Summer travel is well under way. In fact, I just came back from a brief trip to Costa Rica. Nary a map or concrete plan between my girlfriend and I, we embarked on a five day adventure through the ecologically-beautiful landscape. As we wrapped up the journey, we learned that it helps to come prepared – digitally.
In my past, failing at frugality, I purchased an iPhone 5 shortly after its release. Now, traveling abroad, it was a tremendous resource for staying frugal and on course. The irony.
For my girlfriend and I, neither of us had any cell service. Landing at the airport terminal and turning on our phones to “No Service” was a freeing feeling.Finally, we were disconnected – how rare! But that doesn’t mean we didn’t use our phones.
Smartphones are tremendous resources and can be savers while traveling – even without service. The following 5 frugal apps will help you save when traveling. Important tip: Download them to your phone and become accustom to them before travel. Some require offline packages for proper use (must be downloaded to phones).
1. Wi-Fi Finder (Free)
This is the holy grail of Wi-Fi! Despite having no cell service and little money, you should be able to find free hotspots across the globe. The Jiwire app includes an offline directory of Wi-Fi locations that are free and paid. No matter where you go, you should be able to find something (within reason). Make sure to download the ~40MB offline database for access on the go. Then, you can be in the middle of Jaco, Costa Rica and still find a free spot.
2. Google Maps (Free)
Google has been the map leader for quite some time. It should be no surprise that their app (on both Android and iPhone) is the best choice you have. On Android, you can actually save maps for offline use right to your phone. iPhone users don’t have it as good, but can still search for directions within Wi-Fi locations and use them offline. As with many apps, there’s a word of caution: Small towns and some international travel zones may not have clearly marked roads. If you don’t have an active GPS or map, you may miss turns. Always be ready to break out a real, paper map (have you heard of these?).
3. Free Spanish English Dictionary (Free Version/$9.99)
This will be language-dependent, but choose one of the free translation dictionaries if you’re not a fluent speaker. These can provide you some basic phrases and words for conversational use. One word of warning: The free versions can be a bit limited. Despite their limitations, they function offline, which is key to traveling well.
4. XE Currency (Free)
Everyone needs a currency converter when traveling abroad. They keep you in the know, and prevent you from making a purchase that is highly unfavorable. Down in Costa Rica, I get about 500 colones for every US dollar. Knowing this helped us save money and make sure prices were fair. As with all of these, there are offline capabilities; albeit, currency fluctuations will obviously not be reflected.
5. Kayak (Free/$0.99)
This company leads price aggregation for hotels, airfare, and much more. I constantly use the app to track and book flights. As a frugal traveler, it’s hard to know what places are the most affordable and highly rated. Fortunately, Kayak does all the work. Each time we needed a hotel, we found a Wi-Fi signal, searched the hotels nearest us, and went walking up to the reception desk. Seeing the prices on Kayak kept the employees fair, as well.
What apps do you use to save while traveling internationally?