Top smartphone travel apps

Baggage weight restrictions are the bane of many international travelers, but you can eliminate 5 kilograms from your bags by replacing those bulky travel guides with travel apps on your smartphone or tablet.

There's a whole host of travel apps that have been designed to make your life easier while on the road, from helping you find words to communicate with locals, to ordering food, finding streets, making a last minute reservation for a room or simply locating a nearby restroom when you need it most.

Here are a few of the better travel apps for iPhones and BlackBerrys:

* Where is a free application for iPhones, iPads, Androids and Blackberrys that helps you find nearby points of interest on the map -- similar to Google Maps. Simply enter your location and what you want to find and Where will pinpoint nearby coffee shops, car rental services, gas stations, parking areas or whatever else you want to find, including time specific events such as festivals, carnivals and markets. It also now has a Check-In feature similar to Foursquare or Facebook Places, so you can log your progress around the world online.

IN PICTURES: 10 essential BlackBerry apps for travel

* LocoTrivia is a free iPhone application that will come in handy for killing time while waiting for delayed trains and planes -- as well as teaching you about the places you visit. LocoTrivia locates where you are in the world and then presents you with trivia questions related to the area nearby, so if you're in New York, you'll get questions about the five boroughs, and so forth. Cheaper than a local guide!

* CurCon Currency Converter ($0.99) is an iPhone app that does the math for you when converting currencies, and is regularly updated with current exchange rates, so you don't have to worry about working out how much that souvenir or cab fare actually costs in dollars.

* Babellingo ($1.99) is an iPhone app that contains more than 300 of the most-used words and phrases in 11 languages -- including all the major European languages, as well as Hindi, Japanese and Chinese. Simply type in the phrase you need translated and the language required and it will translate it for you. Best of all, the phrases have been translated by professional linguists, so you don't need to worry about accidentally saying something foolish or insulting, and it works without a network connection.

If you're traveling farther afield and want a wider selection of languages, you can opt for the pricier Travel Interpreter ($9.99), an iPhone app that contains more than 2,100 words and useful phrases in 24 languages. Handily, Travel Interpreter also includes audio versions of each phrase spoken by native speakers, so if you're not confident of your pronunciation, you can let the app do the talking for you.

* Flight Track ($10) is an iPhone app that helps you track down international flight schedules prior to departure, so you can find out ahead of time if there are any delays or cancellations and avoid wasting time in airport departure lounges.

* Urbanspoon is a free application for BlackBerrys and iPhones designed for hungry travelers in cities in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia. Simply pick your city and it will give you a list of restaurants in the area, from fine dining to cheap eats, accompanied by published reviews, menus, contact details, map directions and everything else you need to pick a top chow spot.

* SitOrSquat is a free BlackBerry app that could be a lifesaver if you find yourself caught short in a foreign land. With nearly 100,000 public toilets recorded worldwide (and more listed every day), SitOrSquat has a nearby restroom for just about everywhere on the planet.

* TripCase ($4.99) gives BlackBerry uses access to the information stores of a host of travel websites, such as www.travelocity.com, to help you centralize all the travel info you need, from flight and train schedules to hotel reviews, photos and booking information, car rental services, nearby attractions and so forth. You can also use the app to post your travel updates across a range of social networks.

* Using your hands and smiling politely may help you to order a coffee or a sandwich in a foreign country, but when it comes to more complex interactions you'll likely need assistance. Navita Translator ($5.99) is a clever BlackBerry app that not only gives you the words, but will also speak them for you, in languages such as Spanish, Russian, French, German or Italian.

* Last, but not least, WorldMate ($14.50) is described as the "Swiss Army Knife" of BlackBerry travel apps -- except you can take this one onboard planes. It can help you find a bed for the night, track flights, locate car rental services and weather forecasts and more, including a feature that gives you reminders and greets you when you arrive in a new place -- so even if you're traveling alone, you still have a reliable companion.

There are many other travel-related apps out there, but these ones should get you started, and help you save room in your bags for more important items -- like souvenirs and duty-free perfume and liquor.

Arno is managing director of Lingo24, a professional translation company that specializes in website localization. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has more than 130 employees spanning four continents and clients in more than 60 countries.

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This story, "Top smartphone travel apps" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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