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7 essential Windows Phone apps for traveling in Southeast Asia

In a few days, I'll be returning back to New York after spending three weeks in Southeast Asia. To be more specific, I've spent time in Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines. I've had the Lumia Icon with me, which comes unlocked out of the box by Verizon.

I've noticed my usage is a bit different compared to how I use the Icon back in the United States. Here are 7 apps that have become really handy while traveling in Southeast Asia.

Eating

My go-to app in the US for finding food spots is Yelp. I know can rely on the service to provide reviews and photos from its millions of users. Unfortunately, it's not available in the three countries I've visited. How would I know where to eat? Instead of panicking, I've started using three apps: Zomato, Foursquare, and Tripadvisor.

The three apps are all great for giving restaurant suggestions, whether you are looking for breakfast, lunch, dinner, pubs, or snacks. There's no clear favorite. I use them all to read the reviews and look at user-submitted photos. I especially like that Zomato provides an estimated price for two people.

Things to do

I've already mentioned Tripadvisor for food recommendations above, but it's also great for finding attractions. For example, it was really useful in telling us which island hopping tours to take in Palawan and which beaches to visit. Instead of depending on our hotel's front desk, who might have other motives to suggest certain places, I read TripAdvisor reviews from several other people who have travelled in the area.

Another useful tool while travelling is WikiTravel (wikitravel.org). It's not an app, though. It provides great information on things to do and places to see. Simply use your web browser.

Getting around

I don't know if it's the way I look or speak, but many taxi drivers in Southeast Asia want to rip me off. Several times, drivers have refused to use the meter or only agree to flat rate prices that are more than double the usual amount. I'm glad Uber exists and I've used it several times on this trip.

One thing to note is that the Uber drivers see my American number on their app. They're unable to contact the number on my local prepaid SIM. I use the 'contact driver' option in the app, if I need to call or send an SMS to the driver for more details just in case.

Another service that is popular in Southeast Asia is EasyTaxi (easytaxi.com). It's a little different from Uber. The app flags down a nearby taxi and you can track its location. The taxi will use the meter when they pick you up, but there is a small booking fee. The locals I've talked to use this service as well as a similar service called, GrabTaxi (grabtaxi.com (opens in new tab)). Unfortunately, GrabTaxi is currently unavailable for Windows Phone.

More travel tips

Before you leave home, I recommend downloading offline maps for HERE maps. It's not hard to get a prepaid SIM card for data when arriving at the airport, but it'll be a lot better if you already have the maps downloaded on your phone.

If you need help reading foreign menus or signs, the camera feature on Microsoft's Translator is pretty useful. It lets you point your phone towards the menu and translate the words on the screen.

Do you have any more tips or suggestions for people travelling in Southeast Asia or in general? Are there any other apps worth mentioning? Let us know in the comments!

Download the apps

  1. Zomato (Free)
  2. TripAdvisor (Free)
  3. Foursquare (Free)
  4. Uber (Free)
  5. EasyTaxi (Free)
  6. HERE Maps (Free)
  7. Bing Translator (Free)

Mark Guim is Video Editor at Windows Central. He switched to Windows because the MacBook Pro isn't Pro enough. You can follow him on Twitter at @markguim.

