You can barely get through one day at home without checking your phone 100 times, so you can bet your apps will be among your most vital tools during your student travel journey.
Imagine this scenario: You agree to have dinner with your new friends, you lock in the best reservation, find out the fastest route, check to see if it’s going to rain on your way and then doublecheck your bank account to make sure you can cover your part of the check. Every one of those actions requires an app. But students’ go-to apps in the U.S. may not be available in their study abroad city. Don’t worry – we’ve got travel app recommendations.
From the obvious (free travel apps like Google Maps and WhatsApp) to the niche, here are 35 of the best apps to travel with every student must know about before studying abroad.
No matter how much time you invest in learning the local language before you travel, you’re going to get stuck in some awkward situations. The easiest way out of those language binds is the Google Translate app (or another translation app, if you’re picky about product or brand). Save yourself some time and put the Google Translate app on your mobile device’s home screen now, so you’re ready to speak through it or type into it at a moment’s notice.
It’s a sign of respect to know the basics of the local language, and many locals will be nicer to you if you show the effort – especially at places you expect to visit multiple times throughout your stay. Having Google Translate or a similar app at the ready when your unsure what to say next is the next best thing to being fluent.
Sure, you probably already know about WhatsApp. And maybe it’s already your go-to messaging app. But the reason it’s so high on this travel apps list is the cost savings for international students.
WiFi should be readily available if you’re traveling through cities in Western Europe and Asia, so connecting to WhatsApp at a café or your in student housing will give you unlimited access to staying in touch with friends and family back home while also not having to pay those international data rates. And when you do need to use data, WhatsApp keeps that usage minimal by compressing the photos and video you share with and receive from others.
Invest in a low-cost VPN
You’re going to want the digital convenience of home, even when you’re sitting in a plaza in Paris, Pisa or Phuket. Unfortunately, many of those digital subscriptions from your home country won’t work via an internet connection across borders (especially entertainment streamers like Netflix, Max, Hulu, etc.). However, locking in a low-cost virtual private network (VPN) subscription – SurfShark, NordVPN and others are less than $4/month when purchased annually and often have 30-day free trials – should get you around many of those issues and provide a layer of security and anonymity while you use your other travel apps.
You’re going to want a great restaurant app
If you’re coming from the U.S., you probably already have Yelp, OpenTable or something similar on your mobile device. And while those are great travel apps in North America, they may not do you as much good when making restaurant reservations while studying abroad. The good news is there’s likely a great travel app option (or three) for the region where you’re studying abroad. Here’s a quick look at some go-to travel apps for restaurants based on where they work best:
TheFork may be your optimal travel app for restaurant reservations in Western Europe. You can book tables, find instant dining deals and even earn points through the app toward future discounts.
Eatigo is the top travel app for restaurant reservations in Southeast Asia, with a near-perfect rating in Apple’s App Store (as of 2023) to back that claim up.
For the vegans
HappyCow has the skinny on vegan and gluten-free restaurants, grocery stores and shops in over 180 countries. It’s the travel app you can use back home, too.
For joining others for a special experience
EatWith links you with locals wherever you’re staying for food and drink events. You could end up at a private chef’s table, an elaborate dinner in someone’s home, food tours or a series of exclusive wine tastings. There aren’t many travel apps that can create an organic experience like this.
For staying in the moment
Jetzy is an in-the-moment location-based travel app that connects you with other travelers through it’s feed to share experiences and recommendations or even meet up for a meal or your next adventure.
And don’t forget a good delivery app
Your go-to food delivery app will depend on which region you’re in. Students studying abroad in Europe will find a few popular U.S. apps like GrubHub and UberEats have taken some market share from the more dominant apps like Glovo and Deliveroo. In Latin America, Rappi has dominated the market for a while, though there’s no shortage of competitors. In Asia, Zomato has been a dominant player (especially in India), while Grab is a super app for both food delivery and ridesharing. The bottom line: you’ll probably need to shop around and read the reviews before finding the delivery app you rely on for your stay.
