May 1, 2010

Best iPhone Apps for RTW Travel

iphone2Once upon a time, long-term travelers were the people who abandoned the trappings of everyday life to see the world. These days, you’ll just as often find round-the-world travelers who prefer to bring some conveniences of everyday life with them on the road. They’re not opposed to letting technology assist them in their travels, which is why the iPhone has become so popular with travelers.

All of the “there’s an app for that” commercials might drive you bonkers, but the premise of those ads is kind of true – and getting more true every day. There are apps for just about every purpose you could imagine (along with thousands you couldn’t and wouldn’t want to), including plenty that are really handy for travelers. Some of them are location-dependent, but there are also loads of great iPhone apps for round-the-world travel – apps that are flexible enough to grow with your itinerary.

This list of iPhone apps for RTW travel isn’t exhaustive, so if your favorite travel app that’s ideal for long-term travelers isn’t listed please let me know in the comments!

Best iPhone Apps for RTW Travel

Frommers Travel Tools
One app to rule them all… Okay, not quite, but it does combine several different handy travel apps into one, which saves memory space on your iPhone and helps keep your screen uncluttered. You’ll get a currency/measurement/distance/etc. converter, time translator, tip calculator, customizable packing list, fun travel trivia, links to Frommer’s city guide apps you can buy, and even a flashlight – all in one app.

on sale for $4.99
With this app you aren’t stuck sifting through a long list of recommendations for places to eat, places to see, etc. – you put in only the places you know you want to check out or remember, and that’s all that shows up on the list and map. It’s deceptively clever, and especially handy for RTW travelers because you can add locations to as many cities as you want. When you’re hooked up to WiFi, add restaurants, museums, and where you’re staying. Then you can access the information with the iPhone or iPod Touch completely offline, without using data or internet.

Trip Journal
on sale for $0.99 (normally $2.99)
This app includes all kinds of tools to easily record and share elements of your trip with whoever you like – geo-tagging photos, video, and trip notes and then allowing you to share things via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and more. Plus, the app looks all old-school journal-y, too.

City Maps 2 Go
There are a zillion map apps (say that without thinking “grape ape” and you’re a stronger – or younger – person than I am), but rather than downloading a new one every time you move on to a different city, this app lets you constantly download new cities within one app – and the additional map downloads are free. Plus, while you can the GPS capability of the iPhone for these maps, you’re not incurring roaming charges because the maps are downloaded onto your phone.

Translation apps are great, but if you’re going to lots of different countries it might be better to get one app that has a few common phrases in lots of languages instead of downloading an app for every single language you’ll encounter. Babelingo has 11 languages with 300 words and phrases. If you’ll be immersed in one language for awhile, then you can augment your app library with a translator or dictionary for that language specifically.

ICOON Global Picture Dictionary
Is the language you need not included in Babelingo? Maybe the words you’re looking for aren’t common enough phrases? Then be sure you’ve got this picture dictionary on hand as well. There are several categories covered in this app, and the most useful ones might be “health,” “hygiene,” and “authorities.” You don’t want to count on your command of the local language in an emergency.

World Customs & Cultures
Don’t get caught nodding for yes when nodding actually means no. Don’t reach out to shake someone’s hand when touching is considered rude. This app covers all kinds of cultural tips and social norms for 165 countries around the world. It’s a must-have app for anyone who wants to leave a good impression in their wake (which is a good plan).

The World Factbook
This app includes some basic information about 250+ countries, including major industries, type of government, geography, religion, languages, etc. The database is updated regularly for free, so you’ll always have the most recent information at your fingertips.

HearPlanet: Audio Guide to the World
This does require a cell data or network connection to work, but if you’re in a place where you’re connected then it’s handy. Using the phone’s GPS locator, this app knows what attractions you’re close to and pulls up the Wikipedia entry for that place. Even better? It then reads the entry to you.

For anyone who set up a round the world blog for the sole purpose of letting your mother know where you are and that you got there safely, there’s IAmHere. Push one button and it’ll send an email to someone with your exact location (accurate to within 150 meters) on a Google map.

Super Twiddler
Spin the wheels on this app to tell it much time you have to spend and what mood you’re in, and it’ll come up with activities near you that fit your parameters. Unfortunately it’s only available for 27 US cities, although they’re apparently working on more.

