best apps for living abroad

Live Happily Ever After with the Best Apps for Living Abroad

There’s an app for just about everything nowadays.

We can use our smartphones to track our bathroom habits, drink virtual beer and determine whether it’s dark outside.

What a time to be alive, right?

And for the 21st-century traveler, there’s a seemingly endless array of nifty travel apps to choose from. You’ve got free travel apps, apps for Europe, travel safety apps and even travel diary apps!

But what about apps for those actually living in a strange and faraway land?

Let’s check out the top 22 to help you lift your expat game.
 


 

How Apps Can Help You While Living Abroad

Moving abroad is a massive lifestyle change. All of a sudden, you’re thrust into an overwhelming and unfamiliar culture, often with inadequate guidance or support.

The internet is a superb way to get up to speed with your new home. Through it, you can access limitless information, form meaningful relationships and effortlessly communicate with people both here and at home.

Naturally, the easiest way to do all that is by downloading the corresponding app.

Live Happily Ever After with the Best Apps for Living Abroad

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The Best Language Apps for Living Abroad

1. FluentU

iOS | Android

best apps for living abroad

If you’re just visiting a country, you may be able to pull of simply speaking English and pointing.

But living in a country? That’s setting yourself up for a nightmare scenario! It’s best to become as proficient as you can in the local language, both before you move and during your stay.

If you’re looking for a method to familiarize yourself with the language as well as deepen your knowledge of the culture, FluentU is the best way to go!

FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

Watching authentic videos is an entertaining method to immerse yourself in a language the way native speakers really use it, while actively building your vocabulary.

FluentU’s lessons grow with you: Personalized quizzes take into account what you’ve already learned and test you on areas you haven’t mastered yet.

The app currently teaches nine languages, which can be studied either online or offline.

Price: Free 15-day trial. The basic package is $15 per month ($10 if billed annually). The advanced package is $30 per month ($20 if billed annually).

2. Google Translate

iOS | Android

best apps for living abroad

Translation apps are a godsend for an expat who has yet to master the local lingo. And none are as sophisticated nor feature-rich as the coveted Google Translate.

The app can translate over 100 languages with surprising accuracy, and the most widely spoken dialects can even be downloaded for offline use.

Even more impressive are its camera and conversation features.

With the former, augmented reality allows the user to read a real-time translation as they hover their camera over text, which means you’ll never be stumped by a restaurant menu again.

With the latter, the app uses voice detection and text to speech technology to translate a conversation between two users in real time.

Price: Free.

The Best Communication Apps for Living Abroad

3. Skype

iOSAndroid

best apps for living abroad

Since its humble beginnings in 2003, Skype has grown into a multibillion-dollar company with almost 1.5 billion users worldwide. Nowadays, it’s among the most commonly used telecommunication software applications in the world.

The big difference between Skype and similar apps is that it can be used to call landlines and cell phone numbers, typically at a very reasonable rate. The user simply tops up credit to call anywhere in the world via a smartphone or computer.

The app is also extremely popular with freelancers and remote workers for its user-friendly and reliable Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calling and video conferencing function.

As you would expect, it comes with instant messaging and file transfer functionality as well.

Price: Free. Skype credits allow you to call most countries for just a few cents per minute.

4. WhatsApp Messenger

iOS | Android

best apps for living abroad

Boasting around 1.5 billion active global users, WhatsApp Messenger is the most popular instant messaging application in the world.

Even though Facebook Messenger is more widely used in countries like Australia, the United States and Canada, WhatsApp reigns supreme elsewhere. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to survive without it in places like Latin America.

The app’s popularity stems from its user-friendly interface, end-to-end encryption and a handy group chat function. Unlike Skype, there’s no option to call landlines or cell phones.

Price: Free.

5. Facebook Messenger

iOSAndroid 

best apps for living abroad

Facebook Messenger is the other hugely popular communication app. It allows you to text, call or file swap with anyone who uses Facebook.

Love it or hate it, the omnipresent Facebook is the biggest social networking system in the world and a highly useful tool for infiltrating the expat scene.

Price: Free.

6. Text Free

iOS | Android

best apps for living abroad

Do you prefer the old-school SMS?

Well, if you’re an expat in the United States, then Text Free needs to be in your app arsenal.

Formerly known as Pinger, it provides a free U.S. cell phone number that enables the user to send unlimited SMS texts and MMS files. You’ll also get free unlimited app-to-app calling and incoming calls.

Pretty much the only thing you’ll pay for is calling landlines and cell phone numbers, which is possible to both the United States and Mexico. Much like Skype, this can be done by pre-purchasing credits through their platform.

