New language. Different currency. Uncharted territory. Exciting? yes. Familiar? Not quite.
Adjusting to life in a foreign country is a learning curve for even the most seasoned traveler. But thanks to smart phones, that curve has flattened out considerably. Gone are the days of taking a wrong turn and being lost in an alien land; long gone are the days of losing touch with loves ones because of expensive long distance calling costs.
We can’t promise that there won’t be growing pains, but these apps will help you get up and running overseas.
Get your bearings: Maps.Me
Acclimating yourself to the layout of a new city takes time. Throw in a new language, driving on the opposite side of the road or a complex public transportation system and it’s bound to get confusing. Simplify things with Maps.Me. Not only has this app mapped out much of the globe’s roads, public transportation, and points of interest, it works offline for the times when you don’t have service. Just remember to download the maps you need ahead of time for offline usage.
Live like a local: TripAdvisor
Adventure and stepping outside your comfort zone is an important part of the international living experience, but there are times when you don’t want to roll the dice on dinner. Without old-fashioned word of mouth recommendations, apps are one of the best ways to find the best in local cuisine and nightlife. There are many apps that do the same, but TripAdvisor is one of the most globally recognized local review sites, with a mobile app to pair. Best of all, you can create a customized list of restaurants, museums, sights and more, giving you your very own bucket list for your abroad experience.
Share your experience: Periscope
Your friends and family will undoubtedly want to know about the incredible experiences that you’re having abroad. A postcard does not suffice these days. Using Periscope, you can let people see the world through your eyes by streaming exciting moments of your journey from your camera phone.
Convert Currency: XE Currency
It takes years to truly get a feel for the value of a foreign currency in relation to the dollar. Making a snap decision on a purchase without having a knack for exchange rates can leave you with big time buyer’s remorse. Use XE Currency to convert prices on the go so you can always get a feel for exactly how much you’re spending. The app works offline with the latest rates so you can shop with confidence in even the most remote areas of the world.
(Full disclosure: Western Union has partnership with XE)
Learn the Language: Yandex.Translate and DuoLingo
For obvious reasons, a translation app is a must-have for living in a country with a new language. Google Translate works well for most languages, offering camera-to-text and voice translation, but for times without internet service, Yandex.Translate has you covered with offline translation of over 60 languages. To use the app offline, download the data for the language pairing you need while you still have an internet connection.
If you’re planning to be out of the country for an extended period of time and want to work your way towards fluency, the free DuoLingo app offers a fun way to learn one of 16 languages and tracks your progress across a wide variety of language skills.
Going further abroad: GateGuru
One of the best parts about living overseas is the ease of continuing your explorations further abroad. GateGuru is your handy sidekick for all things air travel. Monitor your flight status, reserve a rental car, and receive airport maps and amenities listings with this helpful app.
Staying alert: Smart Traveler
Going out of your comfort zone in a new country doesn’t mean taking unnecessary risks. Stay up-to-date with current travel alerts and warnings from the U.S. Department of State with the Smart Traveler app. This app is replete with useful information, including important local laws, information on medical services, and safety and security advice.
You can also use Smart Traveler find the contact information for the U.S. embassy or consulate in any country to help you deal with things like a lost passport or other emergencies.
Finding WiFi: WiFi Map
Many of these apps rely on WiFi, so it’s critical that you’re able to find a hotspot for the times when you don’t have service or your data plan runs out. This app crowd sources the location and password for WiFi hotspots around the world. Turn off your cellular data for everything except WiFi Map and you won’t have to worry about coming home to an outrageous cell phone bill.
If you expect to be completely without internet, the pro edition of this app has an offline feature. Search the country you’re traveling to while you still have internet connection and WiFi Map will store the information you need for offline usage.
Using these messaging apps, you can call and text your friends and family back home for free. All you need is an internet connection, a working number, and the calling code of the country on the other side of the line. Along with video and voice calling, you can also connect with others on Viber or WeChat to instantly send pictures, videos, and audio messages back and forth internationally.