When I think about the fact that college students used to spend a semester in Europe before the invention of smartphones…my mind is blown. During my four months abroad, I spent more time on my smartphone than I did on my hair (which is saying something). There were a few times when I had to power off and read out a real map, but for the most part, my trusty iPhone was always there for me.
If you’re one of those gifted travelers who can figure out where they are and where they’re going from an old map and which direction the sun is setting, then I’m incredibly impressed but we probably have nothing in common. If you’re more like me and could sooner hitchhike through Paris than tell you which way is North, then whip out your iPhone 7’s (or whichever the hell number they’re on now) and download these apps!
Between Apple and Google Maps, Google Maps is the far superior option. On top of having some geographical mistakes, Apple Maps is not nearly as helpful when it comes to displaying transit options (a very important feature when traveling Europe). As long as I had Google Maps up and running on my phone, I could get wherever I needed to go easily, no matter the country or the language.
Although essentially the same idea as Google Maps, Moovit is the much more reliable choice when it comes to transit times. Whichever transit option you’re looking for, Moovit will display the amount of minutes until you can expect another bus or train at that particular stop. It also provides a clear display of where each particular route will take you in the city!
Unless you conveniently speak 30 different languages…I would recommend downloading this app before you leave for Europe. Google Translate has a great feature which allows you to download languages and use the app even when you don’t have internet, very helpful when Vodafone cuts off your wifi unexpectedly.
When it comes to fair rates, cab drivers around Europe can be less than trustworthy. Uber was the much more reliable option for a very broke, college girl’s budget. We preferred it in most countries simply because it tells you the price before you ever get in the car (it was also convenient when the Italian taxi drivers went on strike every other week).
Unless you’re going to Europe completely alone, Venmo will be one of your most important tools abroad. Going out to dinner with groups of 6+ people can get tricky, especially in a country that refuses to split checks. Additionally, sometimes there’s no way around booking Airbnb’s, hostels and flights together on one card and Venmo is by far the easiest way to make sure everyone pays their share. Because Venmo requires a phone number to set up, it’s much easier to activate before you leave in case you plan on getting a European phone number abroad.
Local Taxi Apps
On the rare occasion that the taxi drivers weren’t on strike, the IT Taxi app was very useful when I didn’t feel like struggling through calling a cab in broken Italian. It never hurts to download the local taxi app in whichever country you’re visiting.
Airbnb is by far one of my favorite apps. I started using Airbnb when I moved to Italy back in January and I haven’t stayed in a hotel since. This app is full of beautiful cottages, apartments, beach houses, etc….at a fraction of the price of a hotel. Especially for those traveling in a group of six or more, Airbnb will usually be your best option for accommodation anywhere in Europe.
Another one of my favorites…Hostelworld has compiled all of Europe’s best hostels at the click of a button. Just enter the city you’re visiting, when you’re going and how many people you’re traveling with and the app will load dozens of affordable, safe options in seconds. Some of my favorites from Hostelworld were Villa Manos in Santorini (check out my article Four Days in Santorini) and Hostel Adelino in Ibiza.
My Currency Converter
There’s no tool more important to a very broke traveler than a handy currency converter. Not as much of a problem when the euro and the dollar are neck and neck, but definitely came in handy when trying to figure out the Czech koruna.
If you are one of the brave travelers that veto the European phone plan and decide to travel on wifi and luck alone, this is the app for you. CityMaps2Go allows you to download maps of entire cities on wifi so you are able to use them even when Internet isn’t an option. It has a feature that allows you to star landmarks on the map and we would always make sure to star our hostel/airbnb. This especially came in handy while trying to find our way home after Vodafone clocked out on us (which happened more often than not).
If you love to participate in organized tours and excursions, make sure to download Viator. It’s full of fun options such as boat cruises, biking tours, hikes, wine tours and many others. We did a wonderful bike tour of the Austrian wine country while visiting Vienna. €80 includes full use of a bike, helmet and rain gear, a nine hour guided tour, three wine tastings in the scenic Wachau Valley and a delicious lunch in a picturesque little town. The tour was wonderful and ended up being one of my favorite experiences in Europe. Check it out here!
Nothing like the stress of having to book a flight on-the-go. In my experience it’s always good to have at least one flight-booking app on your smartphone (I usually have three to compare prices). If you’re under 25 and currently in school, or have a student ID that hasn’t yet expired, Student Universe is going to be your best friend. After submitting two documents to prove you’re a student, you will be an official member and able to book flights at the best deals on the internet!
If you’re not a student and don’t have the option of Student Universe, Skyscanner is your next best option for bookings flights easily and at the cheapest price. Additionally, Skyscanner will allow you to search by country instead of just city, allowing you to find cheap options leaving from all nearby airports!
Next time you’re planning a trip to Europe make sure to whip out the iPhone and download these apps before you leave. Coming from a fellow traveler, a few of these have saved my ass more than a few times (pardon my French). And next time you’re stranded in the Italian countryside with nothing but a iPhone and your non-Italian speaking Mother, you’re going to thank God for the transit feature on Google Maps (actually happened, took the only bus in Cinque Terre and bought a bottle of Chianti to drink on the train).
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