Mobile technology has revolutionized the travel industry: Countless travel apps have popped up, promising to enhance your experience in foreign lands.
Whether you're looking for inspiration on things to do or simply need to find the nearest Wi-Fi location, there are specific apps to help you out. And mobile apps can come in handy when it's time to navigate, regardless of whether you're climbing a distant mountain or wandering the streets of a modern city.
In fact, if you plan ahead and download apps with offline guides, maps and other databases beforehand, you won't even need an Internet connection. You'll avoid sky-high international data bills, and you'll also save time, which you can instead spend immersing yourself in your destination. As summer heats up, consider the following apps to make your vacation memorable and hassle-free.
-- Isabel Eva Bohrer
Salk International LLC
OS reviewed: iOS
Other OSes: None
Alternatives: iFly Pro Airport Guide ($6.99) offers Android users details about more than 700 airports, including ground transportation options.
This niche app does one thing and does it well: It gives you information on how to get from an airport to the city center for numerous airports around the world.
The app lists airports by city name along with information about expected prices and travel times via various available options such as taxi, bus, train, car rental and even helicopter. It also indicates the distance from the city center to the airport and gives a link to the airport's website -- info that you could find yourself without much trouble but is still nice to have in one place.
The guide usually has a few airport-specific tips such as how to buy transport tickets (so you'll know when advanced purchase is cheaper than buying onboard) or how to make sure you're getting into an authorized taxi (which can be especially useful when traveling someplace where you don't speak the language).
The app pledges that listings are updated regularly, but it's still a good idea to double-check details. For example, the app gave parking rates at a suburban stop Boston's Logan Express bus as $11/day, although that fee was lowered to $7 in March. I suspect bus and train schedule frequencies change fairly often as well.
The interface is somewhat rudimentary, requiring you to look through an alphabetical list by beginning letter to find the airport of your choice. Surprisingly, there is no option to search by city name or airport code. And while the app is iPad-compatible, it's only iPhone-sized.
If you're a do-it-yourself traveler who's likely to find your own way between airport and destination, the Airport Transit Guide is an extremely handy app to have on your iOS device, even if the user interface could stand improvement.
-- Sharon Machlis
OS reviewed: Android
Alternatives: iPhone/iPad users can try the free app MetrO. After a predeparture download, MetrO will store information on more than 400 subway systems across the world.
aMetro allows you to download and view maps of public transit systems for 180 cities all over the world.
For additional information, such as which public transportation systems are covered in the map, you can click on the "Details" button. For example, the app's Moscow map includes information about its metro, train and waterbus (while the metro runs just within Moscow and its suburbs, the train takes you to other cities).
After you enter your station of departure and destination, the app estimates the shortest travel times. For London, Brussels, Moscow and St. Petersburg, the app will even find the station nearest to the user's location. It would be an additional plus if the app were synced with public transit to tell you when the next train will arrive.
Unfortunately, aMetro isn't as complete as it could be. For example, the Munich map only includes the U-Bahn (the subways); Munich residents would also know that fast trains (S-Bahn), trams, and buses are equally important to get around the Bavarian capital.
In addition, many of the maps are outdated. Thus, before you download a particular map, check when it was last updated; the date is listed when you click on Details.
All in all, aMetro is off to a good start, but it needs improvement. In the meantime, I recommend finding an app that caters specifically to your destination of choice, since it is more likely to have an updated public transportation map.
-- Isabel Eva Bohrer