We’ve been asked on different occasions how we get around using public transportation in new places or how we communicate when there is a language barrier, etc. It’s pretty much second-nature to us now, but we’d like to share a few helpful websites and apps that we used a lot on our Twelve Countries trip.
We use Google Maps everywhere we go. The only place where it was almost completely useless to us (but still of some value) was Taiwan. The characters were so hard to try and figure out, we just got really good at memorizing how to get places. Google Maps gives you the option of seeing routes with public transportation, and in our experience, this has been the most updated information than any other site. Even the public bus websites were out of date on several occasions. We also love the “Save” or “Star” the location feature. We always star our home base, the local grocery store, closest train/bus station, and points of interest (library, playground, thrift stores, restaurants, markets, sights, etc). This makes it really easy to plan an entire day out and about because we can just click on a star and route to the location, no need to type in the address every time or even look in the recent history.
Even in Taiwan, this Google Translate proved to be at least somewhat useful. We could type whatever we needed in English and then show someone the Chinese characters on the screen–it saved us a lot! It’s also nice at the grocery store when we’re looking for certain things but we don’t know what the translation is. We can type it in in English and see and/or hear it in the language we’ve selected. Google Translate is also nice because you can download a language dictionary and then you’re able to use it without internet.
Google Voice is how we text people back home. As long as we have internet, we can send and receive texts from anyone in the states at no cost. This has been nice for us because we haven’t had to change our phone number for family and friends and we can still keep them updated with all the little things when necessary.
We use WhatsApp to communicate or keep in contact with the people we’ve met through our travels. You sign up with one phone number, and as long as you have internet, you can send and receive text messages to anyone who also has a WhatsApp account. This has been a great way for us to save on limited texts with our phone plans and also keep in contact with people from previous countries.
AirBnB.com is probably the website we frequent the most. We use this site to find all of our accommodations. We’ve used it in every country we’ve been in and we plan to continue to use it through the rest of our trip. The site is easy to navigate and we can save “Wish List” accommodations to reference days or weeks later if needed. We’re also able to communicate directly with hosts through the website to ask more questions and see if the accommodation is fitting for our family and our situation.
We use Mint.com for our budgeting. Some people like it, others don’t, but it works very well for us. We’re able to link our accounts to the website and it pulls all the information into one place. We can then set specific amounts for different categories and it lets us know if we’re staying under our budget as well as gives warnings when we get close or go over the amounts. We’re also able to categorize all of our purchases so we can see exactly how much we’re spending in each category.
Well there you have it, our go-to websites and apps. There are plenty others that have been great in certain countries and not so useful in others as well as some we’ve tinkered with, but they haven’t out-performed the ones we love. Do you have any websites or apps that have been helpful as you’ve traveled or budgeted?