If you’re headed to Brazil and carry a smartphone, there are plenty of apps to help you plan and execute the perfect trip. From your language needs to your transportation needs, apps can help you every step along the way. But rather than search through the entire catalogue of apps available for your device, you can grab this list of apps—much simpler! Here are our favorites:
If you’re keen on learning Portuguese but can’t afford to shell out the big bucks for Rosetta Stone, Duolingo is a great choice. It’s a totally free software that’ll help you learn the language through a combination of listening, speaking, reading and written exercises, all conveniently broken down into vocabulary chunks that only take a short time to complete. Take it with you on your phone, and you can knock out a bit of practice while you’re in the doctor’s office waiting to get your travel vaccinations, while you’re at the airport waiting for your flight or wherever else. And you’ll be all ready to say olá to Brazil!
Rather than Foursquare, you’ll find that Kekanto is the review app of choice for many Brazilians. It does many of the same things. Here, you’ll find photos and tips on great restaurants, bars, local attractions, cinemas and more. If you’re traveling on a budget, it even has deals that you can browse through! Unlike travel guides meant for tourists, it’ll help you find all the things the locals love too so that you can really immerse yourself in the culture of the cities you visit.
This nifty app can be useful both to those who find themselves befuddled at a restaurant that lacks an English menu, as well as those actively seeking out new local dishes. It’ll give you an alphabetical list of some of the best dishes and drinks in Brazil—and once you’ve got it installed on your phone, it’s all available for offline searching! It can be especially useful to have this app if you’re trying to avoid certain foods: rather than having to ask the waiter, “Does this have [XYZ]?”, you can figure it out quickly on your own. Bon appetite!
Getting around on public transportation in a foreign country can be a bit of a daunting task. You don’t know the landmarks, you don’t know the bus routes, and you may not even be able to ask the drive for help unless you speak the local language. The Rio Bus app, though, will help you navigate around Rio, telling you which buses to take and when they’ll arrive. You can also check out the BikeRio app if you’d prefer to bike around the city. A subscription only costs about $3.50/month, and you can rent bikes from points around the city. It’s a great way to get some exercise in even while you’re on vacation.
Having a solid Virtual Private Network (VPN) installed on your smartphone, tablet and/or laptop is essential when you’re traveling. Unfortunately, public WiFi networks, even those set up with the best intentions of allowing you to connect with friends and family while you’re on the go, are generally unsafe. Without a VPN, a hacker could access your device through the network and either steal your personal information directly or install malware to do the job for them. The last thing you need is for your identity to be stolen while you’re in Brazil! As an added bonus, a VPN will disguise your IP address, meaning a site won’t be able to tell where you’re really accessing it from. This means that on rainy days in your hotel room, you can still watch shows from sites such as Netflix and Hulu (which normally restrict content for streaming from your home country).
WhatsApp is popular for people trying to chat with friends and family back home, but it’s also pretty popular for messaging within Brazil as well, for both foreigners and locals. In fact, it’s popular enough that a recent brief shutdown of its services caused an outrage heard around the world. (And this is another reason to get that VPN installed: it can help you get around government internet restrictions by hiding your real IP address!) The thing is, Brazilian messaging rates are pretty steep, so even if you have a local SIM card, you may not want to use it. WhatsApp makes it a lot cheaper to keep in touch with your friends new and old during your trip.
What other apps do you use when you travel? Share your favorites in the comments below!