Restroom locator with almost a million restrooms around the world in its database; it includes information on bathroom amenities, too, like whether they’re free to the public, open 24 hours, have baby changing stations, or have a place to buy feminine products.

Traveling shoppers may want to download this app in addition to the Frommer’s app, even though the latter has a good all-purpose converter in it. What Frommer’s doesn’t have is a clothing size converter – but Traverter does (along with a few other conversions). This app also includes a directory of international area codes.

Skype is the international traveler’s best friend, and you can take it with you on your iPhone. Call anyone on Skype via a WiFi connection on your phone without incurring huge roaming fees. You can also call non-Skype numbers (land lines and cell phones) for pennies per minute if you’ve got money in your Skype account.

It’s everything you love about Kayak’s site – in an iPhone app. Search for airfare, hotels, and other travel necessities right from your iPhone. There’s a paid version ($1.99) that includes First Class & Business Class fares in its searches (the free app doesn’t).

Forward all your trip emails to TripIt, and it tracks everything – flights, hotels, car rentals, everything. It’s one way to keep from going insane when your travel plans alone start to take on novel-length proportions.

Weather Channel
If you’re on a long trip and you only brought what you can carry, you might not care as much what the weather will be like where you’re headed – you packed what you packed, and your clothing has to suffice in whatever weather you encounter. But having this app will at least let you know how many layers you’ll need to pull out of your pack that day, or whether you might be springing for an umbrella in your next destination.

And since the iPhone’s camera isn’t exactly the best in the world, this list of great iPhone apps for travel photography on World Hum is worth perusing before you set off.

photos, top to bottom: CarbonNYC, cloneofsnake

8 Responses to Best iPhone Apps for RTW Travel

  1. says:

    There’s a new app called Travel Blog that lets you record your trip details on the go. Its very simple to use and I found it has loads of features that allow you to share your trip on facebook, twitter or email. Check it out @

  2. says:

    When I go out of the country with my iPhone, I turn it on Airplane mode. Turn off 3G, Data Roaming…usually done when I turn it on Airplane mode but I always double check. Then I hit local wi-fi spots for connections and calls and games like Gowalla. There are some free wi-fi finders that have off line info. So far, not extra charges at all. I has been great.

  3. says:

    Through AT&T you can sign up for an international plan for just 6 dollars more a month than your plan costs regularly. I just got a phone with them and asked that question. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

  4. says:

    These are good suggestions. You should definately either get an international plan or be very familiar with using the i-phone over wifi and turning off the phone unless you really need it.

    I was also given the advice in Europe to cover over the Apple logo and the writing on the back of the I-phone (see the picture) to make the phone less of a target for theieves. I met someone in paris that had hers taken right out of her hands, so cover up any visible logos and don’t use the white headphones, then it looks more like a less desireable phone.

  5. says:

    There are ways to use the iPhone without racking up huge roaming charges, Cynthia – mostly it involves using apps that are usable offline, completely saved on the phone itself rather than relying on WiFi or data connections as you go. There are also data packages you can buy in advance that will make the overall expense much less, but you have to do that in advance. I’ve heard that if you call AT&T after you get back from a trip where you’ve accidentally left the roaming capabilities on, they’ll sometimes roll back those extra charges – they realize people often do it by mistake. So give that a try.

  6. says:

    Teeny little problem with using the iPhone in other countries–it costs TONS OF MONEY!!!!
    I was in Mali, West Africa, and unwittingly ran up $200+ in charges just because it was ON [never called anybody or searched for anything!]. The phone is always searching for the internet, AT&T told me when I called the 800 number in despair.
    How can people say these things are good for getting travel info on the road?? Maybe for pre-trip info, but until the internet service is free somehow I turn mine off completely, and just check for drastic text messages every few days. Texting is not too expensive by the way.
    Does someone know something I don’t about how to use the iPhone on the road, w/o running up charges??

  7. says:


    not an actual iPhone app, but also quite usable on the iPhone:

    here you can calculate flight time and flight distance between any point.

  8. says:

    Travel really is enhanced by the iphone… which is why there’s an app for Tuscany too! 😉 Announced today, it’s an augmented reality application called Tuscany+. It’s FREE on the app store. Here’s the youtube video that explains it:

    I work for the social media team of the region of Tuscany; we’re at your disposal should you need any further information about this app.

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