Why This Unexpected App Is A Must-Have For Any Tourist Taking A Trip To Europe

When it comes to traveling abroad, one of the most important things to consider before jetting off is the question of how you're going to stay connected and in touch with others during your trip. After all, there are few things worse than arriving at your destination only to realize something's gone wrong — and you have no way of reaching out to anyone who can actually help you.

Whether your booking isn't showing up, your pre-arranged driver can't find you, or you have no clue which corner to turn to get to your accommodation, having a way to contact someone on the ground can make the difference between kicking things off on the right foot and falling into confusion.

That said, one of the best travel apps to download before any overseas trip is the tried and trusted WhatsApp. WhatsApp works just like a traditional messaging service, and it's widely used in most countries around the world — the app has over half a million users in India alone, while countries in Europe amount to over 350 million users (per World Population Review). All you have to do is save someone's contact number and have access to the internet — and that's it! Once that's done, you'll have access to free messaging and calls all within the same platform.

Using WhatsApp while traveling to Europe

Even though WhatsApp isn't hugely popular in the U.S. — only about 20% of the population uses the app, according to a 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center — the instant messaging platform is typically a go-to for people abroad. From Spain to Hungary, France to the U.K., and Italy to Germany, Europeans typically prefer the app for a variety of reasons. First of all, it's free. Second of all, anyone with a smartphone — whether it's iPhone or Android — can download and use it. That means you're not limited to only contacting your iPhone friends via iMessage or FaceTime. Lastly, it's incredibly convenient for communicating with pretty much everyone — from friends and family to businesses.

For first-time users, getting the app is simple. All you have to do is search for WhatsApp on your phone's app store, download it, and sign up for an account using a phone number. Once you've done this, pretty much anyone else in your contact list who is also using the app is available to message — meaning you don't have to go through the tedious process of trying to find someone's username.

From there, the platform is pretty straightforward. You can either start texting with someone, audio or video call them for free (yes, even international numbers), send voice notes, share documents, send your location, and even send GIFs and stickers to make things a little more fun.

More tips for staying connected while abroad

Nowadays, businesses around Europe rely on WhatsApp to stay in touch with their customers, including accommodations, restaurants, and even tour operators. Whether customers are coming from abroad or not, these businesses generally prefer the app because it's a lot cheaper and more convenient than, say, having to deal with emailing back and forth or using a separate phone line for customer service.

Finally, since WhatsApp requires at least an internet connection to work, you'll need to make sure you have access to Wi-Fi before trying to use it. Worried about the security risks associated with using public Wi-Fi networks during your trip? A great way to get around this is to invest in an international travel eSim that'll let you browse the internet abroad using your data plan — all without the exorbitant costs of roaming fees and unexpected charges.

As for letting others find and message you, you'll be glad to know that WhatsApp also lets you keep the original phone number you used to sign up even after you've switched SIM cards — the app will simply prompt you to choose which number you want to stick to. This means that people back home will still be able to contact you through the app — without asking for your "new" international number — and you won't have to deal with memorizing a whole new number. Just make sure you know your country code, otherwise the messages won't reach you.