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7 Travel Apps to Improve your Life Abroad

Which new or underrated or growing travel Apps will save the day while you live or travel abroad this year? What would be the ideal “travel pack” among the smartphones and tablets apps? Which apps are broad or versatile enough to be used by a twenty-something studying abroad and a fifty-something on a business trip to Rio or Dubai?

If you spend a lot of time abroad, there is little doubt you have learnt to rely on technology to help you with a variety of small problems. With the right tool, you can order food, buy a ticket, pay a bill. You can look up a time table, and translate your question in any language. However, it doesn’t take long to notice that some popular ‘travel apps’ have a limited focus. In short, not everyone is travelling to New York or looking for a restaurant or an address in Paris.

If you are looking for more than a google app or a hotel booking site, you may want to take a few minutes to check the following smartphone and tablet applications. Useful, practical or quirky, open them after booking your ticket, once you have landed, when you get hungry or are looking to have a great time in a city you have just moved to.

Culture Trip

If you ever sat in a restaurant where you were offered a drink or a dessert in exchange for a good review on an advisor-y website, you then know how biased a recommendation can be.

The UK-based Culture Trip was created in 2011 as a new generation of travel guides. It has what most other travel websites or web-applications seem to lack desperately: the personal touch, the shared experience, the aromas and the colours. With a base of approximately 60 000 posts on food, culture, monuments or simply the best cafes in thousands of cities around the world, Culture Trip has slowly become the new reference guide to every night out, brunch with friends, gallery exhibitions or art and craft shops in your new home town.

Culture Trip for Android  /  Culture Trip for IOS

Waze Navigation & Live Traffic

Although Google map is probably the best known app to help you get from one place to another, Waze is the world’s largest community-based real-time navigation app.  It gives you access to real time traffic and information (for example, the price of fuel has user-updates) in more than 50 languages. Wherever you are traveling to, Waze is there.

One downside to be noted: Waze requires data. And although this may not be a problem if you travel through the European Union, where data roaming is free, it may be a little harder if you are using your australian Sim card in Singapore. Time to look into your roaming options and cost if you are traveling abroad. It is, however, an ideal tool for expatriates or business travellers who often have local data or an international data package. Alternatively, pick up a local sim card from within the airport you landed in, as those are aimed at incoming travellers.

Waze for Android  /  Waze for IOS

 

Airbnb Experiences

More than a roof over your head, Airbnb now offers a wide range of activities to explore around the world.

Airbnb – Experiences

Very rare are the people who have not heard of Airbnb when looking for a holiday rental. But have you heard of a new category within the app called “Experiences”? This new option aims at offering a wide range of activities organised by hosts.

Would you like to cook in Paris or ride a horse on a Gold Coast beach? How about a ghost tour around Edinburgh with your family? With an extensive list of possibilities at moderate prices, Experiences is bringing a new and ingenious way to discover a city.

Airbnb for Android  /  Airbnb for IOS

Flickr

In the age of absolute Instagram and Snapchat power, you may wonder why I would talk about Flickr. Probably because after 14 years of experience, Flickr is the preferred option of most photographers, bloggers and photo researchers. More versatile, you can access it via more than just your phone. On the broader screen of a tablet or computer, the higher quality of the photos adds to your experience.

Forget scrolling through hundreds or thousands of selfies or cute pet photos taken in Göteborg, Tokyo or Puebla. Download the smartphone or tablet Flickr app, search the city or region you are interested in and voilà. Let yourself be amazed by the extensive online data base of gorgeous photos. The info option of each photo gives you access to the exact location the photo was taken at. In the same way, many Flickr members join groups. Look up Sapporo, and spend some time musing through the gorgeous “Sapporo by Night” group album for example.

Flickr for Android  / Flickr for IOS

Travelling abroad? Get an idea of where you are going by doing a search on Flickr

Travelling abroad? Get an idea of where you are going by doing a search on Flickr

Packpoint

I have to start this part by saying I have never believed in ready-made travel lists. Hopefully this adds value to including Packpoint to this list of travel apps.

Packpoint is not just a list maker, it is a SMART list maker. It asks for your travel dates, calculates the amount of days, checks the location, the weather forecast or average weather. Packpoint asks you to enter multiple details, such as your planned activities, or wether you are going away on holiday or business. As such, and although it will of course recommend to pack exactly the right amount of clean underwear, it will adjust the list of possible items to include the various selections you have made.

Are you intrigued yet? The App is free with possible in-app purchases. For your phone, your tablet, IOS or Android system, download here.

Rome2Rio

You probably already have a favourite flight or hotel booking app. Most of us have. But don’t be mistaken, that’s not what Rome2Rio is.

Rome2Rio is the ultimate travel search engine to include the trip beyond the journey. It helps you carry on your way once you have landed abroad, very far away from home. What are the ways to reach a smaller town in a distant country? This app presents you with multiple ways to get places, find your train after your flight, and where to get off to find a bus or a ferry. Self-described as “a door-to-door travel information and booking engine”, Rome2Rio is the ultimate resource for the avid traveller.

Rome2Rio for Android  /  Rome2Rio for IOS

Mapstr

For many years, I was one of those people who kept restaurant or boutique cards, so that I could visit the place again on a future trip. Now I have Mapstr.

Imagine a mapping app to keep track of all your favourite places. An app that allows to enter coordinates of places you have been to, places you have been recommended, places you hated and want to make sure you do not book again by accident. The tagging system lets you chose the categories and and even create your own : Child-friendly restaurant, bar – romantic, hairdressers recommended by Lucy.