93 Comments
  • It's more fun in the Philippines!
  • Sorry, but no.
  • What made you say that my friend?
  • It's simply just a tourism slogan for Philippines. Bet Mark heard it once or twice during his stay.
  • lol yup. Very good slogan.
  • You're such a bitter queen
  • Uber.. No way. In India uber gets you raped
  • I've been waiting for you so long here in Thailand, still no sign of you.
  • I was in Bangkok for a few days! Love the food and malls =)
  • Malls there are huge. Skytrain is amazing.
  • I'm in Chon Buri (ชลบุรี) - a city next to Bangkok.
  • ugh. this filipino pride shit again.
    dimwit! keep that away here in windowscntral. you're a living disgrace to our fellowmen. *cringe*
  • Hahahaha... Let's not start that pride thing here in WC. Please. Hahahha
  • +1. Filipino pride is annoying. It's everywhere in the internet.
  • When you coming to India?
  • hahaha... this is a must have question on every article.
  • Lol
  • Would love to visit India one day. Curries. Yumm.
  • Sure.. (:
  • There is a lot more to India than just Curries buddy :)
  • Go Goa
  • indian curry is yummy but pretty strong, gotta have tough stomach to handle the aftermath
  • Wow.. Nice to have article like this. Essential app for vacation at such places.
  • Baaaliiiii....
  • Malaysian Airlines. no
  • Was that necessary here..?
  • You are also not related here. No.
  • If they gave away a 50% round trip ticket, would you consider? Lol!
  • No
  • I think grab taxi is available. But maybe only for Philippines and Malaysia.
    http://www.windowsphone.com/en-ph/store/app/grabtaxi-book-a-taxi/8478bdb...
  • I tried, but says 'no longer published.'
  • Philippines!!!
  • You missed Indonesia!
  • It's a shame that here maps are not available in Japan... :/
  • They're not available for Pakistan too.
  • Bro these available for both these countries. I can browse Pakistan and Japan on here maps,wth are you talking about
  • Let me check.
  • No maps for Japan or Pakistan.I checked. Only aerial View available which is a norm.
  • If you went to Palawan then you went to the paradise on earth. One of the best vacation places in the world. Best beach if you ask me.
  • Got it all!!!
  • "Grab a Taxi" is way too buggy! Been using "Easy Taxi" for quitesome time now. Beautiful UI, clean and GPS is always accurate (at least based on my experience from the time the cab has arrived from the moment of your booking, etc). I don't mind paying tip since I do it anyway everytime I grab a taxi.
  • Yeah. I don't know why GrabTaxi doesn't update any thing in Windows Platform.
  • Asked them to update their app numerous times and they say that they don't have dev who could help them
  • no Indonesia no party
  • I lived in Malaysia for a few years, grab taxi is basically just another name for MyTeksi from Malaysia. It's only available in the local app store of the country and not the US one
  • Yup! Learned that they are the same company.
  • Agoda for booking hotels. Adobe Reader to read the Lonely Planet travel guides. And indeed, tripadvisor and HERE maps. HERE is an absolute must for backpackers who go off the beaten track. And don't forget to search for attractions itself. The archeological city of HAMPI has an app for example. For larger city's it's always wise to look up metrotube apps or public transport in general. Weather app of course to plan for the next destination.
    And the best for last: OneDrive. Store all your important docs for travel there in case you lose them. Passport, visa copy, travel details of your flights, ferry etc. Hotel booking slips.
  • I forgot to mention the offline reading option for Windows Central :-)
  • Yes, cant recommend enough how useful One Drive is when traveling.for storing important travel docs,such as copies of passports, as it is illegal to travel through out the area with out this information on you at all times.
  • From New York went to Southeast Asia but didn't visit Indonesia with Bali, Komodo Island (island with oldest reptile), and Raja Ampat
    Ew
  • Would love to visit Bali one day for sure.
  • Mark I can see you lying to folks lately :P:P
  • Palawan means PARADISE.
  • Come to India. You'll see both heaven and hell together in cinemascope.
  • Weird that you visited S.E Asia but didn't visit the greatest country in the world, Singapore.
  • Did not have enough time. Definitely on my list to visit one day.
  • How many countries do you visit in future.
  • Wrong time bro. The heat goes crazy here in Malaysia.
