10 years ago you could spot tourists on the street by their heavy usages of maps. Today this is nearly gone. Most tourists use their phone to find their way around a city. This is only one of the many things that changed since the start of the digital revolution.
This year I travelled around Australia and used my mobile phone quiet a lot to find the best places to eat, sleep and visit. Here I will go through everything I did to make my vacation as great as possible.
Most people only know Kayak as a search engine for cheap flights, hotels and car rentals. I used it for all of the above, but also as a travel assistant. You can sent all emails with booking confirmations to a special email address and then kayak will create a nice calender for you with all the details. This comes in handy if you plan a long trip with lots of stops.
This is a great service I found a couple of weeks before flying to Australia. A whatsapp based service that tries to give you tips for your vacation. And the people behind this service gave me lots of interesting ideas. I did almost all of them. If you need some inspiration for your vacation, just ping them!
Get a VPN
Use AirBnB...or couchsurfing. It is not only cheaper than a hotel, but the more important thing: you can choose to stay somewhere with someone that lives in the city/place you are going to. They will have tips what to do and where to go. This will make the difference from experiencing only the touristy things and diving into the city and seeing it as the people living there.
Get a SIM card
If you don't want to receive a huge phone bill because of insane roaming charges, the only escape is to get a local Prepaid SIM card for the country you are visiting. This wiki has a extensive list.
Master the public transport system
Most cities have a kinda usable public transportation system. Google Maps can help you finding a route in lots of cities, but I found it really practical to have a map of the train system with me. My solution is to download the maps as PDF and adding them to my dropbox. Luckily the app has an option to mark files as offline viewable. A list of links to cities I visited can be found in my pinboard account.
Maps maps maps
Relying on maps on your phone can be problematic. If you loose the phone reception, you loose your orientation in the city. But there is a solution. Google maps offers to download the current visible area to your phone. Sadly it will not allow routing or searching while you are offline. For that you can install here.com. Within here it is easy to download a whole continent and have a working routing on your phone without any phone reception.
Places to go
If you don't only want to rely on the information of your AirBnB hosts, finding a good restaurant or thing to see/do can be kinda hard. You can start by reading wikitravel and get a rough idea about the city. The next step would be to find out what location rating app is used in the city you are in. This highly differs from country to country. Ask people what they use. The most common choices in the western world are TripAdvisor, FourSquare and Yelp. But be smart. Places with only 3-5 ratings and all 5 stars might not be as good as they look like.
There is a whole bunch of apps that try to make your trip as enjoyable as possible. I will list a few here:
- Google Translate - Don't understand the language? This is your rescue!
- Amazon Instant Video - Download a few movies onto your phone/iPad for the boring waiting time during layovers at the airport.
- App of the airline you are flying with - Notifications, early check in, seat reservations. Just do it all. You want to have a pleasant flight without surprises, right ?
- Currency calculator - Get a little currency calculator app. I used this. Helps you in your first few days till you get a feeling for the value of things.