I love the WordLens App, I found out about it while I was in Santiago, Chile in April 2012 on my way to Easter Island watching a CNN story. WordLens costs $1.99 (additional languages cost extra). I chose Spanish and was able to hold the phone over menus for on screen translation, in front of food labels, signs and tourist attractions. It's super cool technology to help travelers.
This app was reviewed by Suzanne W. She writes her own blog http://philatravelgirl.com/ and is an experienced world traveler and knows how to travel on a budget and get the best deals.
In the spring of 2013, I went to Italy for two weeks with an honors colloquium. We specifically went to Rome and Florence. We were given the opportunity to carry tablets with us that had The Traveler App on them. I used the app mostly to record my path as I traveled throughout the two cities. In the morning when we set out, I would turn the app gps recorder on, and then I would turn it off when I got back to the hotel. Along the way I used the tablet to take pictures of the places we visited such as museums and churches; these pictures were then saved in the app and associated with the specific location at which I took them. I would also use the pin markers and notes features in a similar way to mark a place I wanted to go back to or remember specific features of a place I had visited.
At the end of the day, our class had to keep journal entries about the places we had seen. This app was extremely helpful to have while I was writing these journals because I was able to remember very clearly aspects of these places. The GPS on the app had difficulty while in buildings, so some recordings would show some crazy readings. For the most part, though, the GPS stayed within the region we were in, and it even allowed us to keep track of just how far we had traveled that day since it logged our miles. The app also served as a nice memory keeper since I can just log back into my account now and still see the paths that I took on different days of that specific trip to Italy.
Natasha R. - Italy - Spring 2013
KakaoTalk is a very popular messaging app among the South Koreans, and it’s getting more and more common among Asian countries. It is a very interesting app with a lot of fun and cute emoticons. Background pictures or themes can be customized too. You can create a group chat too, so that a group of friends can chat together in a conversation. You can send photos, videos or voice notes to your friends and groups. Free calls are also available, the only thing it doesn’t have is video call.
Abel - (from Malaysia) - Wisconsin, United States - Spring 2014
I used Instagram mainly as a tool for documentation. I really enjoy photography, so for me it is a really fun app! I posted almost 90 pictures to Instagram during the 5 months that I was abroad. It was a quick, fun, and easy way for me to share and document the places I visited. For those at home, it was also a fun way to keep up with my travels.
What I like about Instagram is the ability to tag the picture on a map. I also like that the hashtags enable others to see my pictures. Both of those features worked well for me and made the app more enjoyable. What I don’t like about the app is the inability to add hyperlinks, and the limited amount of notifications saved. There are only a handful of “likes” and comments and notifications we can see, so it is easy to miss comments every now and then.
Viber is a mobile phone app that allows you to connect with friends and family for free. It's great for staying in contact with people, you can share pictures, text and talk just as you usually do, thus making you feel closer to home! I like that it's free and it works fine most of the time. I dislike that it sometimes cuts out or the quality can go bad if you have a weak signal.
Christofer - (from Sweden) - Wisconsin, United States - Spring 2012
I was first made aware of WeChat when I went to Shanghai, China over the summer. Most everyone in Shanghai has a smart phone, and because there’s amazing free WiFi access all over the city, most everyone uses WeChat to communicate instead of conventional texting. WeChat is your one-stop shop for all things digital communication: send text messages, videos, pictures – even record your voice and send audio messages, all over WiFi or 3G. That last bit is what made WeChat so much fun for me, and helped me stay in touch with my friends from all over the world in a way that is a bit more special than email or even pictures. All you have to do is be friends with the person you want to talk to, start a new chat with them, and record away! I asked all my friends back home in America to download the app, and soon it was one of the best ways I was keeping in touch with my American friends. I could record a thought, or a funny story, and it would save the audio file so that they could listen to it when they chose to. Even with the time difference it didn’t matter – they could still feel like they were there with me since they could hear my voice, but we didn’t need to go to the hassle of setting up an entire Skype session.
WeChat didn’t only help me stay in touch with America, however. Because WeChat was created by a Chinese company, it’s particularly popular in Asia. I would have the actual phone numbers of Chinese and Japanese friends, but they would rarely text me; it was usually a WeChat notification. This has helped me stay in touch with my foreign friends now that I am back in America. Even though I’ve switched out my Chinese SIM card for an American one, it isn’t meaningless to have all those Chinese numbers in my phone – my WeChat lets me communicate just fine. I am still in contact with my friends from Hong Kong, Japan, and China, all because of this one app.
Finally, one of the coolest things about WeChat is its syncing feature with your laptop or PC. By going to the WeChat website, you can open up a chat window and scan a QR code with your phone in order to sync your contacts and conversations, and then continue on as if your computer is your phone! All your conversations are right there on your screen, and it’s a lot easier to type quickly on a computer than it is on your phone.
WeChat was one of my most-used apps while studying abroad, mostly because of its ease of use and cool features that let me share my study abroad experience with both my foreign friends and my friends back home. It was a great way for me to really feel connected to the culture of my host country, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone with a smart phone who is traveling abroad.
Megan D - Shanghai, China - Fall 2012
Apps for international travel
Return and Current Travelers Reviews of Apps used will traveling abroad. All you need to know about the apps and how the work (or don't) and how Travelers are using them!