The top 5 FREE travel apps for your Italy holiday

5 Best Free Mobile Apps to Use in Italy

Italy is a diverse, confusing, wondrous country where cutting-edge modernity and style live alongside the treasures and traditions of several thousand years of civilisation. With so much contrast, the Boot of Europe kicks up its fair share of travel challenges.

What do we mean? Well, English is spoken less commonly than in some other European countries. So even if you learn some Italian, the different dialects north to south mean this preparation can still strand you.

Further, some cities (such as the 9000-year old Matera), overbuilt again and again for eons, the resulting delightful hodgepodge of little alleyways and winding cobblestone streets can also mean finding the fastest way from A to B is a confusing headache.

So, give thanks to the digital gods for the convenience of the smartphone. Nowadays, great travel apps have made travelling through Italy so much easier.

Here are our top 5.

  1. Google Maps, but offline

There’s a reason this is probably the world’s most used travel app. It just works. However, most people think it requires you to have an active mobile data or Wi-Fi connection. Not so. You can download maps for entire cities and store them on your phone.

Yes, these downloaded maps are missing some features (such as bike routes) and are only valid for a few weeks (until Google’s next Maps update) but they’re still really useful. Be aware that downloading an entire city map can use around 1GB of data, so try to do it on unmonitored networks (such as the one in your hostel or hotel). The Download Area Map function is under the Options menu in Google Maps.

A further bonus is you don’t need to be connected to mobile data or Wi-Fi to find your location when you’re out and about and using on one of your downloaded maps. Your phone can usually triangulate your location based on the signal strength of the local mobile phone network – even if your phone isn’t connected to a phone carrier in that country. Your phone can also use the Wi-Fi networks it can detect (but not necessarily connect to) to fix your position. If both of these fail, you can always activate your PrePaid data SIM card for a few seconds and your current position should pop up.

Price: Free

Platform: Apple, Android, Windows

  1. izi.TRAVEL

Billed as ‘the storytelling platform’, izi.TRAVEL is a great way to explore Italian heritage and culture in a structured way. This globe-spanning platform of free audio guides features more than 100 guided walks and audio tours of Italian attractions. There’s quite a range: from archaeological discussions accompanying countryside walks, to a 21-stop lap of Venice, to more inventively narrated tours that play out like scavenger hunts.

In general though, guides follow interesting routes and pack in a lot of history. They tend towards being informative rather than entertaining. And fair enough, as the newest, latest and most exciting stuff tends to fade away fairly fast, while historical facts last longer – and in Italy that can be thousands of years!

Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

Platform: Apple, Android, Windows

  1. Hostelworld

Like the rest of Western Europe, Italy has a rock-solid backpacker hostel industry. There is so much variation in what a backpacker hostel can be – and we have stayed in some doozies. In both the good and bad sense. Hostelworld helps you figure out where to stay and where to avoid.

Looking for flashpacking? You can find it. Looking for privacy? It covers that too. Just looking for a basic bed? Yep. And if you are looking for the full communal backpacker experience – the sort of place from which life-changing pub crawls being – well, you can find that too. Oddly, despite how well this app works, it’s still in Beta – but then again, it might be one of those that is always in Beta.

As for comprehensive, it lists over 350 places to bed down in Rome alone! Each is profiled by price, room type and facilities. Crucially, the reviews section is also not the usual ghost town. A few hostels have thousands of testimonials.

Price: Free

Platform: Apple, Android

  1. Tripadvisor

It is the big daddy of travel apps for a reason. The volume of listings is colossal, the user base is massive, the reviews are pretty accurate and the info is good. Yes, TripAdvisor is everywhere and ranks just about everything – that’s why it is great and also a bit of a problem. See, it puts everything in a neat order, when in fact a good backpacking trip should be filled with shambolic spur-of-the-moment discoveries.

If you follow TripAdvisor to the letter, you end up having the same Italian holiday as everyone else. However, we’re including it in our list because when you need the easy answers for where to eat, where to stay and what to do in the tiny town you’re stuck in on a 5-hour coach trip layover, then TripAdvisor is golden.

If, on the other hand, you want to immerse yourself in local culture, go off the beaten path (to attractions that might not be listed anywhere near the top of the charts) and have unique experiences, well you wouldn’t use TripAdvisor until it all turns a bit south and you once again need reliable advice fast. So, choose it to help solve service industry problems, not to uncover hidden surprises.

Price: Free

Platform: Apple, Android, Windows

  1. WeTap

Bottled water is heavy. Bottled water is expensive. If only it came free out of a pipe… In terms of water on the go, Rome was a pioneer. In the 1870s around 2500 public drinking fountains – called ‘nasone’ or ‘fontanella’ –  were installed all around the city to provide cool, free and fresh water to the citizenry. They were popular then and have become part of everyday life for the locals now.

