iPhone as a travel mate

Initially, this post was written during my first trip to New Zealand, September 2008. But since then I had several other long trips, including Switzerland, Thailand and Japan. Each of these trips added some value to the way I’m using my iPhone, so I felt the need to share what I’ve learned during those trips. You’ll easily find which application was used in which trip, but I guess the most important is to find some help and make your travels more enjoyable.

During my first trip to New Zealand, which is more than 20.000 km away from my country, Romania, I had the chance to use my iPhone as a travel companion. What follows is a compilation of what I tried, learned and used during that trip and the nex ones.


The first and one of the most important things about iPhone as a travel mate is the Maps application. Although I don’t have permanent internet access (I followed Apple’s advice about turning data roaming off, “to avoid substantial roaming charges…”) but I do have a decent WiFi access at my bed and breakfast facility here in Auckland. Every time I have to go to an area I don’t know yet, I open Maps and try to familiarize myself with the surroundings. I suppose that if I have data access everything would be even simpler, because I can just use the GPS facilities and find my way out in real time. But even without the GPS functionality, the Maps application is extremely useful. In the picture below you’ll see the very beach where I took the sunrise picture in the first post about the trip to New Zealand:

You can even see the tree under which I sat while I took the photo. I admit. sometimes this is spooky… But sometimes is just useful.

World Clock

I never thought I could really use the World Clock functionality in my iPhone. I simply didn’t see any decent use for it. But once my second flight took off from Vienna, and I learned that there is a time difference between Bangkok and Vienna, and another time difference between Bangkok and Auckland. my head started to spin like a roller coaster. Ok, that’s 5 hours more in Bangkok from Bucharest, and 4 less than Auckland, and now we add those hours because we are flying East, and than… Oh, stop it, I just want to know what time it is, ok? And huh, voila, easy as pie:

I don’t know about you guys, but when you fly more than 30 hours, you don’t really have time to calculate the time, so World Clock is just what you need.


This is something I discovered today. I went downtown in the morning to buy a ticket for the Waiheke ferry, and the departure was one hour from the moment I took the ticket. It was five past nine, and the ferry was scheduled at ten. Didn’t had any intention to spend an hour at the dock, so I just set up 2 alarms for the ferry departure event, and went walking on Auckland as usual, knowing that I will be warned about this in case I will forget. I also did the same thing on the island, when I knew the ferry timetable, and wanted to make sure I won’t miss the ferry back to Auckland. I found it really handy and convenient, it take out the thing from your head and put it in a system that you trust (do I smell a GTD flavor in this, or what…)

Oh, and of course, I use the calendar feature to remind me when should I head to the airport for the return flight. Not that I want so much to leave this country, but there are still some things to take care of that requires my physical presence…


As strange as it might seem, the iPhone camera is good enough for a relaxed tourist like me. There were times when I really wished that I had at least a zooming feature, not to mention some access to the exposure times, but hey, you can’t have it all. After a while I got used to it and 2 megapixels are quite ok for casual pictures. A professional camera would be great, but those are coming usual with a string attached to your neck, which can be pretty cumbersome at times. Anyway, you can see more of the pictures I took so far on my tumblr account edragonu.tumblr.com.

As you can see, even with the sun facing the camera the pictures are still good enough to be published on your tumblr account, right?


Oh, and speaking of tumblr, I must share with you another travel companion feature of the iPhone, which is the ability to post directly to your tumblr blog. There is an iPhone native application for that, which is called Tumble, was developed by BitFire Systems, is at the version 1.1.1 and so far behaved without a crash on my iPhone 3G. There were some nights in which, during my jetlag adaptation period (ok, I admit I had a little bit of a jetlag, although in the first post I said I didn’t it, but it was just a little, more like an insomnia, you know…) I used tumble to upload pictures. And it worked flawlessly…


When traveling long distance you will be faced with a very practical challenge: what money do you have to use? I’ve been in 3 different countries in less than 4 days and in each of these countries I had to solve practical problems like accomodation, food and communication. What are the exchange rates? What money you should rely on: USD, EUR, YEN? This app offers exchange rates for any thinkable currency you can imagine and it proved to be extremely helpful to me. It needs an internet connection though. Currency was also featured in my list of top 13 iPhone 3G applications.


It’s no secret that I love Twitter and I do have a feeling that you are using that little thing too. By the way, if you use it, you can follow me there. I like the fact that I can update my status wherever I am and I can do this with a picture too, if I feel the need. Twitterfon is a free, versatile Twitter application that proved to be useful for me not only during long trips but on my day to day routine. Maybe I got so attached to it that I had to use it during my trips too. Anyway, please keep in mind that you will need an internet connection for this one too.


I already wrote an extensive review of iBlueSky and it’s no secret either that I do love this application and I constantly use it for my blogging activities. It was also featured in my list of tools for the first 6 months of blogging. I find it extremely convenient to write down pieces of informations directly in iBklueSky rather than using a linear text editor like Notes. I write down guide informations, random thoughts or even instant blog post ideas. Most of the raw data from the trip to Japan, including the tea ceremony, was noted using iBlueSky.

