When you're on vacation, splurging on travel guides and tour groups can be a great way to see the sights, but there are also many free apps and podcasts out there that can get you all of the same info without the extra costs. Here are a few options that can save you some cash.
If you're a traveler who likes a little spontaneity, Triposo is a handy app that features over 25,000 destinations worldwide. Not only does it provide you with your standard hotel, restaurant and activity options, it also gives you smart, personalized suggestions about where to go and what to do.
Weather, location and business hours of local attractions are all factored into your recommendations, so you'll be able to make quick decisions on the spot. There's even an option to download your info before you travel, so you won't even need an internet connection to access your guide.
For those of you who want to learn a few things that aren't in a typical guidebook, check out the podcasts from Amateur Traveler, a site that focuses on some of the best places to travel across the world.
Each episode features an interview with either a destination expert, a local resident, or recent visitors. You'll learn travel tips and hear first-hand accounts about what to see, what to avoid and, most importantly, how to save money.
So before you drop those dollars on walking tours and guide books, check out these options first. You can still enjoy the sights without spending big.
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Most major airports have mass transportation options directly downtown, but if you're jet-lagged or caffeine-deprived, or don't speak the language, it might be tempting to take your chances with an airport taxi. Beware: Travelers who have received the runaround -- and the meter run-up -- know that this can be an expensive option.
HopStop offers schedules, maps, and trip planners for transit systems in the U.S., Europe, and Canada, making hopping a train downtown in a strange city as easy as riding your hometown rail.
Perfect for: People who aren't entirely sure where they're going, but are pretty sure this isn't it.
Available for: iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows, Mobile Web
It's hard to believe that there are airports, restaurants, and cafes that still charge for Wi-Fi. And few things are more annoying than paying an outrageous fee for a few minutes' access, only to discover a free hot spot nearby.
Avoid the head slap by downloading the Wi-Fi Finder app, with its database of free and paid hot spots in 144 countries. And because an app that finds Wi-Fi is useless if it's only available online, Wi-Fi Finder includes a downloadable database that can be used anytime.
Perfect for: Those who think paying for Wi-Fi is ridiculous (i.e. everyone).
Available for: iPhone, Android
So Fodor's Travel Phrases app won't help you order coffee in Swahili, but it will help you make nice in Chinese, Croatian, Arabic, and 19 other languages (including Swahili).
The free starter app is designed to give users an overview of Fodor's (paid) language apps, but works nicely on its own as a crash course. Even in areas where English is a widely spoken second or third language, mastering basic salutations will go a long way. Want to dive in deeper? Supplement with free podcasts from a variety of providers, or bite the bullet and buy the full Fodor's language app.
Perfect for: Anyone who's ever learned to say, "I'm sorry, I don't speak..." in seven languages, and thoroughly confused the locals.
Available for: iPhone, iPad, Android
Who doesn't love a good travel guidebook? The pretty pictures, the neighborhood descriptions, the guides to the sites. Of course, they're also bulky, and can add extra weight (and costs) to your luggage. Plus, burying your nose in one in public immediately identifies you as a tourist (and potential target) while traveling.
Before dropping dollars or euros on a decent guidebook, check out your destination's tourism board. The city of London offers an official tourism app, and downloadable Tube maps abound, all for free. Switzerland Tourism offers not one, but 12 free apps covering every major city, an events calendar, and hiking, swimming, and weather guides. Fodor's, PocketGuide, Rick Steves, and TimeOut also offer abbreviated free city guides as samples of their more in-depth products. With all those savings, you'll have enough left for high tea.
Perfect for: Traveling light, looking like a local, not getting lost.
Available for: Varies, but typically iPhone, iPad, and Android
Skip the overseas calling plan, roaming charges, and constant wondering what each call will cost by downloading the Skype app. Although best known for its free computer-to-computer video chat, the Skype app mimics your smartphone's dial pad, for making and receiving calls at rates far below that of many wireless providers and calling cards.
For example, a call from Germany on an AT&T (T) standard international roaming plan is $1.39 a minute. From Skype: Within the country is free, and to call out of the country starts at 2.3 cents a minute.
Perfect for: People whose friends and family back home are the chatty types.