Imagine being on your first international trip and upon arrival, you realize all you have is your phone and wallet. What would you do?
Well, you could freak out! But you were smart. You pre-planned before your departure and made sure you had all the right apps. What are they, you ask? Let’s take a look.
What to Do Before You Go
Before you leave home, make sure you take photos of your passport and ID and upload them to Google Drive for safekeeping and easy access. Okay, next, where are you going to stay?
Before you arrived, you used your Airbnb app to locate a place to stay. You did your research and found a highly rated apartment or house and booked it. You advised your host of your ETA, so all is good.
When I first arrived in Medellin, it was after midnight. I sent a message to my host and was advised of a self-check-in. It worked out perfectly. Alright, I’m here; now what?
Where’s My Ride?
Next, you open your Uber app and get a ride.
The first time I visited Medellin, it took a while at first because it was so late, but they located one. I did not realize until I had been in the country for three weeks that Uber was illegal.
Travel tip * It’s a good idea to check on the legality of Uber in the country you are planning to visit.
Update* Uber is no longer illegal in Colombia as of March 2020. However, here are a few alternative apps to use. They work just like Uber.
3. Google Maps
This was a lifesaver. I have no sense of direction. Looking lost can bring unwanted attention. Thanks to Google maps, I could plug in where I wanted to go and get directions. I put in my earbuds and allowed the navigation feature to do its thing. No one ever knew I was clueless.
How Can I Communicate?
Holy Moly, I don’t speak Spanish what am I going to do? That was me when I arrived, but I had a handy dandy weapon!
4. Google Translate
As I said, I didn’t speak any Spanish when I arrived in Colombia. Little did I know, Colombia is NOT a bi-lingual country. Very few people speak English. By using Google Translate, I was able to communicate with my driver, store associates, as well as utilize some other groovy features available in the app.
The camera feature was the best. It kept me from ordering weird food. Just point the camera over your menu or ingredients, and the translation will appear. … it came in handy in so many ways. I could not have gotten through without it.
This is a must-have app to communicate within a country and to call internationally.
I learned this the hard way. When I first arrived at Medellin, I noticed WhatsApp numbers on everything, from takeout menus to small business owners. I didn’t think much about it until I started calling home, or my family began calling me. I was shell-shocked when my cell phone bill arrived. It hit me, ‘that’s why I need to get on WhatsApp”.
Once you set up WhatsApp, you can call, text or video call anyone within the app with Wi-Fi. Save your data and your wallet.
6. Delivery Apps
These apps totally saved my life. After you get settled in and are now in unfamiliar territory, can’t speak the language, what do you do? When I encountered this, I pulled out my phone, went to the App store, put in food delivery, and several options came up.
Go with what you know. I was already familiar with this app and knew I could get something quick to eat from nearby restaurants. iFood and Rappi – I also came across these two apps and quickly downloaded them. They both work in the same way as Uber Eats, but one stood out.
This one became my ace-in-the-hole! Not only could I have restaurant food delivered, but groceries, pharmacy items, shopping mall items, messenger pickup & delivery, and get this…. MONEY! Yessss! This app also acts as an ATM. You can actually request funds in incremental small amounts up to $100 USD (depending on conversion rate). You can get whatever you need to be delivered to your door. BOOM!
*Special Note – Rappi is also available in Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, and Chile.
Getting To Know You!
So now you are getting to know your surroundings and you want to know what is there to do, are there other expats out there, where can I meet locals? We got you covered!
7. FB Groups
Hopefully, you did this before you left, but if not, no worries. FB Groups, in my opinion, are the best place to connect with whatever interest you have. There is a group for EVERYTHING!
I found Expat Women in Medellin and Black Expats of Colombia.
The people in the groups are very helpful. They post what’s happening in and around the city. You can ask for advice on everything from where to get your nails or hair done, or what festivals or adventures are taking place. Even ask to get together for coffee or lunch just to meet someone new.
I found my Spanish teacher, friends to go out with, fitness and yoga classes, and meet-ups taking place around the city. I can’t say enough about FB groups and how helpful they are to the new person in an unfamiliar country.
Airbnb Experiences –
This is where you can find local people who are there to help you get to know the culture, food, and the city. You can book a cooking class, walking tour, exercise class, language class, historical excursions, just to name a few. You never know what you will discover.
That’s it, folks! These are the apps that will allow you to navigate confidently your way through any foreign country.
What apps are you using where you landed? Share your top apps with us.
by: Gail Turner Brown