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Camel sitting in sand against night sky.
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4 Apps for the World Traveler

Air Force Culture and Language Center app

Heading to another country and curious about what mobile apps might help you get ready?  Check out these handy resources!

The Air Force Culture Guide
Developed by the Air Force to help its officers acclimate overseas, this exhaustively researched app focuses on etiquette, traditions and politics, primarily those in Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. Categories like Personal Space and Eye Contact, Conversational Topics, Natural Hazards and Dining Customs come in handy for civilians too. The deep dives cover everything from how to shake hands with a Bulgarian, why Indonesians typically eat with their right hands, which gestures are considered impolite in the Congo and how you risk breaking the local law by engaging in certain discussions of the Thai monarchy. 

Timeshifter helps you manage jet lag by managing your light exposure. The app’s advice was informed by input from Dr. Steven Lockley, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine. Travelers type in info on their departing and arriving airports, dates and times of each flight and whether they’re early birds or night owls. An algorithm sets an hourly schedule starting a couple of days before the trip, indicating when to seek or avoid light, when to nap and optionally when to incorporate caffeine or melatonin. 

European restaurant workers are nuts about travelers from the U.S., said Anton Anisimov, co-founder of GlobeTips, since Americans have a reliable tendency to overtip abroad. His app helps visitors avoid inadvertently excessive generosity by cataloging gratuity practices in more than 200 countries and regions. If you’re just an armchair tipper, you can poke around the app’s atlas to learn, say, what to give a porter in Tunisia or a taxi driver in El Salvador. For those who are sweating over an unintelligible bill just dropped at the table, a built-in receipt scanner checks the phone’s GPS before pulling the local gratuity guidelines into its calculator. The calculator then clearly spells out what, if anything, should be left behind.

Crime and Place
Crime and Place features a compass that directs an out-of-towner out of harm’s way, or at least out of the likelihood of harm’s way. The app uses the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting database and the U.S. census to map crime statistics nationwide. When you walk or drive into an unfamiliar neighborhood, a half-mile radius around a pin of your current location gets segmented into green, yellow and red rings depending on the recorded number of murders, robberies, car thefts and so on.

Townscape of Uchisar, Cappadocia, Turkey