5 Essential Travel Apps for the Practical Traveller
Uber is shaking up the taxi industry all over the world, Singapore included. It's not difficult to see why. The app allows you to book a private car painlessly through its smartphone app -- simply enter your pickup address and it'll connect you to a driver. Once a ride is confirmed, the app displays the car plate no, the driver's photo and an option to call or message him. Depending on the city, there are several categories of cars. In Singapore, there's UberExec for luxury rides (think Porsches and Mercs) and UberX, which offer mid-tier cars at rates comparable to local cabs. On a recent trip to London, where taxis are notoriously expensive and the London underground is a pain to navigate when you're ladened with luggage, I booked an UberX car when I needed to transfer hotels. It didn't cost me an arm and a leg, and the car was comfortable and clean. What I like best about Uber is that it's cashless, all you need is a credit or debit card that's kept on file. When driver indicates that you've completed your ride, your card will be charged and you will receive a receipt via email. Bonus: In cities where tipping is the norm, Uber rids the stress of calculating a tip. The service is in 70 cities and 45 countries with many more in the pipeline. If you'd like to try it out, use my code HD9VH, which will give you $10 credit (disclaimer: I get $10 too).
I've been using Worldmate for a couple of years now and it hasn't let me down. It's an essential trip companion that organises my travel information from flight itineraries to hotel bookings in a clean and neat way. No more fumbling with a stack of printouts and searching through emails. Before every trip, I forward my e-tickets and hotel bookings to firstname.lastname@example.org and it immediately updates my app. it also reminds me when my flight online check-in window is open, notifies me if there are amendments or delays in flight times (alerts are available only in the paid Gold version) and indicates which baggage belt to head towards after I touch down. It has other features like weather alerts, currency converter and a booking engine for hotels and cars. For business travelers, it also notifies you if your LinkedIn contacts are in the same city as you are, if you like serendipitous networking.
I have a terrible travel trait -- once my Singapore dollars are converted to foreign currency, I lose all track of my spending. Before long, I have two days left on the trip and already busted my budget. That's where Toshl comes in. A personal finance manager and expense tracker, Toshl stands out from many other similar apps because it allows you to apply multiple tags to each expense. For example, if I grab lunch at a cafe in Paris, I'd tag my expense with "Paris" and "meals". Later, I'd just bring up whichever tag I want, to check my spending in that category. Toshl also lets you record expenses in a foreign currency and immediately converts it to your home currency, so you know exactly how much you're shelling out for that plate of steak frites.
4. Award Wallet
If you're a person who takes great pleasure seeing your frequent flyer miles accrue like how Scrooge McDuck dives into cash, Award Wallet is your vault. The app syncs with over 600 travel loyalty programmes that include most Star Alliance, One World and independent airlines mileage banks, hotel rewards programmes like Starwood Preferred Guest and Hilton Rewards, as well as online hotel booking sites like Agoda and Hotels.com. Furthermore, if you have bookings with any service provider, the app automatically syncs your travel plans. The feature isn't as full-featured as WorldMate's, but it does a decent job of keeping track of your itineraries.
5. Opera Max (Beta)
Whether you choose to data roam or use a local sim card when you travel, conserving data usage can help you save a lot of cash or at least maximise your data plan. If you're already a fan of Opera Mini, a mobile browser that compresses images and files to much smaller sizes before loading them, then Opera Max is an app that needs to be on your phone. Although it's only in limited release at the moment, the data-savings app promises to compress all files including image and video without significant quality degradation. It also tracks your phone activity to alert you when an app is secretly hogging your date and automatically blocks chosen apps from accessing mobile data, restricting them to WiFi only. Sign up here to be notifed when it's available in your region (unfortunately, its available only on Android for now).