Better yet, the water these continually flowing stone fountains circulate is exactly the same as the clean and safe tap water you get from the city grid. There is a little trick in how to use them, but you’ll easily figure it out (or just watch the locals).

Best of all, using WeTap to find and fill up at the nasone near you will take you into new areas of the city and is far, far more romantic than dropping a few € into the vending machine at the nearest convenience store. Plus, it’ll save you a lot of money too, because Italy gets really hot in summer.

Price: Free

Platform: Apple, with Android soon to launch

Download and get out there

Now that you have our top 5 FREE apps for making your Italy holiday so much easier, you better get downloading.  Because, your smartphone will be a lifesaver when you are on the road. So, getting the most from it just makes sense. And remember, every app you have saves you from spending your precious data balance on internet searches, leaving you more space to upload photos or keep in contact with friends or check out the latest rumours about something cool happening later on wherever you happen to end up.

When planning your trip to Italy, check out our pre-paid SIM card for Italy and learn how to make the most of your pre-paid phone card. We hope you will enjoy your stay!

The Top 5 FREE Travel Apps for your Spain holiday

The Top 5 FREE Travel Apps for your Spain holiday

Spain is a lively, colourful and often delightfully confusing country. It’s double the size of the UK and includes far-flung destinations like the Canary Islands and Ceuta (which is actually in Africa!). The beaches are famous, the cities are famous, the nightlife is famous.

There are, however, are wealth of less noted aspects that deserve your attention: autumn leaves in the vast mountain forests; a head-spinning history as the crossroads of European, African and Middle Eastern culture; stunning art and museums… Spain even has its own royals who are, if anything, more fascinating than anyone living in Buckingham Palace (look up the Duchess of Alba!).

Inevitably, when the travel cliches collide with travel secrets in a country that has five official languages you’re going to need advice on the fly. And the apps on your phone can give it to you.

 

  • Using Google Maps offline

Like most European countries, the most interesting parts of Spain’s cities and towns are the oldest bits. Built centuries before urban planning rules, the charm of these districts is their tangle of boulevards, squares, streets, alleys and, sometimes,  passageways so narrow you cannot believe they are officially a “public road”. If getting lost is half the fun, finding your way out is half the headache. Google Maps offline is your painkiller.

Nope, you don’t need an active internet connection for Google Maps to function. Instead, you can download maps for entire areas and save them to your phone’s memory. A city will take up about 1GB. When Google Maps finds your location in one of these saved areas, it just uses the saved map. It still pinpoints you (through various non-data-using ways) and can calculate directions too.

Price: Free

Platform: Apple, Android, Windows

 

  • izi.TRAVEL

It calls itself a ‘storytelling platform’, but really izi.TRAVEL is a worldwide source of free audio guides – often compiled by locals who are enthusiastic about their burb. As much fun as it is to just randomly wander around a new place, having some structure helps you get the most from your time. And that’s what we like most about izi.TRAVEL – getting your bearings while also learning your way around.

Some of the best guides are a 23-stop dusk-till-dawn walking and public transport ramble through Barcelona and Madrid’s “Ruta dels Àustries” which is a straightforward way to hit the cultural highlights of the capital before ending at the exact geographical centre of the entire country.

These are just two of the 100-plus free audio tours for Spain that the app hosts. The guides generally follow interesting routes and pack in a lot of history. While there are things like spy quests and treasure hunts in there, most of the guides are more informative than entertaining.

Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

Platform: Apple, Android, Windows

 

  • Hostelworld

Spain has an excellent backpacker hostel sector and it’s a place where it really pays to book in advance. This means you need a good source of info, because almost by definition you’ll be paying for your bed sight unseen.

Because it is so popular as a destination and some Spanish hostels have an offhand approach to standards, there is definitely a minority of places to avoid. And Hostelworld gives you all the goss – good and bad.

It has deep filtering and search capabilities, so whether you’re looking for something clean but cheap or a place that is just like a hotel, but more fun, you can drill down to find it, compare it and book it through this great directory. It’s also very comprehensive, and has more than 140 listings for Barcelona alone!

Price: Free

Platform: Apple, Android

 

  • Tripadvisor

Billing itself as the world’s largest travel site, Tripadvisor is like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but for Earth and everything is rated by the crowd. Everything about TripAdvisor is big – the number of listings, the number of users, the number of reviews. It’s all super useful … up to a point. Because so many people are using it, the crowd-pleasing attractions tend to rise to the top.

Reducing travel experiences to a number that can be crunched by a website ranking function is handy, but also gives you the misapprehension that the ordering of attractions, hotels, etc really is as neat as they are presented. However, a good backpacking trip isn’t a neat thing. So, TripAdvisor keeps you out of trouble but doesn’t encourage the leaps of travel faith that make for great stories.

