Trip Tips: Five Travel Apps to Help You Navigate Any City

These five lesser-known travel apps are my secret weapons when I need to navigate my way through an unfamiliar city.

Chances are, most of us have the same major go-to apps when it comes to getting around: map, translation and carshare apps, for example. That trusty trifecta can help you get from one place to another, communicate dinner orders flawlessly and more.

But while those apps are certainly essential to traveling and communicating, they don’t do everything. Fortunately, I’ve discovered plenty of others that fill in the necessary blanks. Whether I’m looking for that trendy area where artists hang out, the top vegetarian spots or the cheapest gas station for refueling, I consider these five apps my secret weapons when I want to get the most out of my time in a new city.


Free; iOS and Android

Citymapper comes in handy when I’m not sure which mode of transportation to use: Is it faster for me to get somewhere on the bus or the metro — or is a taxi the best choice, by the time I split the price with the friends I’m traveling with?

The Citymapper user interface is relatively easy to use. It provides walking times and distances, alternative routes to your destination and how often public transportation stops at the nearest station. I particularly like that I can access the complete metro and bus line maps as soon as I open (and scroll down) within the app.

Quick Tip:

Set your hotel’s location as ‘home’ in the app to easily navigate during your trip.

Spotted by Locals

Free to download, $3.99/city guide; iOS and Android

Spotted by Locals charges a small fee per city guide, but I’ve found the expense to be well worth it when I’m feeling overwhelmed in a new city. Once I purchase a guide, it downloads directly to my mobile phone so that I can use it both on- and offline (which is especially handy when I’m not using an international data plan).

The app’s hand-curated picks from locals (which include photos and very helpful, in-depth descriptions) have led me to some of my favorite places. The app has helped me discover back alley cafes, the best local theaters and spots to catch live music on any given night. There’s even a price breakdown at the bottom of each business’s description, so I know what to expect when I go.

Quick Tip:

Carry portable phone batteries with you so you can recharge on the go and continue to use your apps.


Free; Apple and Android

Streetography is a fun way to get the vibe of a street before even stepping foot there. I use the app to discover neighborhoods filled with street art, cafes and boutique shops while avoiding the areas that don’t have the atmosphere I’m looking for.

The app even lets me browse through suggested collections (such as New York City 1940 – 1959) to see the city from a different perspective, which helps me appreciate the area even more. I also love that I can click on photos for more detail, including the exact address where they were taken.


Free; Apple and Android

The beauty of the crowdsourced GasBuddy app is its simplicity. Users enter gas prices for regular, midgrade, premium and diesel fuels, showing other users the best places to save money at the pump. On multiple occasions, it’s helped me save anywhere from a few pennies to a few bucks on a gallon of gas just by heading one block in either direction or a few miles outside of town. And while that may initially not seem like much, I look at it as valuable funds that can be spent on more interesting things than filling up my gas tank.

Quick Tip:

Always start your hunt for gas when you’re just above a quarter-tank, so you can take your time finding the right place (and price) to fill up.


Free; Apple and Android

Nearify comes in handy when I want to do more than just head to the first bar or restaurant that pops up on TripAdvisor. It’s my local in-the-know friend telling me what concerts, festivals and events are going on around town while I’m there. Basically, Nearify gives you the inside scoop so you can find things to do in a city that you might otherwise miss as a tourist. It even highlights events, as well as events happening that day or going on later that night.

With this handy collection of apps in my phone, I spend every vacation feeling more like a local than a tourist.

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Breanna W. is a travel writer living in Los Angeles, California.