the usefulness of the iPhone for travel, but have been put off taking out a contract on one so far because of some scare stories that were run in the first days of iPhone 1.0 about huge roaming fees when travellers were abroad. Can you explain how these are avoided? I thought the phone accessed the internet constantly to update its many apps. Also, can you insert local SIM cards when you arrive at a new country as you would with an older-style phone? I was under the impression that things were more complicated with the iPhone.

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    Hi Greg
    When I use my iphone overseas I use wi-fi to access the internet, which as long as the wi-fi is free, avoids roaming charges for internet use. Using 3G overseas is where things can get expensive. You still face roaming charges for the telephone usage though (as with any phone). I manually update the apps on my iphone by going into the app store every so often. I believe that as long as the iphone is unlocked it is possible to use local SIM cards as you travel. I will be honest though, I am not sure what this does to the internet functions. If I were you I would ask in your local Apple store, as the charges really depend on the contract you enter with the telephone network provider.

  • Greg

    Thanks. So, if I understand correctly, there’s no issue of the phone automatically accessing the internet without your intervention, and you can choose to keep from updating data (like currency rates) until such time as you’re in a free Wi-Fi zone? I feel like I’m turning into my parents all of a sudden being this mystified by technology! You wouldn’t guess it, but I have lots of Apple tech at home but have deliberately avoiding learning about the iPhone up until now precisely because I intend to go off travelling the world and thought that the iPhone would be a costly option – I didn’t want to fall in love with the thing if I couldn’t take it with me.

  • David LaGuerre

    This one is good: hotelpepper.com

    It’s a mobile web app as opposed to a native iphone app. This means blackberry, Android and other smartphones can access it too. Which is great because then you are not forced to buy a phone based on the app selection. I think more and more sites will adopt this way of deploying mobile content in the future…

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    Hi David – Thanks for your input. Hotelpepper.com is good isn’t it? I agree with you about the mobile web apps too. Apple will not be able to dominate forever!

  • Free Life Apps

    Good selection of apps, Greg.
    Other types of apps for travelers to consider would be the ones comparing hotel / airline tickets prices as well as the ones with recommendations and places of interest for a particular city you’re in.

  • New adventures

    HI there
    Going back to start am I right in thinking you can download the apps for Wi-fi finder, XE, GPS & Goggle Earth , then use them on your iphone with data roaming turned off ?? I thought to use them you had to have data roaming turned on ? I have iphone 3gs but now going aways for 7 weeks thru Africa, Russia, France & USA & not sure of best way to use it cheap. Help please ??

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      Hi there – to use those apps you need to be connected to the internet. You can access the internet using a free wi-fi connection with data roaming turned off. It is the 3G data-roaming facility that costs a lot. So I would just try to limit yourself to free wi-fi wherever you go. Lots of hotels and hostels have it these days and some bars and cafes too, so hopefully you will find enough to keep you going!
      My recent post Tips for Expat Success

  • Vinod Kumar Saini

    Great information for travelers for up to date itself through these apps. You have mentioned every apps which is required during travel.

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