Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 June 2019

Download and go: 12 of the best apps for travel

While there are now hundreds of travel apps available, some are better than others for usability, security, data usage and storage.

While the search hasn’t changed much, the way in which we navigate around has. Courtesy ekar
While the search hasn’t changed much, the way in which we navigate around has. Courtesy ekar

Remember the days when carrying around guidebooks and printed maps was the norm? Spotting tourists was easy, standing there on the street corner of a bustling international metropolis, trying to navigate their way around the city with that oversized map and looking for those all-important landmarks. While the search hasn’t changed much, the way in which we navigate around has thanks to the digital revolution, including the monumental growth of apps and the compact convenience they offer. If you’re planning a trip over the festive season or making the most of the National Day long weekend, here are a few suggested apps you should have on your phone before and during your travels. Because space is always an issue when travelling, this list is not data or space intensive.


The Kayak app is a good one for finding cheap flights, but it also doubles up as a car rental and hotels portal, if that’s what you’re looking for. It keeps a record of your price history, so you can gauge when to go ahead and make the booking, or when you should wait and watch. This app also helps you make smart choices – you will no longer need to take the red eye, if there is a later flight that costs the same. Two other useful tools that Kayak offers include a currency converter and a packing list.


It’s hard to believe that Booking.com has been around for more than 20 years. Its website is a great platform for booking a dream holiday at affordable prices, but it can be quite overwhelming at times too. While the app has the potential to feel the same, the experience is quite the opposite. Its price match option is a big bonus. For business trips or quick weekend excursions to places that don’t have a wide Airbnb offering, Booking.com is the solution. iPhone owners who use iMessage may have noticed on the latest update that their “app-drawer” will now feature some of their downloaded travel apps for ease of booking.


Airbnb will be celebrating its 10th birthday next year. It’s no surprise that it was the most downloaded app in September this year. The company has had its fair share of problems, but it cannot be denied that it has revolutionised the way in which travellers go in search of alternative, affordable, comfortable and somewhat homely accommodation in new cities. It is positioned perfectly between expensive hotels and an uncomfortable couch surfing experience.

Logo of PackPoint. Courtesy PackPoint
Logo of PackPoint. Courtesy PackPoint


Last minute packers, or those who overpack in fear or being too hot or too cold will enjoy this one. After downloading the app, simply input your destination, dates and activities, and just like that your list of items to pack is generated. Once you’ve laid them out or packed them into your suitcase, you can tick them off your list, knowing you are all sorted. There’s a weather forecast feature available as well. And for those travelling in a group, you can share your list with your friends and family too.


Cutting back on unnecessary printouts or those who simply aren’t obsessed with printing out and filing itineraries will get a lot out of using TripIt – especially if you are one of those travellers who gets to the check-in counter or the hotel reception with nothing. This app works very well in that you can input all your travel details in one place, and pull it up as and when you need it. You can set up an auto-import from your e-mails, or you can manually add the details in if you’re more concerned about security. If you upgrade to the pro version, you can get flight status alerts, check-in reminders or see its interactive airport maps. Push notifications will work well for those who travel a lot for work or for those on sabbatical.


Once you’ve got through the immigration queue and are finally on the plane to your destination, take this time to treat yourself and binge watch your favourite shows. Depending on your carrier, the in-flight entertainment catalogue is usually comprehensive, but if you’ve found yourself addicted to show on Netflix, get the app and download all the episodes before you fly.


— Make sure the episodes or movie has downloaded properly before you leave.

Ensure you have enough space on your device.

— Familiarise yourself with the Netflix menu items and where to find your content.

— If you’re concerned about space, then it is best you delete episodes once you have finished watching them.

White Noise

Planes are noisy at the best of times, but if you really just want to zone out and enjoy some quiet time, the White Noise app is highly recommended. Some of the sounds you can enjoy include thunderstorm, ocean sounds, as well as sounds from Tibet and from the Amazon. You can use this at home as well, or in the office, especially if you are reminiscing about your recent trip to the beautiful beaches of Bazaruto. This app costs Dh3.64.

Logo of ekar. Courtesy ekar.
Logo of ekar. Courtesy ekar.


This is an app that is still relatively new to the UAE market, but much like the Citi Bike, New York’s bike sharing system, this is a convenient and easy-to-use car sharing service for those wanting to drive, or who want to avoid the blistering heat or the icy winters up north. ekars are parked at central and accessible places, and it is easy for both residents and tourists to use. The company recently partnered with Volkswagen, which will see the fleet increasing by up to 300 in Dubai soon.

When in doubt, Google it … with Maps, Translate or Converter

Google really has a good grasp of everything related to travel, mainly thanks to the navigational capacity of Maps. Its Google Trips app, which is available in 7 different languages, includes maps (both on and offline) and a handy currency converter all in one.

Reviews and experiences by those in your network or from perfect strangers provide a great way to experience the places you want to visit. In Google’s case, it has a feature called Local Guides, which you can follow through Maps. Much like apps such as Zomato (which is equally as good), Local Guides has good reviews and pictures of restaurants in the area you find yourself exploring. It also has pictures and reviews of popular tourist spots as well.

Logo of Cool Cousin. Courtesy Cool Cousin
Logo of Cool Cousin. Courtesy Cool Cousin

Cool Cousin

If you’ve visited a city before, chances are you’ve done a lot of the touristy things, but have you lived like a local? Some people believe that is the best way to see and experience a city, and that’s where an app like Cool Cousin comes in handy. This is how the company describes itself: “Cool Cousin is the easiest and funnest way to find unique places you’ll love in cities around the world.” The company operates in 45 cities right now, but next year, it will increase that number significantly, and Dubai and Abu Dhabi will be on that list as well. In fact, the app is already mapping out its activities, so keep an eye on that. It is currently only available on iTunes, but their Android version will launch next year.


Not quite a linguist? The basics can only help you to a certain extent, but it isn’t going to get you far in the eastern parts of the world or in a traditional restaurant in Argentina. So it’s always handy to have a translation app in the event of you getting lost or stuck. There are a whole host of apps on offer, but this one can instantly translate over 100 languages. You can also choose a male or a female voice and switch dialects too. Their new addition is called Converse, which is currently available only for iPhone users. It enables you to pre-select your languages, speak into the microphone and have an instant conversation. Android will roll out in the near future.

Have Halal, Will Travel

This app helps Muslim travellers find halal restaurants and places to pray while travelling to foreign destinations in Asia, Australasia and Europe. This is helped by the use of interactive maps, and the places included in the app have been personally rated and curated by those on the team. They’re adding cities all the time, and they’re also making it a lot easier for Muslim travellers to find the perfect place through the use of a series of icons.


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Updated: November 1, 2017 11:50 AM