After looking at my ‘How To Contact A Wendy’ blog yesterday I realised that each of the methods I mentioned are Apps that can be downloaded onto any smartphone; this got me to thinking about which Apps are the best for travelling and volunteering abroad. I have kept to things that relate to traveling as opposed to being a tourist as I am never one of those touristy people and I think whilst you travel you should be experiencing the place you are in, rather than paying attention to your smartphone. The Apps I have come up with reflect this minimalist approach to using my phone whilst travelling; hopefully they may be of some use to you guys!!
When it comes to smartphones I have written before about how much of a help my iPhone 5 is when I am not only travelling but also when I am just out and about in my daily life. It takes beautiful pictures, syncs with every other product I own and has every app that I could ever need from photo editing to word processing.
I have folders on my phone for everything from games to work, but the folder I would recommend that everyone who is coming to volunteer with has, is my Travel folder. It has the apps that I have tried and tested and found that I use everyday or at least enough to constitute keeping the app on my phone. I am going to give you a run down of these very useful apps which will hopefully be as useful for you.
Quick disclaimer though, these are all iPhone apps, I don’t know a thing about the apps they have for Windows or Android, they may well have the same, equivalent or better versions but these are what I like I think you will as well.
A godsend for the absentminded traveler, the app’s Expert List Assistant creates packing lists based on the number of adults, children and days of travel. The functionality also takes into account temperature, destination, food preparation and even laundry preferences. You basically don’t even have to think about what to pack because of this app! You can also make customised lists of things you will need for if you are doing something specialised, like volunteering for example. I know this is a paid app, but from the free ones I have gone through, none of them are nearly as good as this one which is why I would suggest this over any other!
With Off Exploring, users can now do scrapbooking anytime, anywhere. It has an inbuilt GPS route-tracking function that also records points along your journey, which is great for when you don’t know the name of the village or town you are in. Off Exploring also allows you to sync up with your favourite social media site as well, so you can always keep people informed of where you are and what your doing, also lets you show off your travels as well. You can also read the blogs of other travelers which is a great way of discovering things you might not find otherwise 🙂
Lonely Planet Travel Guides
Lonely Planet are the number one travel guide company, I have a guide from them for every country I have been to and most of the cities as well, they are written by people who have been to the place in question and have so many amazing and interesting entries about places, restaurants, shopping centers and adventures that you can have that may not be known to every other traveler.
Their Travel Guides App allows you to have the ‘Best Of’ guides for many popular destinations as well as city, regional and country guides, phrase books and translators, audio tours and a section of free stuff as well.
They aren’t quite as extensive as the books that you can buy but they are extremely well presented and have a huge amount of information in a very easy place, your phone! A definite must have for any traveler.
Kik and WhatsApp have a similar user interface
What’s App or Kik
Both What’s App and Kik do the same thing, they are instant messing apps that use an Internet connection as opposed to monetary credit, something which is perfect for travelers. What’s App uses physical phone numbers as its way of communication so you will need to have the telephone number of the person you are wanting to contact; just be careful with using the correct area code, otherwise it just won’t work haha. Kik uses a profile, similar to Facebook, so you have the security of knowing that you don’t have to give your number out to people you aren’t too sure about. They are both amazing little apps and I would recommend you get both 🙂
Skype is an incredible app that allows you to call any other Skype user, and if you purchase Skype Credit, you can call any mobile number as well, the rates are very cheap as well which makes it very useful for keeping family and friends informed of where you are and what you are up to.
It is also an instant messaging app that lets you message people even if they are offline and even allows you to send video and pictures to any of your contacts. The app crosses over onto every platform including computers, tablets, iPad, iPhone as well as android and windows phones.
This app allows you to translate words and phrases in over 60 languages. The software allows you to speak your words and phrases instead of typing them as well, many of the languages can also be repeated back to you from your phone; this is perfect for volunteers with us in Thailand as they won’t understand the written Thai but can repeat the spoken Thai after listening to it.
You do have to input words in the order that they are used in the language you are translating into. I would also try to use as simple English as possible, don’t be trying to use any fancy words as the translator will probably not understand and will translate to something completely different, meaning that you won’t be understood.
This is a great free currency converting app that uses live currency rates so gives you a pretty spot on conversion. It also allows you to look at several different currencies at one time including Euro, GBP, US Dollar and Yen and doesn’t even require the Internet as it stores the last known conversion rates within the app itself, something which is great for volunteers who don’t have mobile Internet but still want to work out how much they are spending when they go shopping.
You will need to manually add the Thailand Baht from the settings but that takes only a few seconds. I can’t begin to explain how often I use this app. I know the conversion rates in my head but for larger amounts it is so good to have an app that is up to date with its conversion rates and that I can use offline as well.
Skyscanner is my go to site for checking flights, I always visit Skyscanner before any other site and this is because it is so simple to use and checks so many different airlines to give you the best price for the dates you are looking for.
It also gives you the option to check the whole month in which you want to fly so that you can find the cheapest day to fly on. This is perfect for people who don’t have rigid plans, I know that using this app and this feature, has saved me so much money over the years, simply by moving my flight a day or two from what I had originally thought of.
You can also save searches as well which means that you don’t have to book there and then, this also means you can compare different locations and the flight prices to them. Definite must have app.
