- As Business Insider’s international correspondent, I’ve spent the past six months traveling through Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Greece, Israel, and Russia, among other places.
- I use a ton of different apps to make travel as efficient and seamless as possible. I decided it would be fun to reveal my most used apps and why I use them.
- Among the many, many apps I use all the time are WhatsApp, Adobe Lightroom CC, Couchsurfing, Triposo, Culture Trip, and Google Photos.
As Business Insider’s international correspondent, I’ve spent the past six months traveling through Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Greece, Israel, and Russia, among other places.
Traveling for a living is a fun, exhilarating, and, quite frankly, exhausting experience. But the best way to make it more fun and less exhausting is to have a digital toolkit – i.e., a smartphone loaded up with every app I need to get things done as efficiently as possible.
When I get off a plane, I want to know how much money to take out of the ATM, how to hail a cab, where the best hole-in-the-wall restaurant is for dinner, and how to say, “I’d like to order 10 of those, please.”
With 12 countries checked off on the trip so far (and who knows how many to go) I decided it was time to reveal my most used apps. They aren’t all revelations – who hasn’t heard of Google Maps? – but I can guarantee there’s at least one in there you haven’t thought of yet.
Perhaps you’ll find some inspiration for your next trip abroad.
1. WhatsApp (free)
By far my most used app. So long as you are outside of China, WhatsApp is most likely the most common messaging for Americans and everyone else.
2. Facebook Messenger (free)
Like everyone else these days, I hate using Facebook, but a huge part of my social network is there. Additionally, Facebook is the app that just about every person you meet also has.
Thankfully, Messenger is an aesthetically pleasing and pared-down messaging app that lets you tap into that network without having to be bombarded with your high-school ex’s political arguments.
3. Telegram (free)
- Carl Court/Getty Images
Telegram has turned into my go-to for talking to sources in countries where the government might be watching what you say (*cough* China, Russia *cough*).
4. Google Maps (free)
- Avery Hartmans/Business Insider
I’m sure I’m not the first person to recommend using Google Maps to get around literally everywhere (except China), but the feature I find the most useful while traveling is the ability to download offline maps for places I’m in – that way, I can still navigate without blowing up my data bill.
5. Waze (free)
I can’t tell you how many traffic jams the social-navigation app Waze has gotten me out of. Turning every phone using the app into an information-generating node is just plain genius. I’ve found that it often has more accurate directions than Google in other countries.
6. My Currency Converter & Rates (free)
- My Currency Converter & Rates
As I move from country to country, I am constantly using different currencies. It’s hard to keep track of what’s worth what. My Currency Converter & Rates is a simple offline exchange app that, while not so up-to-date that I would recommend forex traders use it, is just fine for the average traveler.
7. Google Translate (free)
Yes, Google Translate can teach you how to say “Nǐ hǎo” – but did you know you can download entire languages for offline translation, or hold it up to signs or menus for instant translation?
8. Triposo (free)
If I want to get a quick feel for what’s happening or what to do in a new city, I immediately download the Triposo travel guide. While it’s never the most extensive, it gives you the basics in an easy, attractive package. And it works offline.
9. Culture Trip (free)
- The Culture Trip
When I want to dig a bit deeper into a destination or have a more specific question (like which museum is better), Culture Trip has me covered. You have to do a bit of sifting – the content is only as good as the local creator – but more often than not it has led me to the hole-in-the-wall bar I didn’t know I was looking for.
10. Foursquare (free)
- Avery Hartmans/Business Insider
You probably stopped using Foursquare in 2013 after your roommate took over your mayorship of the corner bodega, but I suggest you look again. So long as you are in a city that has an active community, Foursquare can have far more accurate reviews and better recommendations than TripAdvisor, Yelp, or anything else.
11. Google Drive (free)
- Nopparat Khokthong / Shutterstock.com
This a no-brainer. Where else are you going to store a photocopy of your passport?
12. Google Photos (free)
I know I’m starting to sound like a Google junkie here, but Google Photos has saved my butt on more than a few occasions. I have it set to automatically back up my phone, so when I fill it up, the app will let me delete everything that’s already been backed up with a few clicks.
13. Manual ($3.99)
- Manual/Harrison Jacobs
The iPhone camera app is great most of the time, particularly if you have portrait mode. But like all auto cameras, it’s only as smart as the computer behind it. Manual lets you dig into the settings and change the shutter speed, white balance, and everything else you need to get that perfect shot of fireworks.
