Switching off the phone (or leaving it behind) is a definite possibility when coming to Israel on holiday. But let’s face it, with the amazing variety of smart phones and other devices now available, you’re now only a tap away from discovering something new, grabbing a great deal, or immediately sharing some of the most amazing days of your life with friends and family back home (because once you’ve checked out some of the must-see attractions in Israel, you’ll be sharing left, right and center!)…
So here are the ESSENTIAL travel apps we feel you really should have on your device when you start thinking about that trip to Israel – and the best thing is, they’re all FREE!
1. XE Currency
OK, first things first, do you have enough money when converting it over to Israeli shekels (Warning: Israel is a lot more expensive than you might think…)? The XE Currency app will convert to and from almost all currencies and will be a big help when trying to work out if the taxi driver has just conned you out of your hard-earned cash… XE Currency is available for all the main platforms, including iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, and Android.
If you need to check flights and the most efficient way of getting to Israel, the Hipmunk app is a great little addition to your smartphone. There’s even a nice graphical way of working out the most hassle-free way to fly, in regards to stopovers (it also integrates nicely with your phone’s calendar). Don’t even bother with the (er, crappy) hotel search option – use Trip Advisor’s app for that (see below). Hipmunk is available for iPad, iPhone, and Android.
3. Trip Advisor
It’s no accident these guys are one of the very best for independent travel reviews. The Trip Advisor app is a great tool for searching for restaurants and hotels in Israel, and we’d highly recommend it for its extensive coverage of options, especially based on some of the weak rival apps we checked out. Not everybody loves Trip Advisor, but this is a wonderful resource for a whole bunch of things to keep you fed and happy. Trip Advisor is available for iPad, iPhone, iPod, Nokia, Windows and Android.
4. Lingopal OR Google Translate
One of the first things you’ll come across on a trip to Israel is…Hebrew. We’ve got two options for you: Lingopal (you have to be 17+), or the old standard Google Translate. Both are great, although Lingopal will also teach those of you who need it how to flirt in Hebrew (and upgrade to get even more fruity, plus access to more languages). Great apps if you want to learn some of the local lingo. Both are available on the App Store and for Android.
Taking pics on any vacation is, of course, a must. Taking pics on a trip to the Holy Land is an ABSOLUTE MUST! Instagram has become our favorite tool for taking pics and has fast become one of the most popular apps around. We love those filters, so come and find us – just search for igoogledisrael, we’ve already clocked up over 500 pics! Facebook may have recently purchased them, but Instagram looks like it’s here to stay… Instagram is available for the iPhone and Android.
6. Wi-Fi Finder OR Skype Wi-Fi
Finding some Internet-juice is often a tricky task, with most options we’ve ever come across when traveling demanding payment of some sort. But use either Wi-Fi Finder or Skype Wi-fi to locate those wi-fi spots, whether paid or free. It might be a good idea to use both if you’re in real need, just so you double your chances of finding a spot – and use your Skype Credits to pay for your online juice with the Skype Wi-Fi app. Both are available for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.
There weren’t too many Israeli apps that impressed us, but the VISITLV app was definitely one we’d add to this list. It had a pretty comprehensive list of things to see and do and some decent info for users too. It’s officially part of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality’s tourism push, and does a pretty good job, especially with the call and map options to each place and info on the free tours you can take. VISITLV is available for iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android.
If you’re going to be driving around in Israel, this Israeli-created app is a MUST. Waze is a community-based driving app, meaning other drivers out there have posted updates, including police traps (which have saved my bacon on a number of occasions) and reports of heavy traffic. It’s a great navigational tool, with a useful GPS engine that will help you out if you don’t know where you’re heading in Israel. Waze is available for iPhone and Android, as well as Windows and Symbian devices.
9. Old City Walking Tours
Let’s face it, the Old City of Jerusalem is one of the places you’re more than likely going to squeeze in to a visit to Israel. And what better way to enjoy the twists and turns of the Old City than with the Old City Walking Tours app. You have to download each tour before you begin, but they only take a few seconds to get up and running. And they provide you with pretty much all the info needed for a great little tour! Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, and Android devices.
Making free / very cheap calls (and don’t forget the video and messaging options) back home is what it’s all about, right? So we’d suggest getting the Skype app installed and jumping on a wi-fi network. We’ve not always experienced the best quality when calling internationally, so if you’re calling others with an iPhone, definitely try Viber, another FREE option but only available for iPhones (download it from the App Store – and make sure the person you’re calling also has it!). Skype is available for the iPad, iPhone, and Android.
And another couple of apps that were almost in the running (and if you know of any other must-have apps, please let us know!)…
Get Taxi – If you plan to catch taxis in Israel, the Get Taxi app is a great little app to have. You have to sign up using your mobile number, via which you’ll get sent an SMS with a code which will enable you to use the system, but it does look like a great option to have if you’re unsure how to grab a taxi in the Holy Land. Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
telobike – If you fancy taking advantage of the bicycle rental system in Tel Aviv, install telobike, which gives you live updates on the status of bike stations around the city (but is mostly in Hebrew only). Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.