translation apps for travel

Lost in Translation? Download These 5 Translation Apps for Travel

Language! What an incredible tool humanity’s made for itself.

It’s how we communicate. How we express ourselves. How we make art and share love.

However, language can present a problem or two. Especially for you, the traveler.

There are so many languages in this world (roughly 7,000), and someone who travels abroad may struggle to connect with locals due to language barriers.

Maybe you’ve taken the time to become conversational in the local language. Still, there’s always room for misunderstandings.

A complicated conversation could strike up between your peers and you can’t pinpoint the words they’re using. You might find yourself in a dire situation and have to ask a stranger for help but don’t recall what phrase to use.

Luckily, translation apps are there to make your life a heck of a lot easier in these kinds of situations.

I found the five best translation apps available so you can choose the right app for your trip abroad.

Let’s look into why translation apps are so necessary for the international traveler.


Why Should I Have a Translation App on Hand When I Travel?

  • The most obvious reason is that you need to be able to communicate effectively with others while abroad if you aren’t fluent in the language. I understand how difficult learning a new language can be. You can coast through the basics with ease, but once some seriously complex conversations begin, you might find yourself stuck using the fallback phrase, “Sorry, I don’t speak this language well.”
  • While traveling abroad is an incredible experience, emergencies happen. You could have to ask for help or directions on the fly. A translation app can certainly help with this. Many of the apps I’ll be covering have a text-to-audio feature that make conversations in a foreign language much easier. When something goes wrong and you need help, you’ll be glad you had a translation app on hand.
  • Many of the apps I’m covering feature live AR (augmented reality) image translating functions. This means you can check the ingredients on packaged food or the prices of products via your smartphone. If you have food allergies or dietary restrictions, traveling abroad when you don’t know the language may seem daunting. Eating new cuisine should be fun! Luckily, some of these apps can detect the words on a product’s package through your phone’s camera and translate the text in an instant. Kiss food worries goodbye!

Lost in Translation? Download These 5 Translation Apps for Travel

SayHi Translate

Website | iOS | Android

translation apps for travel

SayHi Translate isn’t your average translation app.

It’s perfect for one-on-one conversations with a new friend. Use this app while you’re still in the beginning phases of learning a language, and you’ll still be able to connect with people.

Here’s how it works: Simply type or say a phrase that you want to communicate to someone. Then select the language you’d like to have that phrase translated into. An audio recording of the translated version of that phrase will play.

Hand your phone off to your buddy and they can do the same thing, back and forth. A multilingual conversation has never been easier.

SayHi Translate can translate dozens of common languages, so there’s a good chance you’ll find the language you need. There’s also quite a bit of dialect support, which is great for picking up nuances in different languages.

The best part? These features are totally free!

Google Translate

Website | iOS | Android

translation apps for travel

Google Translate is definitely one of the most well-known translators out there.

It isn’t necessarily the most accurate translator, especially for languages such as Japanese or Chinese, but it has quite a few bells and whistles that earn it a spot on this list.

If you’re learning a language that uses non-Latin lettering, such as Russian or Korean, you can draw out a particular character that you want translated. Then select the correct character from a dropdown list. This is handy if you need to translate a sign or something simple but can’t just copy and paste the text into the app.

In that same vein, Google Translate also offers a really useful live translation feature. Simply take a photo of something, such as a package label or restaurant menu, and Google will automatically translate the visible text in the photo.

Overall, Google Translate has some awesome features and has dozens of languages to choose from. And it’s totally free!


Website | iOS | Android

translation apps for travel

Don’t want to use up all your data by translating stuff? TextGrabber is perfect for you. It’s always good to have an offline app handy in case you can’t access data or Wi-Fi.

TextGrabber can effectively digitize printed text from images and photos. And it can do the following things with text:

  • Quickly translate words into 100+ languages
  • Locate text on a map
  • Edit and review translated text
  • Translate text into audio clips

While many of the apps on this list boast the live translation function, TextGrabber has enough unique features to make it stand out from the crowd.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s free? Some in-app purchases are available, but most of this app’s functions don’t cost a dime.

Speak & Translate


translation apps for travel

Also known as Speak to Voice Translator, this app takes translation seriously. It’s supported by four different powerhouse translators: Google, Yandex, Microsoft and Baidu. You won’t have to worry about inaccuracies with Speak & Translate!

The biggest feature of Speak & Translate is its ultra-quick voice and text translator. It’s simply designed and very easy to use, plus the voice translation is surprisingly accurate even in loud areas.

The only downside to this app is that long sentences often get cut off in the translation box. However, this app is more for live, one-on-one translations, anyway.

Speak & Translate is free with in-app ads.

Naver Papago Translate

Website | iOS | Android

translation apps for travel

Naver Papago Translate takes simplicity to the next level by being aesthetically pleasing and extremely user-friendly.

You can translate text, recorded audio or captured photos. You can also receive a real-time interpretation of recorded audio, so if you need to order a meal or ask for directions, doing so is easy with this app.

Naver Papago Translate even has fun language-learning features, including a phrasebook and illustrated flashcards. There are only 13 supported languages thus far, but you get a ton of content for each language.

Papago is free to use, as well.


Do you feel a little bit more secure about traveling abroad with these awesome translation apps available?

Communication is crucial. Without it, we would miss out on making friends or finding our way around new countries. With these apps, don’t miss a thing!


Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.

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