Supported by Starling Bank

The best apps, gadgets and tech to keep you safe when travelling abroad

By Edwin Smith 26 July 2017
Image: Getty/pixelfit.

Don't leave home without them.

Gearing up for your holidays? Whether you’re planning a weekend break to a European city or a full-blown expedition to some remote, far-off land, travelling abroad always puts you in new, and potentially tricky, situations.

Fortunately, help is at hand.

Here’s our round-up of the best tech, apps and gadgets to keep you safe and sound this summer:

Best for staying online


The combination of functionality and toughness built into Caterpillar’s Android smartphones make them a more reliable travel companion than your iPhone.

The S60 is drop-proof from 1.8m, waterproof to 5m for up to 60 minutes and packs a thermal imaging camera. Which could come in handy for checking the BBQ, if nothing else.

Bluesmart's Series 2.

Best for luggage

Bluesmart Series 2

Bluesmart’s second appearance on Indiegogo is attracting even more buzz than its first, which is some going, since Usain Bolt, Casey Neistat and Shaquille O’Neal are already fans.

More than $1.4m has been pledged by punters keen to get their hands on the company’s next generation of products. The new cabin, check-in, laptop bag and passport holder all link to an app, which enables you to track their whereabouts and automatically locks the luggage when it’s no longer in your immediate vicinity.

Docks for charging devices and in-built weighing scales help to nix other less serious problems – before they turn into bigger ones.

Best for travel money

Starling Bank

The mobile-only Starling Bank was granted a UK banking licence last year, but also caters to customers who want to spread their wings.

It links up with Apple Pay and there are no fees for using the physical card abroad at an ATM (for up to three withdrawals and the usual limit of £300 per day).

There’s 24/7 customer support via the app and if you lose your card – even temporarily – it’s easy to manage.

“Maybe it’s behind a bar or in the back of your jeans pocket?” says Sarah Gilbert, Starling’s product director.

“With a quick tap you can temporarily apply security controls disabling your card payments. And, if someone tries to use your card for contactless or chip and pin payments, we’ll let you know by sending a real-time notification that there was an attempted payment while your card was locked.”

Starling is available for Android or iPhone.

Best for adventure

Spot Gen3

In remote or inhospitable locations, relying on mobile phone signal alone is a recipe for disaster.

The latest device from Marathon Des Sables, SPOT allows your contacts to track your location via GPS, can be used for messaging and has an SOS function.

A press of a button is all it takes to prompt a GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center to provide your GPS coordinates and other info to a local response team. The company’s kit has facilitated 5,125 rescues – and counting…

Best for security

Norton Wi-Fi Privacy

Roaming charges in 28 European countries were scrapped in June thanks to EU legislation, but limited data plans and other factors mean that 58% of Brits still intend to use public Wi-Fi networks while abroad, according to research carried out by computer security firm Norton.

That’s a problem, according to the company’s general manager for EMEA, Nick Shaw, who cites USA Today journalist Steve Petrow’s experience of having his email hacked on a public network while using in-flight Wi-Fi.

Without a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your information, personal information such as your social media logins, bank account credentials, and credit card numbers could be stolen easily,” says Shaw.

Norton’s WiFi Privacy app provides a secure encrypted VPN connection on public Wi-Fi hotspots to stop cyber criminals getting their hands on your deets.

Best for staying hydrated

Grayl water bottle

One 15-second plunge of the Grayl Ultralight water bottle’s ‘ultra-powdered activated carbon’ filter produces drinkable water from grotty hotel taps or risky outdoor sources.

The company says the system protects against pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, protozoa as well as particulates, chemicals and heavy metals.

Best for insurance


Blockchain-backed home insurance upstart Lemonade and on-demand car insurers Cuvva have made headlines recently, but travel insurance is still mostly a hassle.

One bright spot is Trov, which, through its app, has just started to offer on-demand insurance for individual items that’s valid anywhere in the world.

Planning your own dream trip? Starling is the mobile banking app worth packing, it’ll keep track of your holiday spending and help you avoid surprise charges. Find out more today.