Let’s start this month with an essential type of app when you’re travelling abroad: a currency converter.
One of the most popular is XE Currency, which is free, and available for iPhone and Android. It gets live exchange rates from the internet when it can, or it uses the last rate it was able to get if you’re offline.
Unfortunately, most currency apps give you the exchange rates that banks themselves use, rather than the actual rates you’ll get as a tourist, so after you’ve done the conversion it’s best to think of everything as actually a little bit more expensive than the app is showing you.
The XE Currency app isn’t the easiest app in the world to use when you first get it, but it’s straightforward once you’ve figured it out. (It tries to get you to sign up for an account, but you can click a No Thanks link at the bottom to get rid of that!)
You can then convert euros to pounds, pounds to euros, or whatever else you fancy.
The app can also show you a currency chart of the pound vs. the euro, so you can guess whether the exchange rate is about to get better or worse! (Let’s not kid ourselves here, it’s a guess!)
When you’re abroad, here’s a tip to avoid extortionate data roaming fees. Load up your currency converter app when you’re in your hotel on wi-fi, let it get the latest exchange rates, then set your phone to aeroplane mode and use those exchange rates while you’re out and about for the day.
If you’re on the iPhone and you want a slightly simpler and easier to use currency converter app, try Currency.
Google Translate – foreign language translation
Moving on to look at another essential app, you don’t want to be without Google Translate. It’s free for iPhone or Android, and covers all the European languages you are likely to encounter.
The most common and useful way to use the app is to type in a word or a short phrase in the foreign language and have it converted to English. This is useful for reading signs and menus.
If you click the speaker icon, the app will pronounce foreign words to you, which can be very useful. Although it uses a computer-generated voice rather than recordings of real people, it’s still quite an accurate guide.
You can even hover your camera over a word, and the app will read the foreign text and translate it to English. At least, in theory you can do that – in practice this doesn’t usually work very reliably! But give it time, and it will get better; when it does work it’s pretty impressive though.
Since you will probably need to use Google Translate in places where you don’t have internet signal, you can go to the settings in the app and download a language. So if you’re going to Germany you can download the German language when you’ve got wi-fi, and then the app will still work when your phone isn’t connected to the internet.
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