Thoughts from a month’s backpacking honeymoon

I’m publishing this on the hoof, right now we’re in Istanbul near the end of our honeymoon back home. Here are some app-travelling notes (for our Nexus 4 Androids).

Google Translate offers Offline dictionaries for all the European languages, each is 150mb. We downloaded new ones before each country hop. Generally they were very useful, some phrases were wrong or not colloquial (often for things like “the bill please”). Some languages had pronunciation guides, they were ok but a phrase book would be better. It worked well as a glorified language dictionary.

Google Maps Offline were great except Hungary where offline wasn’t allowed (it didn’t explain why).

The lack of phrase or dictionary apps was a pain, there’s a real dearth on Android. Someone should fill this gap!

WiFi was fairly common throughout our travels so we rarely used our paper Guides. WiFi was free in all hotels, sometimes in train stations, often in cafes and bars even in Romania.

WikiSherpa caches recent search results which are pulled out of Wikipedia and Wikivoyage, this works like a poor man’s RoughGuide. It doesn’t link to any maps or cache images but if you search on a city, you can read up on it (e.g. landmarks, how to get a taxi etc) whilst you travel.

The official WikiPedia app has page saving, this is useful for background info on a city when reading offline.

AnyMemo is useful for learning phrases in new languages. It is chaotic as the learning files aren’t curated. You can edit the files to remove the phrases you don’t need and to add useful new ones in.

Emily notes that TripAdvisor on Android doesn’t work well (the iPhone version was better but still not great). Emily also notes that, lastminute and were all useful for booking most of our travels and hotels.

We used foursquare when we had WiFi, sadly there is no offline mode so I just starred locations using Google Maps. Foursquare needs a language independent reading system, trying to figure out if a series of Turkish reviews were positive or not based on the prevalence of smileys wasn’t easy (Google Translate integration would have helped). An offline FourSquare would have been useful (e.g. for cafes near to our spot).

We really should have bought a WiFi 3G dongle. The lack of data was a pain. We used Emily’s £5 travel data day plans on occasion (via Three). It works for most of Europe but not Switzerland or Turkey.

Given that we have WikiPedia and Wiktionary, how come we don’t have a “WikiPhrases” (“wikilingo”?) with multi-language forms of common phrases? Just like the phrase books for travel that we can buy but with good local phrases and idioms across any language that gets written up. This feels like it’d have a lot of value.

Ian is a Chief Interim Data Scientist via his Mor Consulting. Sign-up for Data Science tutorials in London and to hear about his data science thoughts and jobs. He lives in London, is walked by his high energy Springer Spaniel and is a consumer of fine coffees.