Editors Note: This is a guest post from Digital Diplomat Makeda Saggau-Sackey from our favorite fashion blog The Glamazon Diaries. Connect with her on Insta @GlamazonDiaries
When it comes to travel, if you were to say I'm extremely passionate about it. that would be an understatement.
The apps in this post are curated from my one of my favorite getaways, a two-week stay in Cuba, but have no fear! Regardless of your international destination, these travel apps will be your BFF navigating you through foreign lands.
Trust me when I tell you that Cuba isn’t the place to be downloading apps from the Apple Store or Google Play. Limited connectivity on the island also means you won’t be able to access apps that typically need data to function, apps like Google and Apple Maps.
In Cuba, WiFi is scarce and as precious as gold for travelers eager to share the sites and sounds on social media. So before you even hop on the flight to Havana, please download the following apps to ensure a smooth and enjoyable travel experience.
Download Maps.me (MapsWithMe) immediately if you plan on doing any overseas travel. Why? Because this app allows you to download specific countries and cities and use them completely offline. This app was a lifesaver in Cuba because we were able to use the voice guided GPS – in Spanish – so that the taxi driver could take us to the right destination.
Another feature I love on this app is the ability to drop pins on all the sites, restaurants and bars we planned on visiting in each city. I added them to my favorites list so that I could easily access directions to each place. Maps.me also has a cool feature in the search options that enables you to see different categories of interest – such as WiFi spots, hotels, restaurants, pharmacies (which we ended up needing in two cities), public bathrooms and even shopping sites. A bonus feature I loved was seeing where all the Casa Particulares and AirBnB housing were in each city. This would come in handy for backpackers and travelers who don’t have booked accommodations prior to their travel.
FREE: iOs and Android plus over 40 other devices
Hostspot Shield VPN
I downloaded the Hotspot Shield VPN app in January while traveling to Cologne, Germany, simply because I didn’t want to miss an episode of Scandal while I was out of the country. So what does Hotspot Shield do specifically? It allows you to surf blocked websites on your mobile device from anywhere and protects your privacy and identity with encrypted browsing. What does that mean? It means you can mask your IP address so that you can use sites that are blocked in specific countries.
Why do you need it? We ran out of money during the second half of our trip with no means of replenishing our cash stash the easy way. The Cuban government has a tight leash on internet sites so Paypal, Venmo, Western Union are all blocked. Instead of panicking, I hightailed myself to the nearest hotel to access WiFi, then connected to the US Hotspot Shield so that my phone registered as being in the United States.
I then logged into Western Union and was able to send money to our AirBnB host to retrieve for us, because only Cuban nationals are able to receive and collect money from Western Union.''
I can’t speak a lick of Spanish, save for two or three words and a phrase or two and though T is a native French speaker, his Spanish is so-so.
We’d heard so many horror stories from friends who had returned from Cuba about feeling like they were taken advantage of because of the lack of mastery of the Spanish language.
Google Translate was just the app we needed to at least navigate social situations and courtesy conversations with our AirBnB hosts. We both downloaded the Spanish translator onto our phones prior to our departure from New York and were able to use this at the market, restaurants and with new friends.
FREE: Available for iOS and Android
My friends and I booked all of our accommodations through AirBnB – some on the desktop and others on the iOS app.
Though you cannot book any other homes on the app while in Cuba, you can still access old correspondences with the hosts of the properties, see addresses and check-in/check-out times. This was helpful to us because our hosts sent driving, walking and bus directions to each of their houses, which we could readily access on the app.
FREE: Available for iOS and Android
The Mobile Passport app speeds you through U.S. Customs and Border Protection at cruise port and 24 airports. I used this app after my Germany trip and it really did expedite my checkout process through customs. Using the app is easy. Simply scan your passport in the app or manually enter your information, then snap a picture of yourself and follow the prompts. You will be asked to input which airline you’re flying on and your port of entry. After completing everything, you will be issued a QR Code receipt, which you will need to scan when you touch down in the U.S. You can complete the process up to four hours prior to landing. When you get to your port of entry, follow the signs for Mobile Pass, which is usually right next to Global Entry at JFK International Airport.
FREE: Available on iOS and Android
About the guest blogger:
Makeda Saggau-Sackey is the creator behind Glamazon Diaries, a NYC fashion, food and lifestyle blog
As an influencer in the body positive movement, Makeda shows her readers of all shapes and sizes how to dress for their shape without breaking the bank. She combines luxury and high street brands into every look to make style accessible for all.
A style-savvy globetrotter, Makeda is extremely passionate about her travels documenting destination in her digital diary for her readers to gather inspiration from.
She currently lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her French boyfriend, who also happens to be her photographer and collaborator.
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