Another nifty feature is that the user can receive security codes for two-factor authentication from anywhere in the world.

Price: Free. Call credits depend on where you are calling.

The Best Transportation and Navigation Apps for Living Abroad

7. Google Maps

iOS | Android

best apps for living abroad

Google has created the most in-depth map of the world, the product of countless hours of research and crowdsourced data collection.

While cool features such as Street View and Google Earth are fun for checking out the terrain, it’s the app’s user-friendly interface and sheer attention to detail that truly make it shine.

Regardless of whether you’ve been living in your city for a month or a decade, you’ll love being able to navigate public transportation, driving or walking routes through the GO feature. Don’t forget to download a map to your cache (type “Okmaps”) if you want to use it offline.

Price: Free.

8. Waze

iOS | Android

best apps for living abroad

Although Google Maps has an excellent inbuilt navigation feature, some users complain it’s a little too static.

Waze, on the other hand, uses crowdsourcing technology to collect data on things like traffic accidents, road conditions and police checkpoints, often resulting in a faster and less stressful journey than if you used Google Maps while driving.

Furthermore, in some cities, particularly in South and Central America, Google Maps sometimes can’t predict the direction of the ubiquitous one-way street. Waze can be superior in these circumstances due to its crowdsourced nature.

It doesn’t come without its drawbacks, however. Waze lacks walking or public transport navigation as well as offline functionality. There are also a bunch of rather annoying pop-up advertisements.

A massive plus is that it has a rotating roster of celebrity voices, which has included the likes of Morgan Freeman and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Price: Free.

9. Uber

iOS | Android

best apps for living abroad

As the world’s premier ridesharing app, Uber has taken the globe by storm and revolutionized its urban transportation industry. The company operates in over 300 cities so you’ll likely have service in your new home.

Foreigners can be vulnerable to scams from unscrupulous taxi drivers, but with Uber, this age-old practice is no more. Your fee is determined beforehand, and you can leave reviews on the driver’s profile if they do something you don’t like. (Or if they’re awesome!)

The fact that it’s usually considerably cheaper than a normal taxi is a welcome bonus, as well.

Price: Free. Of course, you do have to pay for individual Uber rides.

The Best Travel Apps for Living Abroad

10. Skyscanner

iOS | Android

best apps for living abroad

As a bright-eyed, brand new expat, you’ll undoubtedly want to take every chance you can get to explore your new country or region of residence. And for the cash-strapped and time-poor foreigner, that’ll likely mean scooting around on a string of budget flights.

Although there’s an abundance of airfare aggregate apps out there, Skyscanner gets our pick for its superior functionality.

Skyscanner has ample flexibility in terms of destinations and dates, as well as an extensive selection of low-cost carriers to choose from. It’s the go-to app for scoring the cheapest possible airfare.

Price: Free.

11. Rome2rio

iOS | Android

best apps for living abroad

Flying isn’t the only way to get from point A to point B, a fact that has seen this innovative app become a major player in recent years.

Rome2rio shows travelers how to get between virtually any two points on Earth via an impressive network of trains, buses, ferries and planes. With such a staggering array of included operators, it must be the most comprehensive multimodal transportation application in the world.

Price: Free.

12. TripAdvisor

iOS | Android

best apps for living abroad

As a newbie expat, you’ll likely have no idea of the best places to eat, drink and be merry in your new home. But don’t stress, because TripAdvisor has you covered with over 600 million “unbiased” reviews.

Sure, plenty of those end up being extremely biased, so you’ll need a healthy dose of skepticism as you browse through your options. Nevertheless, it’s still the quickest way to discover the best local businesses in a strange new city.

Price: Free.

13. Guides by Lonely Planet

iOS | Android

best apps for living abroad

Lugging around a brick-sized travel guidebook is so 2005.

These days, those in the know are opting for a digital guide instead, allowing them to shed a ton of weight and navigate with a subtle glance at their phone.

Those living abroad would do well to use the comprehensive information in Lonely Planet’s 100+ city guides to learn about their new home. Their usual in-depth restaurant, hotel, nightlife and attraction recommendations come part of the package.

Price: Free with in-app purchases.

14. Couchsurfing

iOS | Android

best apps for living abroad

Imagine traveling all over the world while staying at the family homes of super-friendly locals for free.

Well, you can once you get your Couchsurfing profile up to scratch. The platform connects intrepid travelers with local hosts willing to open up their homes in return for some good old-fashioned cultural exchange.

On the flip side, hosting is a great way for a homesick expat to fraternize with people from a more familiar background.

Price: Free.

