Best Apps to Have When Traveling Abroad

Technology never ceases to amaze me. Ten years ago, I wouldn't have thought that I could travel outside the Philippines and still get to communicate with my family every day. When I was a little girl and my father was working abroad, we had to wait for weeks before a single letter from him would come via postal mail. We seldom talk through phone because long-distance calls were very expensive back then. 

So imagine how much easier it is these days to avoid homesickness (without spending so much) when you have to be away from home for days, weeks, months, or years! Right now, I'm in Laos and will be here for 10 days. I'm halfway through my trip and am really missing my husband and kids. But I am very, very thankful that I still get to talk to them through different ways. 

I am likewise grateful for other advances in technology that make staying abroad much easier. Here's sharing my personal experiences on different apps I have on my phone and iPad that are helping me a lot while I am far away.

Chikka Messenger is the app I use when I want to send quick text messages to my family.  When I was in Bangkok the other day waiting for my connecting flight to Vientiane, I easily got to let my husband know that I arrived safely in Thailand. If he can't be reached via Facebook or Gmail chat, I text him via Chikka to go online. Similarly, when I receive text messages related to work (thanks to automatic roaming), I use Chikka to reply so I don't get charged exorbitant fees by my mobile carrier. On the other hand, when you receive messages via Chikka, make sure to create a new message and send it to the recipient's mobile (not Chikka) number because you will be charged higher (P2.50 instead of P1.00).

Skype is great for making video calls. I arrived in Laos a day before my youngest son's birthday. It's my first time to be away during such an important occasion but, thanks to Skype, we still got to "see" each other on his birthday.

When internet connection is slow and Skype videos become pixelated (which happens frequently in my hotel), hubby and I use Viber instead. This is an app that I have in my Windows Phone (it needs to be connected to a mobile number so it doesn't work on my iPad mini) and which everyone else in my family have in their Android phones. With a good internet connection, the voice calls are very clear and, did I mention, FREE

Back home, when my kids don't reply to my text messages because they ran out of load credits, I also just call them via Viber. This works because we have WiFi at home and my two older sons have WiFi in their dormitory. My youngest son also usually texts me (again, for free) via Viber when he needs me to buy him something for a school homework or just wants to ask for pasalubong.

As to currency conversion, I love the XE Currency app! It is a lifesaver whenever I quickly need to convert Laotian Kips or Thai Baht to Philippine Pesos or US Dollars so I'd know whether what I'm buying is too expensive or priced reasonably. With this app, you can convert to as much as 10 currencies in one go. One thing though, the exchange rates are slightly different from what you'll find in banks and currency exchange kiosks. But the amounts are near enough to each other to give you an idea on how much you are spending.    

Of course, there are three more apps that I often use to let my friends and family know what I am up to, and which also keeps me updated on their happenings back home. I'm sure many of you are regular users of Facebook and Twitter as well. Want to see some of the sights in Laos that I've been posting lately? You can follow me at @ruthfloresca on Instagram today :) 

So, if you're traveling outside your country any time soon, check out the apps I mentioned. They will ease pangs of homesickness and save you money, too!

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