We live in an increasingly digital world where many of our interactions take place through the screen of a mobile phone. Chances are you’re even reading this article from the screen of a mobile device.
Apps are a critical component of mobile phones in our world. They’ve become uber-important to how we communicate, transport, and purchase things. There are over 3 million apps in the world, however, their usefulness is often determined by geography.
If you’re a digitally-savvy person who is visiting or has just moved to the UK, you’ll be keen to know what apps will serve you best in your new location.
We’ve put together the most important applications you can download on your mobile phone while on that journey to your hotel room.
Best Navigation app — Google Maps
Online maps are one of the most underrated inventions of the last few years. There are fewer places they come in handier than when you’re in an unfamiliar city.
Google maps remains one of the most reliable ways to get around in the UK. The app provides location data for trips, letting you know how long it will take depending on your transport choice. Asides from providing location data, you can also use it as a discovery tool for finding interesting spots to visit.
If you use an iPhone, you can opt for Apple Maps which is the device-native app of choice. Alternatively, you can choose to go with Waze, which is a user-led navigation app. If you’re in London, Birmingham, or Manchester, you may want to try Citymapper for a more-personalised experience. The app is perhaps the best for navigating urban cities as it accounts for more transport options than Google maps and factors in real-time disruptions to make recommendations.
Best app for car transport — Uber
Like many other European countries, the UK offers three major intra-country transport options – car, bus, or train. If you’re looking to travel a short distance and time is of the essence, then the Uber app is the best option for you.
With over 70,000 drivers and 5 million+ riders, Uber is by far the most popular ride-hailing service in the UK. Bolt is a cheaper, but less popular option, especially with drivers. But, if you’re looking for something with a bit of pizzaz, Wheely allows you to book luxury rides where you can choose your music, car temperature, and route.
Alternatively, if you’re in London, you may choose to flag down one of the city’s famous black taxis for a proper British experience.
Be careful though as costs may rack up quickly with cabs. Fares tend to be quite pricey. As such, cabs should ideally be used for short trips.
Best Rail Transport app — Trainline
You can’t take too long in the UK before discovering the importance of its famous rail network for everyday life. Many people choose to use the train because it’s typically cheaper for long distances. Also, it’s a pretty fast way to get around.
However, the UK has over 24000 trains and 2500+ train stations. It can be difficult to keep up with the train schedules and ticket prices if you’re a newbie.
For many people in the country, Trainline is the app of choice for getting around. The app allows users to get real-time information on trips and tickets. In addition, users are able to get predictions on ticket prices based on historical data. That way, you can purchase tickets when they’re likely to be cheapest.
Other alternatives include Live TrainTimes UK and Interrail.
Best app for banking — Revolut
Banking is one of the most geographically-regulated sectors. Whether you’re visiting or here for the long haul, you will eventually need to be able to complete transactions within the UK. To that end, you’ll need to create a bank account.
While there are a number of available options, we recommend digital-first banking options like Revolut and Monzo as great choices. This is because they have fewer requirements for opening accounts, which is important, especially, if you’re not yet a resident.
To open a Revolut account, you will need to provide some personal identifiable information like name, birth date, address, email, and phone number. Next, you will need to activate your account by making a deposit. You will also be required to provide further verification including a selfie picture, and a picture of your passport.
Other alternatives include Monzo, Wise multicurrency accounts, and Monese.
Best app for sending money back home — Zazuu
Yes, this is a self-plug. Why not?
If you’re an African immigrant, chances are quite high that you’ll be sending money back home quite often.
You should definitely get the Zazuu app, as it gives you instant access to the top money transfer providers in the country you’ll be sending money. In addition, Zazuu makes real-time comparisons between the providers to help you get the best deal on your transaction.
Other alternatives are money transfer providers like Wise (formerly Transferwise), Azimo, and Remitly. If you’re looking for something more African-specific, Lemonade Finance also offers some great rates for transactions to Nigeria and Ghana
Best app for ordering food – JustEat
Considering all the activities you need to get done within the first few days, you’ll most likely need to have food delivered a couple of times.
Food delivery apps are a dime a dozen, but JustEat is the app of choice in the UK. With over 30,000 restaurants, you get a healthy assortment of options to choose from. Deliveries typically cost under £5 and the minimum order cost for most restaurants is around £10. However, with under £20, you should typically be able to get a decent meal.
Other alternatives for ordering food include Deliveroo and UberEats.
Best Healthcare app — NHS app
The NHS is a national healthcare insurance service available to all UK residents. Whether you’re a permanent or temporary resident, it is usually advisable to register with a General Practitioner (GP) near you.
Once you’re registered, you can download the NHS app to get access to a ton of NHS services from your mobile device. The range of services open
The NHS also has a Covid app which is useful for contact tracing in case of a covid outbreak.
Best app for meeting people — Tinder
Eventually, you’ll have to meet people and build your own social circle in your new city. If you don’t have the luxury of social gatherings like religious centres or schools, dating apps are a great option.
Many young people are using dating apps to make friends. Tinder is the most popular dating app in the UK, which makes it a great place to start. Make sure to highlight that you’re new to the country and are looking for platonic friendships in your bio. That, coupled with your interests should send some nice people your way.
You can also make use of Bumble’s BFF service which is specifically built to allow people with similar interests to connect platonically.
Best app for finding an apartment — Rightmove
While you may initially choose to star at a hotel or Airbnb, eventually, you’re going to need to get an apartment.
Rightmove is the most popular service helping brits find apartments, so it makes sense to start with them. Depending on the city you’re in, getting an apartment might be a bit trickier than others, as apartments move faster in certain areas than others. If you can’t find what you’re looking for on Rightmove, you can check out Zoopla or OntheMarket.
Other notable mentions
- If you’re in the UK to study and you also like shopping, Unidays is a must-have. It is a service that gives users access to exclusive deals targeted at students.
- The UK has a lot of fine-dining options if you want to go out for lunch or dinner. You can get great deals on them with Taste Cards, a mobile app that helps you save on meals by bringing you the best deals.
- Buses are another common way of transport in the UK. For intercity travel, you can use the Flixbus app to buy tickets and make reservations. Another alternative is the NXBus mTicket app, which is the official app of the National Express.