09/05/2018 17:27 BST | Updated 24/07/2018 10:48 BST

Expats Reveal The Ten Best Apps For Connecting Back Home

Getting ahead in a new country.

Jochen Tack via Getty Images

From speedy language learners, through reliable and cheap messaging services to money transfer apps.


One of the biggest barriers for expats settling in new countries is the language. The quicker you can communicate with the locals, the easier life will get. Most expats starting life in a new country will have made some effort to get to grips with the language beforehand, but an app like Duolingo is perfect for helping you improve. You can learn in small bite-sized chunks, allowing you to focus on different aspects of the language, be it listening, grammar or pronunciation, so it’s ideal for when you have a free five minutes here or ten minutes there. The app covers all the main European languages – English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and German.

Western Union

Western Union Money Transfer App

One of the most important things for expats is being able to transfer money back home and vice versa. The Western Union Money Transfer App allows you to do this quickly and easily straight from your pocket. Money can be transferred to over 200 countries and territories and the app features up-to-date exchange rates and fees. You can track the transfer directly from your mobile device, and access round-the-clock information on hours and services for over 500,000 Western Union agents worldwide (Agent location count valid as of 31 December 2017). “This app gives me peace of mind,” says Katka Novotny, a Czech living in London. “I use it to send money to my parents back home and it’s really user-friendly and convenient.”


One app every expat says they couldn’t get by without is WhatsApp. Now used by over a billion people in 180 countries, its sheer ubiquity means that, provided you’ve got a decent Wi-Fi connection, you can stay in touch with your nearest and dearest at no cost at all. “I use it every day to talk to my family back in Ecuador,” says Camilla Lopez. “What I really like is being able to make video calls and send video messages, especially with my parents. It’s also great for staying in touch with friends and seeing how much their kids have grown! When I first moved to London, I’d have felt far more homesick without it.”

Wi-Fi Finder

WiFi Finder

Back in the day, expats had to wander around their new city looking for coffee shops promising free Wi-Fi, or even hunt down a ramshackle internet café. But these days there are a number of apps – like Wi-Fi Finder – which enable expats to utilise Wi-Fi hotspots for free. User can share hotspots they’ve found, so the app is constantly being updated and expanded, and it works in over 50,000 cities worldwide. It’s perfect for letting you work on the go without burning through data, and make the most of other apps like WhatsApp.

Business Culture and Etiquette

Are you meant to shake hands when greeting someone? Bow? Kiss one cheek? Both cheeks? One of the greatest fears of any expat is the minefield of social norms and taboos, where making a social faux pas could see you ostracised by people in your adopted country. This is especially true when it comes to business, so the Business Culture and Etiquette app is perfect for giving you a comprehensive introduction to the dos and don’ts of the culture. Available for ten countries, including China, Germany, Brazil and Sweden, it provides information on appearance, behaviour, formal rituals and what kind of negotiating tactics to expect.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Expats are enthusiastic about exploring their new home, and one of their favourite apps for doing so is the UNESCO list which features 1,073 World Heritage sites. Daniel Chalmers moved to San Francisco a couple of years ago, and he’s used the app to explore places like the Redwood National Park, the Yosemite National Park and the Grand Canyon, among others. “This app is a great starting point. Obviously there are other apps for specific tourist attractions, but as well as exploring the US, I also travel to Mexico quite a lot for work, and the app is great for discovering ancient Aztec monuments and includes a lot of useful historical and practical information. I also like the fact that I can book hotels via the app.”

News apps (various)

For Maria Ortiz, a UK resident from Madrid, the El Pais and ABC news apps are essential for staying in touch with what’s going on back home. “And Vanitatis for gossip,” she confesses with a laugh. Whether it’s the New York Times, Spiegel, France 24 or the good old BBC, every expat feels it’s important to keep tabs on what’s happening back in the old country. “It’s another way I stay connected with friends and family back home,” says Maria. “I follow the UK news too, but if I’m chatting with my brother back in Madrid, we talk about Spanish politics mostly, so these apps make sure I’m up-to-date with all the latest developments.”



When it comes to peace of mind in a new environment, Doctoralia is an essential app for any expat. It provides information on both doctors and health care centres in the city you’re moving to. At the moment it features 20 countries worldwide, including Brazil, India, UAE and several in Europe, and it continues to expand its reach. Not only does it find doctors close to you, it also provides patient feedback and lets you know the language they speak. Simon Hayes, who moved to Delhi in India recently, says, “Given India is a very different country from the UK in terms of climate and culture, especially with all that spicy food, it’s reassuring to know I can find a reliable doctor. And there are loads of places in Delhi that use this app.”


Finding ways to settle into a new community can be a common anxiety for new expats, with uncomfortable flashbacks to that ‘first day at a new school’ feeling. The MeetUp app is a great way to assuage your fears. Available in thousands of cities, it connects you to people in your new environment who share similar interests and passions, so whatever you might be into – hiking, books, photography, golf, salsa, dog-walking – you can see if there’s a group dedicated to it. You can also set up your own profile, so like-minded people can find you, and it’s useful for business contacts, too.


Being completely lost is familiar feeling for new expats, especially if you’ve just moved to a world city like New York, Tokyo, Mumbai or London. For offline maps where you don’t have to worry about Wi-Fi, you can’t do any better than CityMaps2Go. As well as up-to-date, detailed and well-designed maps, it also features photos and comprehensive information on footpaths, bikeways and public transport. Incorporating 60,000 destinations in more than 150 countries, wherever you find yourself, this app will help you get your bearings.

Vital to expats, make fast, reliable money transfers, wherever you are by using the Western Union app. Download it now, for free.