Are you a traveller or a tourist? Where do we draw the line? Or rather, who draws that line? This curatorial role used to be the sole preserve of travel magazines and guidebooks. If you’d done your research before that trip to Thailand after reading those things, you were a traveller. Else, you were a tourist, part of a headless herd looking for good deals and ghar ka khana. However tenuous, that divide still holds true. But as both increasingly turn online for that great tip or cheap flight, how do you sift through all that digital data out there? Enter the travel app. At the touch of a finger, you can now get live currency conversions (XECurrency), choose the cheapest hotel or flight (TripAdvisor), make point-to-point itineraries (Rome2Rio) or speak the local language anywhere you go (DuoLingo). Soon, there’ll also be an app called Access Earth, a sort of TripAdvisor for persons with disability. For now, here’s a list of five travel apps that are changing the way we travel (or, um, tour).
- PeakFinder Earth
Remember the times you were gazing at some Himalayan panorama from some fantastic vantage, awed and confused by the jumble of great peaks? Well, turn on the app, focus the phone camera on the view, and you get a silhouette map, each peak neatly labelled. Click on the view to zoom or get info on any peak. For hilly areas with poor connectivity, download and store region-specific views from a global database of over 2.5 lakh peaks to summon up offline. No more arguments with some officious uncle on whether you’re looking at Chaukhamba or Nanda Devi! Available for iOS and Android.
This is an app that encourages you to fearlessly explore cities on your own. With a current database of 40 cities from around the world (no Indian cities yet, alas!), Citymapper will give you detailed bus routes, transit points from, say, buses to subway, or points where you can rent a taxi or a bike. Type in your starting point and then the destination you want to reach, and you’ll be given every possible transit option, estimated time taken, stops in between, and the bus or train number that gets you there. What’s more, the list of cities is constantly being added to. Available for iOS and Android.
Are you the sort that takes a trunk full of fancy clothes to Italy, for, well, you’re going to Italy? Or are you the kind who throws random items into a backpack just before you leave and then spends the rest of the trip cursing yourself? Well, PackPoint is for you all. Enter your destination, dates of travel and what you want to do. PackPoint will find out the kind of weather you’ll encounter, assess the activities, tally the number of days and make a precise packing list, down to the number of socks you’ll need. It’s like travelling with your mother without travelling with your mother! Available for iOS and Android.
There’s a word this app loves to use: automagic. Corny, yes, but the ease it brings to making itineraries is quite a trick. Tripit accesses your e-mail accounts, looks for confirmations of hotel and flight bookings, and makes you a foolproof itinerary. Especially good for business travel, it gives you all the details you need from your bookings, so you know you’re not running late for a meeting. If you’ve a flight and a hotel booking on the same day, Tripit will create line items like maps for the transit that you can edit anytime. On Tripit Pro, you also get notifications on flight delays or group itineraries. Available for iOS and Android.
If your fondest dream is driving down that open road and your worst nightmare is that you’ll run out of petrol, then this app is for you. You can locate your nearest petrol pump and check the current prices of the fuel of your choice. Especially useful for long drives to remote areas, the app tells you the location of the nearest pump by price or by distance. With a database of over 60 million users to draw from, you can be assured of getting the most up-to-date information. It’s a participative community, so you can enter the fuel prices at a pump that you’ve just visited. Available for iOS and Android.
(The writer is Web Editor, Outlook Traveller)