Yellow Van Travels

Four Apps for Traveling in Europe

Even though we did not have any cell service while we were in Europe and only had intermittent wifi access, I still relied heavily on mobile apps to help with our experience while were there. In this post I’ll talk about some of the most useful ones.

Since internet at European hotels and hotspots is not always reliable it is best if you can download and prepare these apps before you leave home. Always open an app after you download it to make sure that any further downloads of maps or information is complete. This is also useful in making sure that the app actually works before you need it.

Google Translate:

Google Translate Icon

If there is only one app that you make sure you download and prepare before leaving make it this one. Unless you are fluent in the languages of all the countries you plan on visiting this will be an extremely useful app for you. You can of course put in a phrase and have it translated into the language of your choice, but since I have a very hard time with pronunciation I don’t find this particularly useful. What I do find awesome about this app is the camera feature which allows you to point the camera at any text and have it translated, in the picture, to the language of your choice.

This is extremely useful if you are in a country or area of a country that is less English friendly. You can simply point your phone’s camera a the sign and get a (sometimes rough) translation of it. Even though these are not perfect translations they are good enough to help you figure out the way you need to go.
The key is to make sure that you have each language you will need downloaded into your device before leaving the internet. Not every language is available for download but most of the major ones are and they are adding more with each update.

Rick Steves Audio Europe:

Rick Steves Audio Europe Icon

You can get audio guides at a lot of European locations, but they normally cost extra and have a robotic monotone translation voice. That’s not bad, but the Rick Steves app is free and Rick is a native English speaker, even if his jokes aren’t that funny. You can learn a lot from Rick but he doesn’t completely overwhelm you.

We highly suggest using Rick Steve’s audio Europe in the places he has audio tours available. Make sure that you download all the guides for places you are going to visit before you go. Be aware that some places (like Notre Dame in Paris) don’t have there own guides but are included in walking tour guides for an entire area.


Lonely Planet:

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This is one of the most popular travel apps in the last year and with good reason, it is a clean looking app that is easy to use. The app will give you lots of information on specific cities, unfortunately a lot of cities, even major ones, haven’t been added yet, but I know that more are coming. I used it when we were in Paris and Venice.

Each city guide contains a map that will show your GPS location and points of interest in the city. You can filter these by different categories, and when you click on one you can find useful information about it. When Rick Steves guide wasn’t available I often used this app to get a good English overview of site.

Google Maps:

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This one probably seems like a no-brainer to some of you, but I know there are still a lot of people that don’t realize they can download offline maps from Google Maps. This means that even if you don’t have data available it will still be a very useful app as long as you remember to download them before you go.

Simply go to the area you want to download on the map, zoom out to the appropriate level, tap on the menu icon and choose “Offline Areas”. You can then tap the blue + icon to add download the area. While offline you won’t be able to get turn by turn directions but you will be able to view the map and find you way.