Every step you take informed by TripAdvisor is walked in someone else’s footsteps. But, for the easy answers for where to eat, where to stay and guidelines for what NOT to see and do wherever you are, TripAdvisor is a peach.

Price: Free

Platform: Apple, Android, Windows

 

  • Infomedusa

You’re going to Spain: you’re probably going to the beach. The Mediterranean sometimes feels like Ocean-lite. There are virtually no sharks, no waves and generally far fewer hazards than the actual ocean. However, the Med has one thing you might not be ready for: jellyfish! Over the past decade, swarms of the blobby stingers have been mobbing tourist beaches.

There are several kinds and while they are not the absurdly poisonous types found in Australian waters, an encounter with the worst of them, the mauve stinger jellyfish, can definitely ruin your outing.

Infomedusa can let you know whether there is a swarm near a range of 107 popular beaches up to three days in advance. Unfortunately, it is only available in Spanish as yet. It is simple enough to use regardless.

Price: Free

Platform: Apple and Android

Download and get out there

Now that you have our top 5 FREE apps for making your Spanish holiday so much easier, you better get downloading.  Because, your smartphone will be a lifesaver when you are on the road.

Every app you have saves you from spending your precious data balance on internet searches, therefore  leaving you more space to upload photos or keep in contact with friends or check out the latest rumours about something cool happening wherever you happen to be.

When planning your trip to Spain, check out our pre-paid SIM card for Spain and learn how to make the most of your pre-paid phone card. We hope you will enjoy your stay!

The 5 best smartphone apps for your London trip

The 5 best apps for your smartphone to make the Best of your London trip

Arriving in a foreign city can be a little overwhelming for some. Others feel comfortable from the moment they land and want to maximise their time.

Whatever type of traveller you are, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 mobile apps to download onto your smartphone on your next trip to London. From navigating the public transport system to finding a laundry valet service, these apps will make your London trip even more enjoyable.

We’ve personally used all these apps during London vacations and can attest to how much easier and enjoyable they made our time in the UK’s Number 1 destination.

#5: Laundrapp, the Uber for your laundry

 

If you’re travelling for more than a few days, it’s nice to be able to wash your clothes or get your shirts or blouses pressed. One great benefit of being able to do laundry when you travel is you don’t need to pack as much in the first place. But no one wants to pay the often exorbitant hotel laundry prices — some hotels might charge $5 just to launder a single t-shirt!

That’s where the Laundrapp app saves the day. Laundrapp gives you dry cleaning and laundry to your door. Download the app, create your account, book a collection, then Laundrapp will collect it from your London accommodation, Airbnb or hotel, professionally clean and press it, and then it’s all delivered back to you.

Think of it like Uber for your laundry! You can even watch in real-time as the driver is on approach to pick up and drop off your laundry.

Laundrapp best mobile app when travelling to London UK
Screenshot from the Laundrapp app for London

It’s an extremely flexible service and you can book a collection or delivery from early morning through to late in the night. The pricing is great value, and you get up to 6kg (13 pounds) of laundry washed, tumble dried and folded for just £12 (AU$21). If you just need your shirts or blouses pressed, then it’s just £12 for five men’s shirts washed, ironed and hung, and just £24 for five women’s blouses cleaned, hand-finished and hung.

Want a free £25 credit to use on Laundrapp? Just use the referral code MYUKSIM and you’ll automatically get a free £25 credit.

#4: Opentable, treat yourself to London’s top Michelin star restaurants for less

 

We love the Opentable app so much that we wrote an entire blog article about it already.  The Opentable app unlocks discounted specials at some of UK’s finest restaurants, including London’s top Michelin starred restaurants as well as celebrity restaurants, including those of Gordon Ramsay. We also used it a lot on our weekend in Manchester

Just download the Opentable mobile app, choose your dining time and the number of people, and the app will give you live availability at restaurants near your location. You’ll get to see any special offers available only for Opentable bookings. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at some of the great offers available, particularly at lunchtime. Paying half price is common!

Visit the website and get eating at some of London’s best restaurants.

 

Opentable best mobile app when travelling to London UK
Screenshot from the Opentable app for London

#3: Citymapper, your holy grail for navigating the London public transport system

 

London’s public transport system is one of the best in the world. The idea of owning a car is a foreign concept for many Londoners. With an efficient underground train system (called “The Tube”), an extensive bus network, as well as aboveground trains, getting anywhere in London (or in the UK) is fast and efficient.

We devoted an entire blog post to navigating the London public transport system so make sure to check it out. The ONLY app you need to download to get around London is the Citymapper app.  It’s free and you can download it from your phone’s app store.

Citymapper is the holy grail for navigating the London public transport system because it:

  • Gives you point-to-point detailed instructions, including your arrival time (and takes into account live traffic information)
  • Gives you a variety of options (just the Tube, Tube + Bus, walking etc)
  • Tells you the best train carriage to board so that you get the fastest exit or transfer at your destination.