Now you may wonder what the difference is with Foursquare/Swarm. The answer is simple. Mapstr is personal and private. Your friends won’t be notified each time you visit a place. You decide what place you share with whom.

Mapstr for Android  /  Mapstr for IOS

 

Expatriation: 5 Steps to Help your Integration

Starting an expat assignment implies a new job and a new home. Those are key components of this change of life: culture differences at work and often a new work rhythm, a brand new work/life balance, a new home often chosen on line or hastily with a relocation agency (sure you have a great city view, but the water doesn’t always make it to the 53rd floor…. Don’t you wish someone had brought this to your attention before?). But change does not stop at this. The social aspect of a life in a country, different than the one you come from, is undoubtedly the most challenging part.

In general, a change of life and country can be much harder for the “trailing spouse” than it is for the working partner. Whereas the working partner will naturally get opportunities to socialise in the new office or work place, be introduced, be asked to join dinners, the partner that follows with the luggage and with or without the furniture, can quickly suffer from isolation and rapidly feel de-socialised. Along with the difficulty to recreate a life and routine, to meet new faces and recreate a social life, the trailing spouse often also experiences the negative perception of those that see him/her like the “lucky” one that enjoys a fancy sabbatical abroad, free of obligations. But when asked, the following spouses mainly perceive this situation as a downgrade, for the first few weeks at least.

That was my case, 5 years ago, sat on my sofa, wondering where to start. Three countries and a bunch of boxes later, here is what I learnt, or what others kindly taught me.

An expatriation to Turkey is nothing like a new life in Poland, or in Brazil. Each country has its own sets of challenges.

Explore your neighbourhood.

Walk the streets around your new home, whether it is an apartment, a house or even if you stay long term in a hotel. Look for all the sort of place you feel you may need, cafes and restaurants, good shops, cinema, bakery, your closest supermarket or deli. Yes you are abroad and expected to embrace a new culture and new experience, but the museums can wait. First you need to build your nest. Create a routine and as soon as possible greet and smile to the people in your selected new favourite shops. For you will find it very comforting that soon enough, they recognise you and greet you first. This is a sign you have created your first new habits. Lots of good things will come from that. The principle is to make the unfamiliar become familiar as rapidly as possible

Look for blogs and websites.

Your newly found restaurant or café has a Facebook page? Why don’t you follow it and see who are regulars? Some may happen to come from the same country as you. Local websites and blogs are also a great way to start networking and following who does what. I have two charming neighbours who became friends thanks to one writing a blog about her new life as an expat and the other following that blog while preparing for her move. The latter eventually contacted the former, and as they got to live in the same city on the other side of the world, they eventually started meeting for coffee and becoming expat friends.

Start to network via Facebook, What’sApp, Instagram

Facebook is usually a very useful networking tool for expats (and yes, some will recommend LinkedIn, but unless you are looking to network professionally…) thanks to its very long list of groups, per city, per language, and mainly a LOT of groups for expatriates, students abroad and any and every person looking to meet people of other cultures. It is almost certain a group of expats already exists for your city/country of destination. Join one, or two, introduce yourself, and a few happy souls will jump in to tell you they have come in the same circumstances as you and will happily meet you round a cup of coffee.

Besides groups, Facebook also has an event near you option, promoting markets, festivals, open door days, and all sorts of other theatrical/musical events. Spend a few minutes going through them, and by the time you finish, you will realise your event calendar is already starting to fill up.

What’sApp is more used as a proximity tool. When you move to a new place, and you start meeting a few people, do not hesitate to ask if they know of local groups, often used by parents of a school, employees of a company etc. Colleagues at work, or colleagues of your spouse, are likely to be added. If you have children, the international school parents probably have a What’sApp group to share information quickly and ask questions, share tips. Those may not be direct meet and greet groups, but they help your integration, you have access to information, and have reliable answers shared by people who, more often than not, share your experience and your apprehensions of moving to a new place.

Instagram is a more generational App, you are on it, or you are not. If you have an Instagram account, make sure to tag your photos with the city you have moved to, and search similar tags. This is more of a slow process. Realising you are regularly sharing posts from the same iconic café as a couple people that describe themselves as expats, or relocated in the area, is an opportunity to seize. Meanwhile, following photo galleries of people in your new hometown will rapidly highlight nice places to see, nice food to try, events happening.

As picturesque as France can be, finding explanations, signs, menus in other languages can be a challenge.

The Language is half of the solution

Join language classes. First of all because the language barrier is a real barrier. Not an absolute one, as some major cities around the world are so cosmopolitan that people seem to get by in all sorts of languages. However, people who join language classes are more likely to be in the same situation as you, foreigners in a new land. The classes usually bring you more than just grammar or vocabulary, they help you figure out some basics about your new host country, its customs and its codes. And they give you a first surrounding of people who will share with you the frustration and the excitement of learning to communicate in a new country.

Meet your spouse’s colleagues.

Your working spouse is going to be integrated in a new company or work environment that is rich with potential encounters. From local employees who may have wife or girl friend who would be delighted to show you around, to other fellow expats who will have experienced your first difficult steps too. And because work is such a stepping stone to integration in a new environment, why not look for an activity yourself if your status or visa allows it. If in your case work is not possible, volunteering can offer a nice alternative to some.