I was born a nomad. Before I was 4 I had filled up my first passport with stamps. Then at age 18 I left my home town of Sydney for a year of independent adventures where I visited 28 countries from Ghana to the North Pole.
I love living out of a suitcase, speaking foreign languages and melting into the scenery- nothing gives me greater satisfaction than being mistaken for a local. I just beam with pride at a job well done and it is right to call that a job. It is hard work to learn another language, research local recommendations and memorise the transport routes but the pay off is enjoying your vacation to the fullest.
With that in mind I thought I would share with you my favourite travel apps plus a few important travel tips I learned along the way.
Captain of directions in Rome
Top Apps to download before you fly:
1. Download a language phrase book that teaches you the basics, most importantly the translations for food, drinks and the bathroom, so that you don’t end up using your whole phone data plan Googling the menu. Nothing annoys me more than someone shouting at a local waiter in English, ‘I WANT SPAGHETTI BOLOGNESE, POR FAVOUR’- first of all, Bolognese is not Italian, it is called Ragu di Carne. Secondly, Por Favour is Spanish.
2. Download the local city public transport app- every major European city has one. For example, in London it’s TubeMap. That way you can get on and off any public transport with confidence and most apps will allow you to enter your destination so you get clear instructions about how to get there.
3. Did you know you can download audio tour guides to museums on your phone? Save that 15 Euros you would shell out for an audio guide and just don’t forget to pack your headphones.
4. Download audio walking guides so that you can explore the city at your own pace without a horde of other tourists.
5. Download PassBook- now the downside is that this app doesn’t work for all airlines but it does cover most of the major ones including EasyJet. So next time you are flying to multiple destinations sync your boarding pass and hotel/hostel reservations all into one place.
6. Download Postagram- Gone are the days of tacky, overpriced postcards! This app lets you upload your own pictures to make a personal postcard, which then gets printed and sent via mail to any worldwide address. It only costs $1.99 (US) making it a cheap and unique way to keep in touch with everyone.
(There are so many more apps but these are my most used and favourite)
Top tips before you fly off:
1. Always take a screen shot that shows you how to get to your accommodation from the train station or airport. You might realise when you land that your phone cannot connect to the local network and suddenly you are paying half your holiday wine budget for a taxi because you can’t Google directions.
2. Always write down on a piece of paper the street of where you are staying. That way you can pass the paper to locals and taxi drivers if you get lost.
3. Check what plug socket and voltage is used in the country you are travelling to- if you are going to multiple destinations invest in a universal charger. If you use an Apple product invest in an Apple travel charger box. It has multiple country chargers you can attach to the end of your USB charger or computer cord.
4. Every country will have a website in their local language with recommendations for restaurants. Just use Google Chrome, which will translate the reviews into almost any language. Always find out what the local dish is and try it! You would be silly not to eat a Florentine steak in Florence.
I find the website ChowHound to be so foodie obsessed that you are likely to find unique suggestions even though the reviews are mostly from foreigners.
Never hesitate to ask the receptionist where you are staying for local restaurant tips but make the question personal so that they think, rather than list the same places they tell every tourist. I will always ask, If you were on a dinner date where would you want to be taken? They will always have a special place in mind.
5. Buy a portable charger for your phone- nothing seems to be more devastating in the 21st Century than running out of battery half-way through your selfie session on the mountain top of Cinque Terre. I use one called Mophie and it gives me two full iPhone charges before I need to plug it in.
6. ALWAYS send a close friend, family member or partner your travel itinerary- in an emergency this will save hours of time and stress.
7. Most museums will allow you to reserve tickets in a time slot that you can book and print off before you arrive. This is essential in Florence where the unreserved ticket line can stretch on for hours whereas the reservation line is no more than a 20 minute wait.
8. ALWAYS write down on a piece of paper your passport number, credit card/s number (do NOT include the expiry date or card security code), bank customer care number, phone customer care number, embassy number, emergency contact and the emergency assistance numbers for the city you are staying in. Not knowing how to call the police in a crisis is a nightmare- I got robbed in Spain and learned the hard way how important this rule is.