You can save your “Home” location (e.g. your hotel or Airbnb) so you can just tap Home wherever you are looking for quick directions. This app is just awesom. We cannot speak highly enough about it.

 

Citymapper best mobile app when travelling to London UK
Annotated screenshot from the Citymapper App for London

#2: Uber, cheapest taxi fares in London

 

Right, you probably already know about Uber so we won’t go into too much detail. Suffice to say that using Uber is a great addition to using the London public transport system.

If you’ve not used Uber before, then it’s a must-download app for your London vacation. Uber fares are about 20% less than a traditional taxi in London, and your payment details are stored in the app, so when you get to your destination there’s no fumbling about with cash or cards.

Want a free ride when you first use Uber? Just download the app and enter the invite code nickb2423.

#1: Visit London, your new favourite list of best things to do and see in London

 

The Visit London app is your one-stop shop for London. It will help you get the most from your vacation, with handpicked lists of the best things to do and see, all viewable as a list or on a map. You can find free attractions, the best markets, cheap eats, weekend activities and secret venues.

It’s a customisable app and you can create your own personalised map and itineraries by saving all of your favourite things to see and do.  And you can save money and skip long lines by buying tickets for top West End theatre shows, famous attractions, comedy nights, gigs and more, all through the app.

One final tip: get a local UK SIM card and avoid expensive international roaming costs

 

Unless you’re a millionaire, the idea of using international roaming on your mobile phone is probably something you’re not contemplating. But all the apps above require data on the go, along with all those apps you’ll use to share your experiences with your family and friends back home.

Fortunately, you can now buy a prepaid UK SIM Card right here in Australia and have it shipped to you before you leave home.  UK Pre-Paid SIM Card offer a great value SIM Card with 12GB of high speed 4G LTE data, minutes and texts. And if you’re travelling through Europe too, the SIM Card works seamlessly in more than 30 European countries such as France, Spain, Italy and Germany.

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The five best alternative London attractions

London 5 alternative attractions - Wallace Collection

Big Ben, the Tower of LondonBuckingham Palace and so many more are the “must see” attractions in London. To be sure, you really must visit these on your London vacation. But do you want to also see some of the less famous attractions which perhaps have fewer crowds, but which are also very interesting? Keep reading to learn more!

Number 1: The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection is home to some of Europe’s finest collection of art, paintings, furniture and armour. It’s located just a stone’s throw from the Bond Street underground station (PS:  Read our blog about navigating the London public transport system). The Wallace Collection has more than 20 galleries, and entry is free.

The Wallace Collection, Londn

And the on-site restaurant is really good too for a pleasant lunch or afternoon tea.

The Wallace Collection, afternoon tea London

Number 2: The Emirates Air Line

No, not the fancy flash Middle Eastern Airline with its on-board shower, we’re talking about the Emirates Air Line which is a cable car link across the River Thames, opened in 2012. It connects North Greenwich (near the O2 Olympic Stadium) to Royal Victoria. Fares are just £3.50 each way for an adult and £1.70 for a child (and you can “tap on” using your Oyster card or contactless credit card). Whilst you’re there, pay a visit to the historic Royal Observatory to stand on the historic Prime Meridian.

The Emirates Air Line, London

Number 3: Lord’s Cricket Ground

You might not know much about the sport of cricket, but you should still visit the historic Lord’s Cricket Ground. This represents a truly esteemed British tradition, and the grounds have one of the oldest sports museums in the world. Just don’t go comparing cricket to baseball or you’re sure to offend the locals!

London Lord’s Cricket Ground

Number 4: Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club and Museum

If you love tennis, you’ve surely watched the players slog it out on center court at Wimbledon. Outside of the tournament weeks, the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club is open to the public. It’s open daily from 10am to 5pm. Take a guide tour and see the center court where so many hard fought victories and champions have been made. Then stroll through the museum and see some amazing memorabilia.

London Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club and Museum

Number 5: London’s Roman Amphitheatre

The city of London was under Roman rule for a fifth of its history. In 43AD the Romans established the city of Londinum and around 75AD they built a wooden amphitheatre, with the remains visible under Guildhall Galleries. And best of all, admission is free!

London’s Roman Amphitheatre

When planning your trip to London, check out our UK Sim Card and learn how to make the most of your pre-paid phone card.

Comment below and share with us your favourite London attraction!

 

Travelling to Europe this summer? Here are some great tips

Travelling to Europe?

A summer in Europe is a once-in-a-lifetime holiday for many people. The continent drips with history, culture and natural beauty – plus summer is harvest time and the excellent food is never better or fresher. Whether you have already booked your ticket or you’re simply dreaming of your next holiday, here are some great tips to get the most for your European summer. Continue reading “Travelling to Europe this summer? Here are some great tips”