If you don’t know what Facebook is then you must never have used the Internet and I am pretty sure you must have no friends. Facebook is an integral part of people’s lives now a days and is the number one way for volunteers to communicate with their families and friends back at home.
It also serves as a cloud network, meaning that you can save all your photos and videos here and they will be safe and secure as well as being visible to the people eager to follow your adventures.
It also now has video calling which is similar, but not as good as Skype. You can instant message and private message with Facebook also, which means that you are never too far away from contacting the people you care about.
Twitter is the home of the hashtag. It gives you 140 characters with which to update people with what you are doing in that moment, any anecdotes or even annoyances. You can also upload pictures and videos to Twitter, not to the extent you can with Facebook but it is still very quick and easy.
Another great thing about Twitter is that your audience is the world, not just your friends, you can make your profile private but I have always had mine public; this allows anyone to see my tweets and start following me.
Nowadays every major company and celebrity has a Twitter account that you can follow which means that you get to stay on top of all the latest news from people and companies that you care about.
This is by far the most famous and popular of the photography apps, with over 100 million users you will always find the most beautiful pictures of everything from cats to architecture or food to selfies.
The famous Instagram filters make every photo look more high quality than it actually is, which means that a photo that might not seem quite good enough will now be a masterpiece thanks to the wonderful Instagram filters.
As with Twitter you can follow your favourite celebrities and companies, everyone from Bruno Marz to Bill Gates has an Instagram, not only can you follow them but you can also tag them in your own pictures, you never know you might even get a response!!
Instagram lets you share your photos to several other social media sites such as Flickr, Tumblr, Facebook and Foursquare which makes I think is perfect if you have different followers in different places.
Instagram is a definite must!
I know most people probably don’t think about a units converter when they are thinking of apps to use whilst travelling, but I promise you, you need one. Convert Units does everything from temperature to weight, distance to speed, I use it mostly for temperature and weight as we get a lot of volunteers from countries that don’t use Celsius and stone. It also has some basic currency conversions as well which is always good.
For every volunteer and traveler to Thailand, this is a MUST HAVE app. The free version has all the same features as the paid one except it doesn’t speak the words or phrases that you translate. You can look up individual words though and it has a phonetic explanation of how to say them, I use this app ALL the time, whether it be single words or as a translator to show to people if I happen to get stuck anywhere.
It has games for learning Thai as well, so for anyone staying for a long time or anyone interested in learning to speak Thai this is just a perfect app. I would recommend getting the paid version so that it can recite the words to you that you have translated, inflections are so important when speaking Thai that if you accidentally use the wrong one it can mean a completely different word, so the reciting part of this app is just wonderful, and also very precise!
This is my go to app and site for whenever I am travelling, it is an app that shows you a huge selection of places to stay from 5 star hotels to hostels and ‘B and Bs’, they are all reviewed by the Hostel World community so you get a real feel for what a place is really like to stay in.
Unlike other accommodation booking sites, Hostel World only requires you to pay a 10% deposit for every place you stay and not the whole bill, which is a god send for last minute travel plans when you don’t have a lot of money in your account 🙂
It is all safe and secure, they use PayPal in nearly all of their transactions, I can sing praises about this app all day long, I have always used Hostel World for every trip I have ever taken and I have never been disappointed with the places I have booked.
Your banks App
This is a very important app to have in your phone whilst travelling. Wether it be Barclays, Natwest or Bank of America, every bank has an app that allow you too keep on top of your banking. It is also a good way to transfer money and keep your bank informed of where you are. There is nothing worse than your bank freezing your account whilst you are travelling. The amount of times Barclays has frozen my account is too high to even quantify, you would think, after 9 months, they would know I am in Thailand, but NO! Stupid Barclays.
Any whom, get your banks app to keep an eye on your finances, trust me you will appreciate it.
I have used TripIt everytime I have embarked on a new trip. It lets you plan everything from flights, hotel directions, day trips, phone numbers and maps. It’s a wonderful app that means that you can keep everything in one place, I know that having a physical copy of every confirmation email etc is a very smart thing to do but sometimes it isn’t always feasible, an electronic copy on the other hand is very easy to control and having it on your phone is even easier, not only that but it syncs up with your iPhone calendar meaning that you get reminders about each part of your trip.
I can’t fault TripIt, I think it is a perfect little app that not only stores everything you need but also allows you to make your trip public, meaning that family and friends can keep an eye on where you are and what you are up to.
Cut The Rope
One of the most popular games on the App Store that you will waste hours on and is perfect for those layovers in airports, long car drives and evenings where you are too tired to go outside.
You have to feed little Om Nom pieces of candy, and to do this you have to go through a series of trials and challenges that at time have caused me to want to throw my phone at a wall; I didn’t, but I really wanted to! A definite must purchase app, especially all the extra add on packs like Experiments and Time Travel 🙂
Hopefully this collection of Apps will make your time volunteering and travelling a little more organised and much easier than it would be without them. Pretty much all of these Apps also have a Website that coincides with it in case you didn’t bring a smartphone with you on your travels, which I know a lot of people don’t.
So now you know which Apps you will be needing you can jump on over to the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page to chose which of the amazing projects you want to take part in, whether it be looking after endangered elephants, teaching English or looking after underprivileged children.
Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto