In this modern age, every traveler can not leave their based city without their smart phone.  It’s unheard of and a bit suicidal.  I personally feel naked without it especially in a new or familiar city.  I have my favorite apps I use to navigate the concrete jungle, take pictures, handle my agenda, communicate, look up restaurants, make reservations, book flights, hail a ride, exchange rates, find a decent price hotel and get cultured.

Here are my essential apps for globe-trotting:

Google Maps
Google Maps
  1. Maps:  The one and only reliable map app that has it all is Google Maps.  This should be no surprise cause Google does it best.  It provides the most robust app on the market and accurate travel time between locations.  It even provides a link to call an Uber ride.  I use it on my daily commute in Los Angeles and it never fails me on finding the quickest route to work and home.

  2. Flights: There are many apps for booking a flight and you could even go on to the airline’s website to book an app.  However, OnTheFly ITA Software by Google also known as Google Flights is the most efficient at finding the cheapest one-way, round trip or multi-city flights.  It’s pretty much a Google search for all flights for your route and displays the different amounts for each flight.  There are options to limit your stops, airport changes, different currencies, economy/business/first class and allows for flexible dates.
  3. Photo Geo-Tag:  Koredoko comes into play when you forgot to turn on your geo-tag on your camera.  I have issues with it, but it’s a great app when it works.  All you have to do is select the picture and mark it on the map to change the geo-tag of your pictures.  It’s simple.
  4. Camera: In my opinion, Android is a bit ahead of iOS when it comes to camera features and qaulity now.  Every Android camera app has its own gimmicks, but my favorite Android camera app is the Google Camera.  It’s a simple camera with some really cool features.  There are multiple panorama options (i.e., Horizontal, Square, and Fish eye), a blur option, manual exposure, video recording, HDR option and Photo Sphere.

  5. Photo Edit: There are two photo-editing apps I used.  It’s VSCO and Snapseed.  I lean towards Snapseed due to its ability to make my pictures vibrant.  Also, it’s ability to make my non-HDR pictures HDR with a couple of taps.  I find the VSCO filters to be boring cause everyone uses it to give the minimalist feel to it.  To be honest, it’s extremely overused on Instagram.  What popular Instagram isn’t utilizing a minimalist approach?

    Google Camera
    Google Camera
  6. Calendar: I’m on Android and I use the Google Calendar app.  It works seamlessly with other Google products.  I load my travel agenda into my calendar along with the address.  It saves a lot of time and GoogleNow reminds me when I should leave to my next destination.
  7. Itinerary: Why have an itinerary app when you have your Calendar app?  Well, it’s really simple.  The itinerary app gives you real-time updates on your flights.  Trust me.  It lets me know if my flight is delay or cancel.  It has saved me time and money.  What app is this?  TripCase.

    Google Calendar
    Google Calendar
  8. Subway/MTR Maps:  Every major city has a Subway/MTR app.  It’s essential.  It lays out the city’s MTR lines and provides train times.  Here are a few apps I utilize in the following cities:
    • New York – New York Subway MTA Map (NYC) by Mapway
    • Beijing – Explore Beijing subway map by ExploreMetro
    • Hong Kong – Explore Hong Kong MTR map by ExploreMetro
    • Shanghai – Explore Shanghai metro map by ExploreMetro
    • Taipei – Explore Taipei Metro map by ExploreMetro
    • Seoul – Seoul Metro Subway Map & Route by Mapway
    • London – Tube Map London Underground by Mapway
    • Barcelona – Barcelona Metro TMB Map & Route by Mapway
    • Boston – MBTA Boston T Map by ApperEph
    • Chicago – Chicago Transit – CTA by Dixon Mobility LLC
    • Washington DC – Washington DC Metro Route Map by Mapway

      Explore Hong Kong
      Explore Hong Kong
  9. VPN: I really dislike using a VPN for the main reason of feeling restricted.  I guess it’s an American thing.  I don’t like to feel constrain.  Anyway, I would recommend using for your VPN needs.  The Premium one is less than $9 and the Basic one is about 4 USD per month.  I would go with the Premium one due to being able to connect 5 devices at a time.  It works great when you’re traveling in a group cause you could share the account.  Check it out here.
  10. IM Apps: The main appeal of mobile IM apps is their usage of data instead of your monthly minutes or text allowance.  In addition, you could get a data only SIM card when abroad.  The thing with IM apps is different regions and countries differ on the popular apps.
    • US/Europe – Whats App
    • China/Asia   WeChat
    • Korea – Kakao Talk
    • Middle East – Telegraph

      WeChat & its Instagram like feed.
      WeChat & its Instagram like feed.
  11. Reservations Apps:  The thing with the reservations apps is not every restaurant is on the same app.   The Michelin restaurants usually have their own reservations system (i.e., either you call them or book on their website).
    • Open Table – The widely popular reservations app with restaurants bookings capabilities for different cities around the world.  However, the reward points aren’t combined with certain cities and you have to make a new account.  I know.  Lame.

