We’ve curated the best mobile apps for traveling in South America, to help you tech-savvy (and you technically-challenged) navigate your way around South America. From city guides with restaurant and activity recommendations that will spice up your free time, to useful apps for finding Wi-Fi hotspots and ATM machines, you’ll find recommended apps that will work in South America.
Just remember, when you bring your smartphone with you to South America, you most likely will want to turn off your data usage by selecting “Airplane Mode” as soon as you takeoff from your home country. Otherwise, you can accrue some hefty data usage and roaming charges from your phone carrier. Read more about setting your Android to Wi-Fi only here. Read more about setting your iPhone to Wi-Fi only here.
Note: we’ve tested these apps ourselves and found them to be useful on multiple platforms and in multiple cities throughout South America. But, coverage isn’t available in all destinations. Best of all, these mobile apps are all (except one) completely free! Now, on to the apps!
WI-FI Finder (iOS, Android) Now that you have your smartphone set to Wi-Fi only, you’ll need to find a Wi-Fi hotspot. Your hotel, a cafe, or restaurant will likely have Wi-Fi Internet access. But you can find tons more of Wi-Fi hotspots using this handy app. You can see a detailed map with all the available Wi-Fi hotspots around you and even get directions to find the hotspot. On the offline version, you only have the address where the Wi-Fi hotspots is available.
This app is available for the following countries in South America: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay. Note, with the offline version, some cities such as Lima, Cusco, and Santiago do not have a lot of hotspot choices available. But most other cities, such as Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo have extensive hotspots listed.
TripAdvisor offline city guides (iOS, Android) The holy-grail of peer-reviewed travel information offers a great mobile app with an extensive list of city guides. This app will give you all the good tips and reviews for attractions and restaurants around the city you are visiting. Once you download your selected city guide, the app works offline so you won’t be charged for expensive data roaming. City Guides offered in South America include: Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Santiago.
Download the TripAdvisor city guides app for Android and iPhone.
Travel Guides by Triposo (iOS, Android) These guides offer you complete travel info for Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. For each country/city there are a lot of different sections such as an eating out and sightseeing. There are also offline country maps and city maps for all major cities. There is also a phrasebook with useful phrases in Portuguese and Spanish. With that you will be able to communicate easily in the taxi, at the hotel and restaurants.
Download the Triposo city guides app for Android and iPhone.
Kindle Reader (all platforms) The Kindle Reader app is useful for downloading entire guidebooks such as Lonely Planet Peru/Argentina/South America/Chile & Easter Island etc for offline uses. The Kindle format is easy to read, it will take less room in your bag, and cost less than the paper format. Super insider’s hint: Amazon Prime subscribers can access the Amazon Lending Library, where there are 1000s of books (including travel guidebooks!) available for free download.
Brasil Mobile – Guia Turistico (iOS) If you are traveling to Brazil you can also download the Brasil Mobile – Guia Turistico app available for Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Cuiaba, Curitiba, Florianopolis, Fortaleza, Manaus, Natal, Porto Alegre, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and São Paulo. These guides highlight important cultural, leisure, and shopping attractions, and even a Portuguese conversation guide.
Download the Brasil Mobile app for the iPhone.
A helpful note: did you know that many public libraries across the US offer e-books and audiobooks available for free download to your smartphone, mp3 player, computer, or tablet? Go to your library’s website and look for a link to download E-Books. Chances are, there are great travel guidebooks just a few clicks away! Best of all? No late fees!
XE Currency (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry) When you are in a new country with a different currency it might be hard to know if what you’re buying is really worth it. Thanks to XE Currency you will know exactly what is the price of your purchase in your own currency. It’s easy to use! You choose your current currency, for example if you are visiting Brazil you will select Brazilian Real (BRL). Then you enter the amount or price you are going to spend and you can see its equivalent in your home currency. You can even use it offline and still get updated rates of exchange.
ATM Hunter (iOS, Android, Windows Phone) You need to withdraw some cash? This app will help found the closest ATM all around the world. You can choose to find the closest ATM from an address, an airport or your current location. You can then see where exactly the ATM is on the map and ask for directions via your smartphone GPS. This app is free but doesn’t work offline.
TripIt (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry) It’s an easy way to organize and share your travel plans. It will gather all your trip details from your email inbox, and will create one master itinerary – plus it’s easily accessible on you smartphone or tablet. No more last-minute searching on your phone for that elusive confirmation code: everything is at your fingertips with TripIt. It also provides you maps, directions and weather. There is a free-version to get you started, as well as a paid version with more features.
WhatsApp Messenger (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Nokia) This app is a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. Therefore, this app can be really useful is a foreign country where the price for text messages are higher. In order to use it you only need a Wi-Fi connection and have a correspondent using the app. There is no cost to message and you can stay in touch with your friends and family quicker than with emails.
Viber (all platforms) This useful app is perfect for traveling in South America, because it allows you to make FREE international calls from smartphone to smartphone. Best of all? The app itself is free.
Download the Viber app to your smartphone or tablet.
Google Translate: (iOS, Android) If you don’t speak Spanish or Portuguese, this free app can be really useful during your trip to South America. You can speak your phrases and hear the corresponding translations so it might be easier to repeat it. It works online but you can star your favorite translations for quick access even when you are offline and you can always access your translation history (even when you are offline).
Google Maps (Android, iOS, web app) You can make Google Maps available offline by viewing the location you need when Wi-Fi is available, then clicking the menu button and selecting “Make Available Offline.” Read more about viewing Google Maps offline in the Google support center here.
Download Google Maps for your smartphone here.
Bonus! Staying Safe (for US Citizens):
For US Citizens, we also recommend downloading the free Smart Traveler app from the US Dept of State, available through iTunes and the Android market. This is a great app for staying up-to-date on travel warnings, maps, and embassy locations.
Know of another great mobile app perfect for traveling in South America? Or have some feedback on one of these apps? Share it in the comments section!12 Best Mobile Apps for Traveling in South America by Cecile Honnorat