The Best Finance Apps for Living Abroad

15. XE Currency

iOSAndroid

best apps for living abroad

Is that funny looking 10,000 rupee bill worth one dollar or a hundred?

The first thing you need to do when moving to a new country is get your head around the exchange rate. A failure to do so could cost you dearly indeed.

With time, you’ll learn to automatically assess the value of your new currency, regardless of whether you make a mental conversion back into your native dollar or not. At first, however, it pays to have a currency converter app on hand.

XE Currency fits the bill perfectly. Through it, you can save a hotlist of your favorite currencies and convert dollars into yuan even while offline.

Price: The free version is fine for most users. A $1.99 Pro version includes some lesser-known currencies.

16. PayPal

iOS | Android

best apps for living abroad

Expats and digital nomads alike would be daft not to have an account with PayPal, a massive online payment platform which can instantly send and receive money all over the world.

Even though its commissions are relatively high, PayPal’s unrivaled market penetration makes it the platform of choice for almost all remote businesses and online marketplaces. To mitigate transaction and forex fees, open a PayPal account that’s linked to the bank account of your new country.

Americans can even get a PayPal credit card, which automatically withdraws money from their PayPal account rather than their bank account. This reduces the number of transactions and, consequently, the amount you pay in fees.

Price: Free. PayPal has transactional charges.

17. TransferWise Money Transfer

iOS | Android

best apps for living abroad

Expats who regularly send or receive money from home should look into TransferWise, an innovative money transfer service that slashes traditional transfer and forex fees.

The clever system works by doing two separate transfers. For example, say you want to send cash from the United Kingdom to Germany. Your British pounds get sent to a British TransferWise account, then a European Transferwise account sends the equivalent amount in euros to the desired German account.

Unlike a traditional overseas bank transfer, the money never actually crosses any borders, which saves on forex and other fees. More recently, the company has expanded to become a sort of quasi-bank where customers can stash their hard earned cash.

I’ve used the service dozens of times and can confirm the amount you receive is very nearly on par with the official exchange rate.

Price: Free. TransferWise charges a modest fee on each transaction.

18. Your internet banking app

Regardless of whether you’re using a bank from your former or new country of residence, it makes sense to have an internet banking app installed. Doing so will enable you to effortlessly review your bank balance, pay bills or transfer cash between your accounts.

Ideally, your banking app will also alert you about large transactions and offer two-factor authentication to better protect your details.

The Best Socializing Apps for Living Abroad

19. Tinder

iOS | Android

best apps for living abroad

Looking for love in your new home?

Then jump on Tinder, the insanely popular 21st-century digital matchmaking solution where new lovers are coupled together.

The concept is remarkably simple and effective. Swipe left on profiles you’re not attracted to and right on those you are. When both users swipe right they get a “match,” which enables them to flirt or perhaps even organize a date.

Tinder is hugely popular all over the world and, as a foreigner, your exotic allure will put you one step ahead of the game. Most use the app for casual encounters or hook-ups, although there’s plenty of people genuinely looking for love on there, as well. Some people are even just looking for friendship!

Price: Free. Tinder Plus and Gold cost $10 and $15 per month, respectively.

20. InterNations

iOS | Android

best apps for living abroad

Making friends can be a daunting prospect for new expats, many of whom wouldn’t have a clue where to begin.

Give those tiresome expat bars a miss, and create an account through InterNations instead. The expat-oriented social network hosts regular events in over 420 cities around the world, where like-minded foreigners mingle over activities such as cocktails or a nice meal.

Price: Free. Users can upgrade to an Albatross membership, the cost of which varies depending on your location. Most people don’t feel the upgrade is worthwhile, though.

Other Awesome Apps for Living Abroad

21. AccuWeather

iOS | Android

best apps for living abroad

Everyone wants to know the weather, and no other app has as much global coverage as AccuWeather.

Download it, install it, keep an eye on the weather and dress accordingly each day. Not much else to it, really.

Price: Free.

22. TunnelBear VPN

iOS | Android

best apps for living abroad

TunnelBear is a high-tech Virtual Private Network (VPN) with a super user-friendly interface and an adorable design.

Through it, the user can access region-locked video streams, protect their personal details on public Wi-Fi and hide their browsing habits from annoying advertisers.

Most useful of all, however, is that TunnelBear allows expats in authoritarian states like China to access prohibited websites such as Facebook.

Price: Free. TunnelBear provides up to 500 MB for free or unlimited data for $9.99 per month.

 

There we have it: enough handy apps to keep an expat glued to their screen for days.

Give each of these 22 apps a try to make living abroad way easier than you ever thought possible.

 


Harry is a South American-based freelance writer who covers travel, the arts and culture, among many other things.

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