Use technology to your advantage when you’re travelling in Europe! There are couple of simple tricks that you can do to make travelling in Europe a lot simpler with the right technology. We all use our iPhones and iPads on a daily basis at home and using them to their best ability while you travel can enhance your trip to Europe.
Here are 10 Tech Tips for Travelling in Europe:
1. Download the app for the local Metro.
This is a really useful tip for travelling in big cities in Europe. Navigating foreign Metro systems can be hard, especailly if you’re someone that isn’t used to relying on public transport. Downloading the app for the local Metro system will give you offline access to Metro maps in English and a route planner to work out the best was from A to B. Here are some direct links to the Metro apps for Paris, Milan, London, Barcelona and Amsterdam.
2. You have to register for free Wifi.
You’ll find free wifi in many places but you’ll often have to register for it first. This almost always requires giving your email address or even worse a cellphone number. Don’t give your real email address as you’ll end up on the receiving end of a tonne of spam emails. (I’m still getting Spanish spam from using the free wifi at Barcelona airport!) Even worse, you’ll often find free wifi but you’ll have to register and receive a text message to get started. If you don’t have a local sim card in your phone this can be a real problem.
3. Get a sim card that covers all of Europe.
I can live without calling and texting but I can’t live without data on my phone! I love to Instagram and Facebook on the go, plus use my iPhone for directions, finding good restaurants and checking if something I want to visit is actually open before getting there. If you’re just travelling to one country, getting a local sim card is a good idea but if you’re travelling through a lot of different countries in Europe, it just isn’t practical to buy a sim card in each place.
We found a great solution to this problem! MTX Connect offers a data-only sim card which covers most of Western Europe and a good chunk of Eastern Europe. There are different pricing plans depending on how long you are travelling in Europe. We opted for 1GB plan which was valid for 30 days. MTX Connect kindly provided us free usage but normally this costs $50. It’s easy to set up and they’ll send you the sim card before you leave home.
4. Find creative ways to charge your devices.
Even experienced travellers can forget things from time to time. We left our travel adapter at home and could not find one anywhere in Paris! If you forget to bring a travel adapter with you, there are creative ways of charging USB devices like iPhones, iPads and Kindles. You can plug your USB cord into other electronic items such as TVs and modems to charge them.
5. There’s almost never Wifi on trains.
We had heard that there was Wifi on many of the intercity trains that travel around Europe so were planning on working while we travelled around Europe on our Eurail pass. This just wasn’t the case. The only train we found with function Wifi was the French Thalys train. The Wifi was free in first class but in second class you have to pay for it (unless you buy a more expensive second class fare.) We pre-downloaded movies and TV shows to watch onboard without the need for internet. Bring a headphone splitter so two people can listen in at the same time. My list of the 11 best travel accessories for Europe will help!
6. Learn how to use maps offline.
No I’m not talking about paper maps! Using maps on your iPhone can eat up a lot of data and if you’re roaming this will be very expensive. You can use Apples Maps offline if you preload the destination when you’re at your hotel or apartment using the wifi. The GPS will still work without data and direct you as you move along. It should also work in reverse so you can retrace your route home but you won’t be able to plan a new route while you’re out without switching your phone off flight mode.
7. Snap photos of maps on your iPhone.
Use your iPhone in your hotel room while you’re connected to the Wifi to plan out your route and then take a screenshot of it by clicking the home button and the sleep/wake button. (Visual instructions for the technologically challenged are here!)
8. Let Google translate everything for you.
For the times when you just don’t know what the heck is going on, you can let Google translate for you. Download the Google Translate app and you can either type text in or use it visually. Just select the language you’re translating from and to. Point your iPhone at any mysterious menus or baffling signs and a direct translation of the text will appear on the screen. It’s not always perfect but it will help you along the way.
9. Keep your devices in flight mode.
If you’re using your phone or iPad as a camera, keep it in flight mode while you’re out & about. It will use a lot less battery power while in flight mode and you’ll have less chance of being left without a camera at the worst possible moment.
10. Invest in a charging device.
One of the best items I’ve bought for my travels is a Mighty Purse. I can’t count how many times I’ve needed it when my phone has been almost out of batteries! It’s a very cute leather purse that has a rechargeable battery pack insert which can charge you iPhone, iPad, Kindle or anything other USB device. The battery pack holds two full charges for up to a year and is easily recharged using a USB charger. You can take the battery pack out if you want more room in the purse to use as an evening clutch. I have this exact one in gold but there are a range of other colours available:
Technology can be your friend for traveling safely and conveniently in Europe or anywhere for that matter. I’m personally always on lookout for free wifi zones and also use VPN apps to avoid any hack. Using maps offline is a nice idea especially when you are underground or in areas with patchy network reception.
T-mobile offers (somewhat) global data as part of their regular phone plans now. That’s been a life saver! It does eat up battery power though, I love the idea of the mighty purse!
We tried to get the T-Mobile Global plans before we left the US but as we’re not US residents we weren’t able to.
I didn’t realize there is a SIM card that would be valid all over Europe. The last time we’ve been there we used our own US phones because T-mobile charges now only 10c/min in most European countries, which is better that any SIM card you can buy.
Great tips here Bethany! I had no idea that there was a SIM you could use all over Europe or that Apple maps works offline (newbie iPhone user). Oh and I absolutely need to get me a Mighty Purse- it’s brilliant!
The SIM card for Internet is really useful. I bought one of them two months ago and keep topping up with credits. So practical and you can connect in almost all the cities in Europe.
About the WiFi in the trains I got a pretty good service traveling around Germany, Netherlands and Italy. Not on the local and regional trains, but most of the high-speed had a good and free WiFi 😉
OK, I must admit I’ve never really thought of most of the things mentioned here but these are some really awesome tips! Thanks! Just recently I started taking pictures of maps and this works really great for me 🙂
Great tips! i look for local apps for the city I’m visiting too. Paris Piscine (an app guide to the city’s public pools) was super handy!
Thanks for this amazing set of tips – I was getting new SIM cards every second week while we were traveling through Europe before I realized you can get one which covers the whole continent. So that’s a great tip- as is the registering for free wifi; I’ve stopped giving out my real email address too. I actually have one specifically set up for these kind of sign ups now 😀
Thanks for the great tips!
we always snap photos of maps on our phones too! i didn’t know about the offline map option! thanks!
Such great advice here! There are a lot of offline map apps you can download too like mtrip, TripAdvisor City Guides, etc but we generally use Google or Apple Maps, set it while on wifi and then the turn by turn still works even when offline. My only question is Google Translate. Don’t you need to be connected for it to work?
Great tips, Bethaney! I never leave home without a portable battery pack. I’m always the guy with a dead cell phone 🙁
Brilliant advice. I need to start putting my phone in flight mode now! I had wifi in Norway and Amsterdam on trains but not in Bulgaria and Greece. Getting a Mifi device could help. Charging is always an issue for me and I need to invest in a charging device. Thanks for some great tips
Great tips! We are always on the look out for creative ways to charge devices. I always charge in flight mode so they charge quicker. Another good map app I use is city maps to go. You can use it when you’re not connected to wifi, however it doesn’t have some of the smaller towns we’ve visited. Happy travels!
An adapter is a must–so you can plug in your electronics into the actual socket–but most devices (ipods, ipads) can deal with voltage on their own these days. Thank goodness. This is an extra gadget that most travelers can live without.
I think the tip to use maps offline and/or screenshot maps is great for using in the states as well. I have had many times when my phone uses too much battery or data because of keeping my map going while driving. Using it offline would save a ton of my phone’s battery and data.