The first challenge you face on arriving somewhere new is usually how to get around, but the right technology can make it easier. There are tools suited to specific destinations, or to modes of transport, whether you want to hail a ride in Tel Aviv, explore Paris by scooter or catch a bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
Here are some free transportation apps, beyond the usual Google Maps and Google Translate, to consider downloading before your next trip.
A smarter way to get around
Sometimes walking is faster than taking the bus, or the most direct route includes a tram and a bike ride. Citymapper helps you figure all that out, and it works in 39 cities around the world, including Tokyo, Copenhagen and Sydney. Plug in your starting and ending points, and get a list of possible routes organized by mode of transport. The app also displays trip duration and any applicable prices (like estimated cab or subway fares), along with tips for where to sit on the train and which station exit to use to reach your destination faster.
You can receive alerts when it’s time to disembark, and when there are line delays or closures. You can even use it to plan your daily commute, and get a warning to leave before you’re late for work, or estimates on when you’ll get home depending on when you leave the office. The app also shows how many shared bikes and free bike spaces are available at a given location in real time, making pickup and drop-off more efficient.
Expand your ride-sharing horizons
Depending on your destination, you may have to break your Uber or Lyft habit when you arrive: The former is banned in several European countries and parts of Australia, and operates in a gray area in others, like in Hong Kong. The latter only operates in the United States.
You may also prefer to hail rides from licensed taxis. You don’t have to give up the convenience of an app to do it, though. Gett will get you a cab in Israel, Russia and the United Kingdom; and in New York City, the company has merged with ride-sharing platform Juno. Gett allows you to book a ride with an economy or higher-end car up to two weeks in advance, or on-demand. Like any good ride-sharing app, your driver’s location is displayed in real time while you wait to be picked up, but with Gett, you can pay in cash or through the app.
Taxify is a similar option that’s available in 60 cities across 29 countries, including throughout Europe and Africa. Like Uber or Lyft, its drivers are not actual taxi drivers however; the company is called Txfy in France to avoid confusion. Taxify offers different vehicle tiers, displays real-time driver location and it lets you pay through the app. Some destinations offer alternatives to cars. For example, you can hail motorcycles and auto-rickshaws in East Africa, and rent GPS-enabled scooters in Paris.
More options to get out of town
If you want to explore Europe or North America without renting a car, Wanderu can help you find and book bus, train and ferry tickets instead. The app aggregates options from big-name carriers like Amtrak and Deutsche Bahn, as well as niche brands, like FlixBus and the Tallink Silja Line, a Baltic Sea ferry service.
You can quickly sort options according to your schedule, budget and preferred mode of transport — maybe you want the cheapest overnight bus or the earliest luxury train.
Currently, Wanderu has a separate flight finder powered by Skyscanner, but flights will be integrated into overall search results next year, so you’ll be able to see airfares along with ferries and ground transportation options in one place.
A website called Bookaway provides a similar service in developing countries, including throughout Southeast Asia. You can search for bus, train and ferry options, and see whether a carrier offers amenities such as bathrooms and Wi-Fi before booking your tickets.