The world through an app
For travellers, it makes sense to get a smartphone. Wi-Fi is an absolute must if you’re stuck on foreign shores with prohibitive call rates—free messengers such as WhatsApp (free for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry) and video chat services such as Skype (free for iPhone and Android) are lifesavers. Most smartphones also feature reasonably decent cameras, GPS and rudimentary translation tools—all useful in a pinch.
But apps are what make smartphones essential for those who get around. Here are four you should definitely download:
On your travels, as you camp out in a desolate field in a strange land, surely you’ve thought to yourself, “What I really need right now is a compact LED-torch with an adjustable tripod.”
Even if you haven’t, the Gorillatorch is a useful device to lug around. For one, you don’t actually have to lug it around—it weighs a paltry 165g. It’s an ultra-bright LED lamp perched on a rubberized, magnetic, flexible tripod. Like its namesake, the Gorillatorch can wrap itself around just about any surface—and unlike a gorilla, it is water, dust and radiation resistant—and offers up to 80 hours of battery life on a single charge.
The Gorillatorch can be ordered online from www.photosystemsindia.com. It is priced at Rs 3,125 and is available in four colours.
(Free, for iPhone/Android/BlackBerry/Nokia)
Cleartrip’s minimalist and easy Web application lets you book train and flight tickets on your mobile and quickly check schedules on the go. Train bookings, in particular, are a surprisingly smooth process for anyone familiar with the vagaries of www.irctc.com. First-timers will need to create an account and enable “Express Checkout”. To start, log on to www.cleartrip.com via your mobile phone.
My Tracks, Trippy
(Free, for Android)
My Tracks and Trippy are portable trip planners. Punch in your location and My Tracks records where you’ve been and how far you’ve gone. Trippy goes a step further and helps create an itinerary—throwing up suggestions based on where you are.
(Free, for iPhone/Android/BlackBerry)
XE Currency is a currency converter that keeps track of the latest exchange rates for more than 80 currencies and includes a powerful currency calculator for quick conversions.
(Rs 226 per city, for iPhone/Android/Nokia)
Guide master and travel homogenizer ‘Lonely Planet’ has nifty “Compass Guides” for several cities around the world (from Amsterdam and Bangkok to Tokyo and Washington, DC). These are GPS-enabled maps and location-based information for interesting spots in the city. Switch on the camera and the app shows you where all the best restaurants, bars and places of interest are, relative to your current position. Best of all, the content can be downloaded beforehand and used offline, so no expensive data charges apply.
Photographs are the cornerstones of many a vacation. Even the dodgiest ones can be rescued by a cunning Facebook album filled with beautiful, impossibly colourful shots of fantastic vistas.
Short of criminal levels of photoshopping, those are not possible with an ordinary point-and-shoot. And professional SLRs can be daunting for the amateur photographer. Smoothly bridging that gulf, however, are a new range of “semi-pro” cameras—point-and-shoot compacts with interchangeable, SLR-quality lenses. There are plenty of solid options, from Sony’s new NEX series (which are the lightest) to the Olympus PEN series (which shoot great, high-quality pictures).
Sony’s NEX range starts at Rs 29,990 with the NEX-3, which is marginally more expensive than a high-end point-and-shoot. Others, such as Samsung’s NX10 and Olympus’ E-P1, are priced like SLRs, and retail for Rs 42,990 and Rs 41,995, respectively.
The trousers of time
The terrestrial equivalent of Douglas Adams’ all-important towel would be a good pair of trousers. An ideal pair would be rugged, comfortable and multi-utility.
Enter clothing brand Bare Leisure, which has a new collection of “Travel Trousers” for sale. These have a reinforced bar tack for strength, a D-ring for keys or ID cards, hidden compartments for documents and wallets and a partitioned main pocket that makes finding things in their cavernous depth easy. The trousers are available in three colours—gunmetal, olive and khaki and retail for Rs 1,299 at all Pantaloon outlets.