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Useful Google Android Apps when visiting London

BY Boon Koh
Published 9 November 2013

First off, get a pay-as-you-go SIM card, either before arriving or when you’re here! I recommend GiffGaff – cheap, easy to activate, and fast 3G data. There are many apps that allow you to download offline content, but to get the most out of all the functionality from Google and other apps, you really need an active 3G connection.

Google Android already has built-in loads of functionality that will help you automatically when travelling. Here are a couple that you should check out when you land at the airport:

Google Now

Google Now flight status If you swipe upwards from the home button, you activate Google Now on your android phone. When you’re travelling, it shows new cards that are relevant, like the currency exchange rate, the time back home, and also an Explore card with interesting sights and places near you to check out. It also will display flight status and hotel information if you have those confirmation emails in your Gmail inbox. Find out more about Now from Google.

Google Voice Search

Press the microphone button on the screen, and you can us voice commands while travelling. Really great – find out the weather where you are, set yourself reminders, take down notes if you’re struck by inspiration, ask for directions, or even find more information about interesting things you come across.

Plus, it is faster than Apple’s Siri, and also more fully functional and informative.

Interested in when the British Museum was built? Ask with voice search!

Google Translate

We’ve all used it, but it has now been turbo-charged! There’s a conversation mode where it continually listens to your dialog. You speak – it translate in text & voice to the local language. The local speaks, and it translates back to your language. AMAZING!

You can also now take pictures of signs, menus, or any text and it will translate it for you, near instantaneously.

Download the Translate app from the Google Play Store for free.

3rd party London travel apps

There are loads of other third party apps that you should download that will help you get the best out of London.

Make sure you have the Tripadvisor London City Guide, and also download all the offline content you can before you leave home (or at your London hotel).

Get Waze if you’re driving – the app is much better in directions, traffic, and re-routing than Google Maps.

If you’re depending on public transport, Citymapper London is the best journey planner and transport app out there for London at the moment. Nothing comes close to it.

Yelp is pretty good for restaurant reviews in central London. Not as useful compared to the big cities in the US due to its small user base in the UK, but nevertheless it provides a quick guide to tasty eats around you.

wheely london app Wheely – sometimes, the best way to get from point A to point B when you have sore feet from all the walking and can’t decipher public transport is by a cab. But don’t hail a black cab – they’re quite expensive! Use the Wheely app instead to summon a clean new Toyota Prius to wherever you are. It’s definitely cheaper than a black cab, and a much more comfy ride.

To save money on dining out, there are loads of great restaurants that offer meal deals (some as good as 50% off) for lunch or dinner throughout the week. As a non-local, you probably don’t know these deals yet – but you have access to them like a local, through the TopTable app! Just load it up, search for restaurants in your area, and it shows which ones have great offers and their rating too. You can make a booking directly in the app – for free!