If you’re traveling soon, there are a few helpful apps you should download first. Traveling can be a lot of fun but also risky if you’re not careful. These seven apps can help you stay safe while traveling, so you can focus on exploration and making memories.
1. Smart Traveler (iOS, Android)
Smart Traveler is a safety resource app designed by the U.S. Department of State specifically for American travelers. It’s free to download on iOS and Android. This is a great app to have handy because it collects a lot of important, authoritative info in one place.
The app includes safety guides for foreign destinations, travel warnings and alerts, and contact information for the U.S. embassy and consulate offices in different countries. Ideally, you will complete your trip without needing this info. But Smart Traveler could be valuable in an emergency, such as losing your passport.
Download: Smart Traveler for Android | iOS (Free)
2. NordVPN (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Web)
A VPN, short for virtual private network, is a service that gives you safety and privacy online. Using a VPN when you’re traveling can protect you from hackers, keep your data private, and give you access to your favorite websites even if other regions block them.
NordVPN is widely recognized as the best VPN on the market today. You can use it on your phone, tablet or laptop. The VPN encrypts all your data, blocks ads, and disguises your location as any region you want. It also provides antivirus software and malware protection.
Download: NordVPN (Priced by subscription)
3. bSafe (iOS, Android, Web)
Many people use location sharing to make sure friends and family know where they are in an emergency. Rather than using an app like Snapchat to share your location abroad, use a more secure app like bSafe.
This app allows you to share your location only with specific friends and family, and no one else. You can also set up alerts that will trigger if you don’t check in on time, or if you’re in trouble or feel unsafe.
bSafe is a great app to have handy when traveling since you can use it to find your companions if you get split up. It’s also excellent for staying safe and orienting yourself within foreign cities.
Download: bSafe for Android | iOS (Free)
4. TripWhistle (iOS)
Did you know some other countries don’t use 911 for emergency calls? The United States, Canada, and several other countries use 911 to contact emergency services, but other 3-digit codes are used worldwide. For example, in the UK, 999 is the emergency number.
TripWhistle removes the confusion from contacting emergency services abroad by giving you instant access to 196 different countries’ 3-digit codes. You can also use it to provide emergency responders with your coordinates, so they can find you more quickly. Just remember you might have to turn off your VPN temporarily to use location services.
Download: TripWhistle (Free on the App Store)
5. Signal (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Linux)
Ever worry someone could be tracking your messages and texts? If this is a concern, using an encrypted messaging app when traveling is a good idea. Signal is one great option, available for free on iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac. You can use it to send texts, images, videos, and files, and make audio calls.
Signal works much like other 3rd party messaging apps like Telegram and WhatsApp. It will keep your conversations private from hackers and other bad actors.
Download: Signal (Free on all platforms)
6. Emergency (iOS, Android)
The Emergency app is run by the American Red Cross and offers free weather alerts worldwide. Climate change is making severe weather events more frequent and unpredictable. It’s a good idea to have a source of authoritative info on hand in case you get caught in a weather emergency while traveling.
The Red Cross’s Emergency app is available on iOS and Android. You can set up your notifications for specific types of weather events. It also includes guides for what to do in different emergencies.
Download: Emergency (Free on iOS and Android)
7. GeoSure (iOS, Android)
At home, there are probably areas you know to stay away from or avoid at night. When you’re traveling, you lose the benefit of native knowledge. GeoSure gives you detailed safety information on specific neighborhoods.
For example, it can rate how safe a neighborhood is for minority groups like women or LGBTQ+ people. It can show you neighborhood-specific crime data, as well, and help you find safer areas nearby. You may need to turn off your VPN temporarily if it’s blocking the location services necessary to use GeoSure.
Download: GeoSure (Free on iOS and Android)
Staying Safe Abroad With the Help of Apps
Smartphones are incredibly useful tools when traveling. Downloading a few key apps before you leave home can help you stay safe and informed abroad. Some of these apps, like NordVPN and bSafe, are even helpful for everyday life at home.