The Three Must-Have Apps To Use When Traveling in Asia
By Danielle Dorsey
Planning a trip to Asia? While familiar apps like Google Maps, Uber, and WhatsApp may still prove useful on that side of the world, you’ll find it easier to navigate and stay in touch with new friends by downloading these three apps that locals love:
WeChat is a social media platform in mainland China that allows for easy payments and instant translations. You can download the app in any app store and it will automatically install whatever language you have set as your default. You have the option of choosing from 18 different languages, making this a helpful app for international cities where many languages are spoken.
The app lets you translate text and words outside the app, such as signposts, menus, or websites in foreign languages. You simply choose the “Scan” option which allows you to scan QR codes or take pictures of text for translation and the app will translate it into your chosen language instantly. If you receive messages in Mandarin or Chinese, you can press the text to see a translation in up to 20 different languages.
The app’s pay feature works similar to Venmo and by attaching your bank account you can quickly send money to friends. If you don’t have a bank account, you can ask a friend with a WeChat account to electronically transfer money to you via the app which will activate a wallet tab and allow you to use WeChat Pay. The currency exchange service Swapsy allows you to exchange PayPal funds in order to use WeChat Pay.
Line is a Japanese messaging app that is useful throughout Asia, but particularly helpful in Thailand. To date, the app has 164 million users throughout Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia, making it convenient if you’re planning on backpacking through more than one country and wanting to keep in touch with new friends along the way.
Line also has a pay feature, but you’ll need a local phone number to access it. If you have WeChat Pay, you’ll soon be able to use Line Pay as part of a partnership between the two companies.
The app has a feature called Line Man that’s only available in Thailand that helps users complete daily tasks that can seem impossible when you don’t know the local language, like ordering at a restaurant, requesting a taxi, or sending a package. Requests are completed through the app and then you pay for the service in cash.
KakaoTalk is a free text and call app based in South Korea with over 44 million active users. It has two apps that are particularly useful to travelers, one being KakaoMap, which is a navigation app that works similarly to Google Maps, allowing users to search for destinations and map their route via walking, bike, car, or public transportation. GoogleMaps operates on a limited license in South Korea, so KakaoMap is a necessary download for those who need help getting around. It also has features that let users locate bathrooms in public transportation centers, see bus and train arrivals in real time, and get estimates on cab rides.
Kakao T helps users hail taxis, provides driving directions, and helps drivers find parking spots. KakaoMap and Kakao T are separate downloads from KakaoTalk, but you’ll need an account to log in. The company plans to launch a women-only taxi service soon.