    • Resy – Resy is another reservations app popping up on the East Coast.
    • Reserve – Reserve is yet another reservations app popping up on the East Coast.
    • SeatMe – Reservations are done through Yelp.
  12. Ride Hailing Apps:  I’ve encountered too many situations where cabs try to overcharge me and gotten into arguments with them.  How do I know if they overcharge me?  I always do my research about cab fares from the airport to my hotel before I touchdown in a new city.  Generally, cab drivers are honest but a few bad apples do exist.  Therefore, there are a lot of perks to using a Ride Hailing App when abroad.  The main perk is not getting overcharged for fares.
    • Uber – The generally worldwide Ride Hailing App used around the world.  The main issue I have with Uber was in China.  It stopped working mid-way through my trip and I stopped using it for the remainder of the trip. It was extremely annoying.  They couldn’t give any support.  I decided to switch to DiDi.
    • DiDi – The Chinese Uber per se.  It works the same way as Uber but it’s in Chinese.  Luckily, I met a local who translated the different options on the U/I and I was able to use it after that.
    • Lyft – The widely popular app used on the States’ West Coast.  The app benefits the driver a lot more cause you’re able to tip them.

  13. Restaurants: There are multiple apps that could be use for finding local or fine dining restaurants. Here is the list:
    • TripAdvisor  TripAdvisor is probably the most robust of all the restaurant apps.  It has a very large number of reviews for cities around the world where other apps have trouble gaining traction.
    • Yelp – The widely use restaurant review site use in the States and slowly expanding around the world.  In the States, it’s probably the best app to use to find a decent restaurant besides its criticism of business practices and sub par reviews.
    • OpenRice – This is Hong Kong’s Yelp. 
    • UrbanSpoon –  The review app is widely used in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland and Britain.
    • Dianping – China’s TripAdvisor and Yelp.
  14. Booking Apps: There are a million apps people could use these days to book travel arrangements.  The most are focus on hotels, few are focus on vacation rentals, and there’s the host one.
    Xe Currency
    Xe Currency
    • Vacation Rentals – These are perfect for a weekend in the mountains or a beach getaway.
      • Homeaway
      • VRBO
    • Host Apps I find it pretty creepy to rent out someone’s home for the weekend.  I’ve done it twice and both times the host left their computer on in plain sight.  It gave me the impression they were watching us.  It was just too weird for me and I never used AirBnb again.  
      • AirBnb
    • Hotel Focus – These are the ones I mainly use because I like the option of dropping my bags off with the Bell Hop then heading out to explore the city until my room is ready or until flight time.  It’s really convenient for me.
      • United States/Europe
        • Orbitz
        • Hotel Tonight
        • Travelocity
        • Priceline
        • Kayak
      • Asia
        • Agoda
      • Central/South America
        • Trivago

          Field Trip
          Field Trip
  15. Field Trip: Field Trip by Niantic is a wonderful app for those who like to explore the city.  It runs in the background. When you get near a landmark, it provides a notification card with details of the landmark. In other words, it replaces the need for a tour guide or rental audio tours cause it reads the information to you if you have a bluetooth or headset on.
  16. Exchange Rates:  I stay up to date with exchange rates because I travel overseas fairly often and I like to pay attention to the trend.  There are two main apps I use to do this:
    Xe Currency
    Xe Currency
    • Oanda – This is a very simple exchange rate app and works for one currency only.  It’s very accurate; but, it’s not an app used to determine the sell and buy prices of currencies.
    • Xe Currency – Xe Currency is the app I used to check different currency buy/sell prices.  It’s a pretty awesome cause I can check up to 10 different currencies at a time.  The multiple currencies provides convenience when I going to multiple countries on one trip.  I can sit there and figure out how much I’m getting charge for buying/selling different currencies while I’m at the Foreign Exchange counter.

      Google Translate
      Google Translate
  17. Translation:  The most simple and easiest translation app is Google’s Translate.  It works wonders especially in non-English speaking countries.  I have had whole conversations at bars and restaurants using Google Translate.

We hope you find our list helpful and useful.  Let us know about apps you use for your adventures in the comments section!  Cheers!