14. Sony PlayMemories (free) and Fujifilm Camera Remote (free)
I travel with both a Fujifilm X-T2 and a Sony RX100 V. One of my favorite features of both cameras is the ability to transfer photos directly to my phone using their apps (for Instagram, duh). Fuji’s app also lets you use your phone as a remote, which is great for setting up self-portraits or night shots.
15. Lightroom CC (“freemium”)
- Lightroom CC
I use Adobe Lightroom on my desktop to do all my photo editing for stories. The iPhone app is a slightly pared-down version that is still extremely powerful for a mobile photo-editing app. In fact, I kind of enjoy editing on it more than my laptop. The features and options are endless.
16. Instagram (free)
- Bon Appetit/Shutterstock
After years of holding out, I have turned into an Instagram addict. No social network has proved more conducive to me sharing both my photos and my half-baked witticisms and memes. Twitter used to do it for me, but it’s not a great photo-sharing app, and these days it’s just plain exhausting.
18. Uber (free) and Grab (free)
It might surprise you to learn that Uber isn’t used everywhere. China uses Didi Chuxing, Indonesia uses Go-Jek, and so on. But at the end of the day, Uber and Grab, based in Singapore, are the two apps I always keep on my phone, as they appear to be used in more places than any of the more-local apps.
20. Lonely Planet Guides (free)
- Lonely Planet Guides
I used to read Lonely Planet travel guides for fun when I was a kid. (I was a fun kid, I know.) But its free app gives a great overview of most places so that I can sound like a seasoned tour guide to my girlfriend when we walk through Masada in Israel.
21. Couchsurfing (free)
A lot of people use Couchsurfing for free lodging. I don’t. But I do love the community.
When I get to a new city, I check the event calendar for meetups or, if I’m bored, open up the “hangouts” feature to meet up with locals. If you want to make new friends in a strange city, it’s never been easier.
22. Airbnb (free)
Despite my (recently published) misgivings about Airbnb, it’s still my most used booking app while traveling. If you’re on a tight budget, Airbnb is probably the best bang for your buck outside of a hostel.
23. Booking.com (free)
- Andrey Solovev/Shutterstock
Booking.com’s app is creeping up in my usage. It has tons of apartment listings now, as well as perks for heavy users (like me) and a dead-simple, attractive interface.
24. HotelTonight (free)
I use HotelTonight when I need a break from the bare-bones places I usually book on Airbnb and Booking.com. The app is best when you are booking only a day or two in advance. You can usually find great deals on very expensive hotels if you like flying by the seat of your pants, as they say.
24. Mobile Passport (free)
- Flickr/Mike McCune
I will never understand why anyone traveling outside the US doesn’t have this app downloaded. Officially authorized by US Customs and Border Protection, the app lets you upload your passport and fill out forms on your phone so you can skip to the front of the customs line.
26. Priority Pass (free)
- David Slotnick/Business Insider
The app is free, but you’ll need a Priority Pass membership. I got mine as a perk through my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. It’s been a lifesaver. While the US lounges are nothing special, the international lounges have made airports a joy, with free food and alcohol, showers, and a clean, peaceful place to relax before a flight.
27. Skyscanner (free)
Still my favorite travel-booking app for one feature and one feature only: The app lets you leave the arrival point as “everywhere,” showing you the cheapest flights from your point of departure. The source of a dozen impromptu vacations.
28. Trip.com’s app (free)
I got hooked on using Trip.com while in China. It’s owned by the Chinese company Ctrip, and while that company’s website is janky, Trip.com’s app interface is super smooth. I always check here for deals on flights and hotels.
31. You Need A Budget ($6.99 a month)
- You Need A Budget
You’ve probably tried Mint, used it for a while, and now do your budgets on a napkin. OK, that was me.
YNAB, as users call it, is the most comprehensive budgeting app I’ve encountered. It helps you account for where you want your dollars to go, not just where they’ve already gone. And you’re paying money for it, so it doesn’t sell your data to the internet, unlike Mint.
32. WikiLoc (“freemium”)
This is a must-have for hikers and people who love the outdoors.
It lets people track, upload, and review their hikes. You can follow their trails if you want so you don’t get lost, but I prefer to use it to get a feel for the difficulty level and natural splendor on different hikes. I usually have time in a place for only one or two hikes. It helps me pick wisely.