  • Here maps not available in Cambodia, sigh.
  • How hard can it be to draw two dirt roads on a map?
  • KL Transit Lite is a handy app. Also there are a number of Kuala Lumpur travel guides that can be downloaded from the store which come in handy.
  • Welcome to Thailand again, Mark!
  • I was in Thailand and the Philippines for most of December. Trip Advisor definitely came in Handy along with Here Maps
  • Did you go to Manila and did you drive there. For me it's officially the worst driving I have ever seen. If you drive there and survive you can drive anywhere.
  • Still in Manila. I wouldn't drive here. Traffic is too much. I've been using Uber.
  • Are you not scared there with your 930? I mean in general. People. I was there at the time of the Yolanda storm... I was more scared of people than the storm haha.
  • Currently travelling in Caribbean...sorry but not even close to Southeast Asia
  • Mark i know what you did in Asia ;)
  • You came to MALAYSIA??!
  • Penang! Definitely my favorite city for street food.
  • Nice! What's your favorite food in Penang? I'm a local :)
  • Char kway teow. Also became a big fan of nasi kandar.
  • Nice! im from penang too, yeah we get pretty spoilt by food choices. :D
  • Mark do let us know if and ever India is on your itinerary in the future. Especially the east coast :)
  • myteksi is grabtaxi equivalent in Malaysia. But the app sucks. Contracted them about difficulty to select manual location for pick up but it seems they need some dev love to help get the app improved
  • Zomato proved really useful during my Christmas vacation in Metro Manila. It got tons and tons of choices for dining and where to get drunk. LoL However, when you travel to other major cities outside the capital, you're left by asking your friends as to where to eat or drink. By the way, there's no Zomato in Saudi!!! Hmp!!! So, hello Foursquare and Swarm!!! #MissYouPhilippines #OFW
  • U forgot Waze.
  • Mark, you've been to 71 Gramercy? That first pic looks like you took it there.
  • Yup. That's where I took this photo!
  • Eh di wow!!! Ikaw na!!! :) :) :)
  • Marc, what's the deal with your avatar image? It looks more like an early version of HoloLens. Have you heard about HoloLens while you are off?
  • Mark, sorry, misspelling.
  • It's a product called mobile video hat.
  • try quickplace http://www.windowsphone.com/es-ve/store/app/quickplace/29b496f5-f7e0-492...
  • Asian master race! Lol
  • If were to visit Singapore, get "Made in Singapore" for a curated listing of apps SEA: GrabTaxi and EasyTaxi competes directly with UBER Singapore and Malaysia: Hungrygowhere Malaysia and Hong Kong: OpenRice
  • If you're going to Vietnam, there is a great Vietnamese city guide with English support called Nhà Nhà: http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/store/app/c%E1%BB%91cc%E1%BB%91c-nh%C3...
  • If you're in SEA, don't neglect the social aspect of your trip. Its really easy to make friends. Hook up on 6tin, travbuddy, etc. and stay in touch via messaging apps. And remember to keep a variety for different countries. BBM is a must for Indonesia, Line for Thailand, WhatsApp for Malaysia/ Singapore, Viber/Zalo for Vietnam, etc. Make sure you have enough content to read as well if you're traversing the cities, never underestimate the traffic jams of Jakarta, Bangkok, Manila. If you're getting a dose of nature a good pano app like cycloramic is essential. Skyscanner is also important to manage those inter-city flights.
  • Hi Mark Guim! The GrabTaxi app is previously available for Windows phone here in the Philippines. I was using one before. Unfortunately, it got pulled out. I escalated the matter to their customer service and I was told they don't have any advice yet as to when it will be back in the store.
  • Thanks! Noticed many taxis had the grabtaxi sticker
  • grabtaxi is a good service in metro, the only problem is that if you aren't going far, the booking fee is almost as much as the fare. Although being from the US even the inflated touristmoneygrab tax probably seemed acceptable to you.
  • Manila's public cabs are so horrible, no point even using grabtaxi. Uber does the trick for me in Manila, KL, and Singapore. In Bangkok, Saigon and especially Jakarta im happy with the public taxi service.
  • Yes, GrabTaxi, the app is gone. I use Uber most of the time but I did use GrabTaxi about three times.I don;t like the payment method, unlike Uber just ride and go.