There was a time when you would need a paper map, a compass, a few local contacts, and an enduring 4×4 to survive an African safari. Times have changed and all you need now to explore the African wilderness are 5 powerful apps that organize your plans to the last mile.
In this article, we vet out the best apps that you should download while traveling in Africa. Our handpicked selection of apps will help you connect with locals, explore first-hand reviews of fellow travelers, recommend the best hotels and restaurants, understand routes/maps/local culture, and even translate the local language for you. Let’s jump straight into the review.
- Google Maps
Google Maps is probably the 8th wonder of the world, with its web-mapping service covering the remotest corners of earth’s topography. You can digitally explore any part of Africa with the app to find out the shortest routes, local public transportation, traffic conditions, restaurants, hotels, markets, travel hotspots, street views, weather conditions, along with reviews (with photos) from the locals. Google Maps has all the right features to be the wingman in your Africa tour.
Being GPS-enabled, you can use google maps without any internet connection. Simply download an area and save the places you want to be on the map. Next, follow your real-time movements to the place. The interface of Google Maps is as simple as it can get. The app is quite intuitive, and you can easily navigate using Google Maps from the first try itself. Due recognition was recently bestowed on Google Maps after it was awarded the 2020 Webby Award for Best User Interface. The app turned 15 on Feb 2020 and is an exemplar of what a map can do.
Airbnb is a marketplace for holiday rentals, hotels, homes, experiences, and more. It is your gateway to the hyperlocal side of Africa as it allows travelers to rent out any available property. The app has completely broken the monopoly of the hotel industry by giving local natives a chance to welcome guests in their country.
Staying at a local home gives you a unique cultural perspective of the place as compared to the uniform structure of a hotel. You also have the advantage of meeting local people and interacting with them.
The user interface is beautifully designed to reflect simplicity. Communication with the homeowner is also quite easy and you can chalk out the details of your tour well ahead with your host. Your rent money is also safe in an escrow account with Airbnb as homeowners get paid only after serving all their promises. Backed by thousands of first-hand reviews, real photographs, and verified homes, Airbnb is second in our list of 5 most essential apps while traveling in Africa.
- Google Translate
Google Translate is a free translator app that lets you communicate efficiently in any foreign place. The app can translate well over 100 languages through voice, text, and photographs. For real-time translation, you would need an active internet connection, but you can also pre-download 59 languages for offline use. Currently, Google Translate translates multiple African languages like Afrikaans, Hausa, Igbo, Sesotho, Swahili, Zulu, Somali, Malagasy, Chichewa, Xhosa, Amharic, and Shona.
The app is quite simple to use with multiple ways of input. You can directly speak into your microphone and the app translates and pronounces your sentence in a foreign language. You can also use type in your text in your native language and get instant results.
For a select few languages, Google Translate has launched a photo feature that automatically reads languages off photographs and translates them for you. This feature is a clear technological edge over other translator apps and will help you read street signs in a new location. So, while in Africa, be ready to surprise the locals with your new translator friend.
- Africa Live
This Africa exclusive app is an amazing invention for Safari goers. Available on iOS, Africa Live lets users share real-time photographs of animals and bird spotting, making it easier for you to find wildlife while in a safari. The app recently won the Best Travel App in Africa in a competition hosted by Visa and South African Tourism. A live map of all animal spotting in the last 24 hours. You can share your photographs of wildlife directly from your phone and the photo location will be tagged and shared with other members using the app.
The app is extremely user-friendly with color-coding, easy locators, live maps, and more. There are value-added purchases that you can invest in for a more fulfilled safari experience. A well recommended purchase is the Phone Ranger Safari Field Guide. You can also buy special guides for specific national parks on the mobile app. The app developers are also active conservation enthusiasts and all info gathered on the app is shared for wildlife audits. It’s worth noting that because of poaching, rhinoceros’ sightings are not shared on the Africa Live app.
- Trip Advisor
Tripadvisor is a peer-to-peer travel information sharing app that connects travelers and services providers in a symbiotic manner. The forum has the largest community of travelers and you can find the cheapest tickets, hotels, tours, and customized itineraries. You can book them directly or get the contact information for booking on your own. The UI is extremely mature and simple to use. The app is a bit content-heavy and it will take some time to browse through all that’s on offer.
If you are in for just a piece of good advice, Trip Advisor is powered by reviews from hundreds of fellow travelers and locals. Whether it’s a restaurant, a hotel, or a simple bus route, Trip Advisor has more than 859 million insightful reviews to help you in planning your trip.
You can also post your queries and active members in the forum will help you with the answers. Overall, Tripadvisor is a great place to compare different services in a region and make the best decisions while traveling in Africa.
Here you have it, 5 apps that will be useful if you are travelling in Africa. If you are a sports enthusiast you can also download BetAmerica app to bet on football and you can do it safely, since betting is mostly forbidden in most countries of the African continent.
What other apps do you think would be useful to include on our list?