Language and day-to-day apps
If you’re traveling to a country where your native tongue isn’t the official language, you may as well pack a few of the best language apps to translate on the go or brush up on your language skills. We also have a handful of miscellaneous apps you may find useful during your time abroad.
If you need to get online fast without an expensive cellular connection, WiFi Map is the place to go for worldwide information. This app shows you the nearest free hotspots complete with passwords and user comments. The app offers full map navigation to get you to the right place and lets you filter your search and test for connection speed. A network scan checks for intruders. There are even offline maps for travelers and a VPN (with the pro version) for secure, anonymous connections. You can also add new Wi-Fi connections yourself to help other travelers in your location.
Google Translate remains just as remarkable as it was upon its debut. The app provides translations, which are now more conversational thanks to machine learning, between more than 100 different languages, allowing you to listen to translations out loud and translate dictation and your own handwriting on the screen. You can star your favorite words or phrases for offline access, or view dictionary results for a single word or phrase, or use Siri Shortcuts on iOS 12 for bilingual conversations. Look for more regional options for speech in English (US, UK, Australia, and India), Bengali (Bangladesh and India), French (France and Canada), and Spanish (Mexico and Spain).
If you’ve booked your trip months ahead of time, try tackling the country’s language in Duolingo. It offers beginner-level courses, but it’s also a great tool for those looking to brush up on a language. You can also chat with bots in select languages, which can be particularly helpful when you’re trying to learn the phrases you’re likely to use the most abroad. You can take placement tests to move up to tougher sections. Leaderboards get you into that competitive spirit with fellow users.
Memrise has more languages than Duolingo, and the app also uses mnemonics to help you memorize words and phrases. You can view video clips of native speakers the first time you try a new word or phrase, which allows you to hear local pronunciation. Swipe to listen to more audio and compare different pronunciations. The company says the app adapts to your learning style over time, and there’s a pro version that lets you unlock even more features, such as an offline mode.
If you’re traveling through multiple countries in a short period, it can be a little tricky to keep track of the time. Circa, an iOS-only app, is a beautiful and simple time zone tracker that lets you check what time it is where you are, and where you’re heading. You can also add your home time, in case you want to keep in touch with people back home. The app will show times that overlap when both parties should be awake. Circa can also work offline, letting you add cities mid-flight and the app also now supports iCloud calendars. The calendar ring lets you visualize your availability, or keep swiping to find a convenient time slot. You can also use the app on the Apple Watch.
WhatsApp has more than a billion users, and it’s highly likely you’ll run into someone abroad that uses the service. Chances are they don’t use SMS, unlike the U.S. Having the app installed before heading on your trip can be useful in case you make new friends and need a quick way to chat with them either alone or in a group. You can also download and send stickers to liven up your chats require Face ID or Touch ID to unlock the app. WhatsApp is also an easy way to keep in touch with people back home. You’ll still need a data connection or Wi-Fi to be able to send messages.
On your travels, you may find that certain countries block select websites, like Facebook and Google. Or perhaps you want to watch some TV from back home. One way to get around these problems is to use a VPN, or a virtual private network. It’s also a good idea to use a VPN whenever you connect to public or hotel Wi-Fi networks to protect your privacy. Nord VPN is our favorite VPN service, thanks to its thousands of servers across the globe. It costs $12 per month, but you can frequently get it cheaper via a promotion and it will work on your phone, tablet, or laptop. Now you can choose your own DNS server address, while servers in specialty categories are organized by country and city.
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