Must-have expat apps

Although people have been moving abroad since what seems like the beginning of time, modern expats are pretty lucky. From buying flights online to food delivery apps, we use our phones for everything – but you won’t realise just how useful your phone can be until you become an expat.



When you move to a new city, let alone a new country, you’re gonna need help with getting around. And even the most experienced of expats can’t know every location there is to know. Enter Citymapper: your personal guide around your new city. There are plenty of navigation apps out there, but what makes Citymapper special is how it adapts itself to your new home. Available in over thirty cities, the app adapts to your selected location and includes not only a map and GPS, but information on local transportation systems – showing you the best available route to your location and ensuring you’ll never be late again.

My Medical

Packing your entire life into a suitcase always has its risks. Between lost luggage and apartment hopping, there’s always the chance something will get misplaced in the action – but you shouldn’t let that stop you in this digital age. We can’t help if you lose any sentimental childhood toys, but we can prevent the loss of important medical information. My Medical acts as a digital file cabinet that keeps a record of all your medical information right in your phone. You can keep track of medication, chart your progress through time, and even generate health reports. Never worry about misplaced medical records again!


With all the bureaucratic headaches that come with moving abroad, you’re going to need all the help you can get to make life a little easier. So instead of frantically searching for you nearest print shop or rushing out to buy a scanner, pull out your phone and download Scannable. The app is exactly what it says – a scanner. Use your phone’s camera to take a picture of your documents and use the cropping tool to fix the edges. You can then save the file or email straight from the app. Super useful for job applications and other paper-heavy problems!

Google Translate

If you’re moving to a country with a new language, you’re gonna mess up at the beginning. Don’t worry, language mishaps are all part of the expat experience. But to help you on your way, there’s Google Translate. Reading a menu and stuck on an ingredient? Need to ask directions but forgot the word? Hear a phrase you don’t know in a conversation? Google Translate is the answer. You may have used this for your high school Spanish homework, but it’s come a long way since then. A particularly cool feature is how you don’t even need to type anymore! If you’re in a hurry you can take a picture, use the microphone, or draw it on the screen and the app will recognise the word and translate it for you. Next stop: chips in our brains.


It might seem overkill to include two language apps, but both apps on this list compliment each other perfectly. Whilst Google Translate is great for translating things super quickly, WordReference is for when you have the time to find the perfect word to suit your needs. Emailing employers and conversing with landlords becomes much easier with this app. As well as its translation tool, the app also features a questions and answers section were native speakers can help people learning their language, so you’ll become a pro in no time.


Whether you’re meeting up with new friends or checking back in at home, you’re gonna need a communication tool. WhatsApp is great because it uses WiFi or your phone’s data to send texts and make calls to anywhere in the world.  Using your phone number, there are no pesky usernames or passwords to remember to get free texting to all your friends and family. What’s not to love?

Citymaps (not Citymapper)

Let’s be real, one of the most important things to do when you arrive in a new country is find your local coffeeshop. The first few months of expat life are stressful and you’re not going to get by without a good latte. So instead of walking around aimlessly, hoping to stumble on your new local haunt – give Citymaps a try.  It works exactly like it says it will: it’s a map of a city. But on this map you can find suggestions and recommendations for almost anything you could ask for. Use the filters to narrow down your search, pick a location close by on the map, and read the reviews from other users to make sure your espresso is exceptional.


As an expat, you’re life is about to get super interesting to your friends and family back home. You can spend six hours a day sending photo updates to your aunt Susan, or you can tell everyone to follow your Instagram account. Not only will your friends and family get to see what you’re doing in your new life – but in years to come, you’ll have an awesome chronological photo diary of everything you did on your stint abroad. It’s also a useful way to find new places to visit, search the tag of your new home and find the coolest places to hang out. One app, multiple uses!

Have we missed out any must-haves? Share an app to save an expat!

Rosy Parrish

Rosy Parrish grew up in Britain and now lives in Madrid. She divides her time between teaching English, writing about expat life, and befriending dogs in the street.

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