Labirinth Lite

I’m honestly telling you that I didn’t see this one coming. But as I faced the situation of being in air for more than 30 hours in 4 days, I decided that I have to do something with my mind. Labyrinth Lite to the resuce. The game is simple and the app was featured before on this blog, in the very first top 13 of my iPhone applications. What is really interesting in playing Labyrinth Lite on a plane is that the real “horizontal” is not horizantal at all. And that adds pretty much to the game challenge. You can think you’re on an horizontal line but the accelerometer will tell you different, that’s for sure. For those of you with a little bit of humor and a strong heart, you can try playing this while going through turbulences. Not for long, maybe, but you can try it. 😉

So, I guess this is it. And it’s pretty impressive to have a camera, a map viewer, a calendar, a tumblr updater, a currency app, a mind mapping app, a game console and a time machine in one slick device which, let’s remember, has also the basic function of being a mobile phone. Which you actually use to talk with your friends or send text messages. Some expresso coffee maker and a juice blender functionalities would have been really nice, but for now I will just settle with what I have, and wait for the next Apple event. Who knows, after all? 😉

[tags]iPhone, GTD, travel, New Zealand, Switzerland, Thailand, Japan[/tags]

18 thoughts on “iPhone as a travel mate”

  1. @nutuba well, I wish I could have signed that affiliate deal with Apple that Steve proposed to me several months ago. After this post, with iPhone sales boosting, I will certainly be rich 🙂

    Joking, of course 🙂 Maybe you could take one for Aunt Ruth, who knows?

  2. @ibz hey, I also use Planets, is one of the app I was researching for an iPhone project I am working on, it’s great. About Asian languages iPhone app I will surely quote you as the master of ’em all, you surely know your way around. 🙂

  3. Oh, I’ve been a long time Apple hater, but then I got a MacBook, which I hated in the beginning, then I got an iPhone, which I also hated in the beginning. After I got used to them, I can say I totally love them. The iPhone is indeed an excellent travel mate, but more than that, it’s *the* best Swiss army knife that once you got used to, you’ll never want to go anywhere without!

    Some travel-related apps I really love (added non-travel related in a comment to your post about your top apps):

    Siphon – I make a lot of international calls. Therefore I’m using a VOIP account ( from justvoip.com) to keep the costs very low. What’s cool about Siphon, is that it provides an interface similar to the normal phone, but whenever you make a call it goes through your VOIP account, which is MUUCH cheaper than a real call. Ah, you need to be connected to a wireless network to do that, but I guess that’s not a problem, since you can find free wifi everywhere these days. One mention though – you won;t find this app on AppStore. You need to install it from Cydia, which means you need to jailbreak the iPhone first.

    Planets – a little app that gives some useful information about planets, based on your time and location. I’m not into astronomy, but sometimes I’m curious when the sun will rise / set. It also has an awesome picture showing the day / night on earth at the current time.

    And if we are talking about traveling, there’s tons of dictionaries available for the iPhone. I use KTDict C-E (for Chinese) every day! It really changed the way I’m learning Chinese, since I can input Chinese characters by just drawing them with my finger, so I can look them up instantly even if I don’t know how to read them! For Japanese there is Kotoba, also a really good dictionary.

    @ibz’s last blog post..ibz: Too bad I don’t like Beethoven. Gould couldn’t save the thing as much as Beethoven destroyed it. 🙂

  4. That is the company I use ! lol
    I know it would be an investment when traveling that is why I looked in to it for us.

    Bunnygotblog’s last blog post..Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

  5. @Marius thanks for the comment, mate, and good luck with replacing that broken screen. Or even better, replace the whole thing and buy a new one 🙂

  6. @BunnygotBlog I guess a 3g iPhone starts at 199 USD but it’s tied up to an AT&T plan, so you might check if you’re in a good relationship with AT&T first. It’s an investment not a gadget, it really pays off.

  7. @Jonathan glad I made your attention shift a little. It’s your call to buy and I’m not affiliated with them, but chances that you will find value in this are slightly bigger than for other similar devices.

  8. @Jonathan – I had the same feeling about the iPhone before I bought one, which I did only because I managed to get it outrageously cheap and legal, no obligations. Been analyzing other options recently, as I have damaged the screen glass, but there’s simply no replacement, except the new model that’s to be launched sometime.

  9. Why- what a gadget! I looked in to one similar that also had a Money converter even using credit cards I like to know what things cost and if I really want to spend that much.
    Great article __________

    Bunnygotblog’s last blog post..Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

  10. Oh, I wish I had an iPhone! 🙁

    Stephen – Rat Race Trap’s last blog post..Harness the Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Changing Your Inner State

  11. Thanks, you allmighty Spell Checker Meister, that was corrected.

    Mate, I don’t know yet if and when I’ll get bored, but regardless of that I’ll surely visit Australia sooner or later 🙂

  12. Can I be the spell checker again? 🙂

    “Not that I want so much to live this country, but there are still ” should be
    “Not that I want so much to leave this country, but there are still ” ?

    I know u want to live in that country, and don’t want to leave, but when you get bored (I heard that after a while you do get bored) you could move to Australia, and depending on what weather you like, that could be in Queensland for the heat and Tassie for the winter 🙂 You can still go skiing in NZ though 🙂


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