Take time to download a premium weather app
While your phone certainly has a default weather app, we recommend going with the free version of a more premium application while you’re studying abroad for the most reliable data (because knowing if it’s going to rain in five minutes or 15 minutes could be the difference between walking across town or taking the bus and avoiding getting soaked). There are three consensus leaders, and any should get you by: The Weather Channel app, Weather Underground and AccuWeather. All three have a free version – though prepare to get hit with a lot of ads – so there’s no harm in taking a few minutes to download them all and see which interface and features you like best.
Transportation apps for after you’ve arrived
The flight over is just the first part of the journey. You’re going to want to spend time researching and downloading the top apps for getting around locally – public transit, rideshare and taxi apps and train apps at a minimum, along with finding cheap flights – as they’re going to differ significantly from city to city. Here are a few go-tos, based on region:
Trainline, RailEurope and Omio will all allow you to book with most European countries’ train lines, as opposed to juggling multiple in-country apps as needed. Look to invest in a railpass – depending on which countries you’re traveling between – to save money.
European rideshare and taxis
We recommend conducting country by country research here. However, FreeNow is a great option for when you need a taxi in major European cities. Uber is still a popular rideshare option in Europe, though they’re not nearly as ubiquitous as in the United States.
Asian rideshare and taxis
Super app Grab is the go-to in Southeast Asia, and also operates in Japan.
Students who are old enough to rent a car will find familiar names like Hertz, Budget and others in many cities across the globe. Assuming you’re not renting in advance, our advice is to download your preferred car rental app before you travel and do a quick search in the cities you’re visiting to see if they operate there.
An all-in-one travel app
The most helpful travel apps don’t have to be specific. There’s always that travel need you don’t expect, whether that’s finding a hotel room for a last-second trip or searching the cheapest flights to back to your host country after your other travel plans have gone sideways. Downloading an all-in-one travel app like Kayak or Expedia could turn out to be clutch.
Let a map app be your guide
It’d almost be weird if you didn’t have Google Maps on your phone at this point. Unquestionably one of the best free travel apps of all time, Google Maps is an even more powerful when visiting in a city you’re unfamiliar with, as it integrates with public transit and some rideshare apps to give you more confidence as you move around. Great for iPhone and Android users alike, Google Maps lets you download offline maps to use when you’re away from WiFi or out of network range. That means you can still find your way back, whether you’re on a meandering road trip or lost down a city side street. If you want something that’s even better integrated with the local travel scene, Citymapper – which has great coverage from Sydney to Seoul to Sao Paulo – has detailed commuting options and is worth trying out. These types of apps will be lifelines if you intend on traveling frequently during your study abroad adventure.
Keep up with the local news – or at least the alerts
Just because you’re studying abroad doesn’t mean the world is going to stop. Do two minutes of research and then download the free version of your host country’s most trusted news app(s) to make sure you don’t miss any major local or global events. And while we hope this doesn’t happen during your stay, getting notifications of major news events may help you avoid a horrible outcome should you find yourself in an unsafe situation.
An app for staying organized
Whether you’re a KANBAN fan or more of a list maker, you’ll get the most out of your student travel experience if you plan ahead and stay organized. When it comes to travel-specific apps, TripIt is clutch for keeping everything in one place. If you’re thinking bigger picture – like a “how do I organize every second of my life?”-level of detail – we’re big fans of Evernote.
It’s worth adding an exchange rate app
If you’re living on a budget while studying abroad – and thinking in terms of dollars for when you get back home – an exchange rate app can be handy. Xe Currency Converter fits the bill, pun intended. It provides current exchange rates for over 130 countries and will also allow you to send and receive money in over 100 currencies. Bonus tip: When it comes to sending money, the popular U.S. app PayPal supports 25 currencies, including the euro, pound and yen.
Don’t forget to download your banking and credit card apps (and check them daily)
You’re going to want to check your banking app daily over a secure connection while studying abroad, as any fraudulent charges could put you in a major bind. Pro tip: Use your credit card instead of your debit card everywhere you can, as fraudulent credit card charges there won’t cost you any in-the-moment access to cash.