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Five tech solutions to make your international life easier

If you live abroad or frequently cross borders, staying on top of everything in your personal and working life can be challenging. But in today’s world, there are at least a host of innovative technologies that can help you to simplify things. 

Five tech solutions to make your international life easier
Virtual cards can be used to make contactless payments. Photo: Getty Images

What kinds of tech do you find help you the most with your international lifestyle? And which of the following would it make sense for you to try out in 2022? 

The Local, in partnership with Zadarma, a telecommunications company offering virtual phone numbers and other services, presents five essential tech solutions for international living. 

Learn more about Zadarma’s affordable virtual phone numbers – available in 100 countries worldwide

1. Virtual debit cards 

Carrying cash and bank cards with you at all times is less and less attractive – and particularly if you spend a lot of time away from your home country. Virtual cards aren’t cards at all in the physical sense – they exist only on your phone (phew, no plastic required!). Once you’ve signed up for a virtual card, you can simply store it in your banking or e-wallet app. 

They do still have a card number, an expiration date, and a security code, so they work just like a regular card (and you can also get virtual credit cards with spending limits).

They’re easy to use for online payments and may be linked to Apple or Google Pay to make in-store purchases where contactless payments are accepted. 

Losing a physical bank card can be a nightmare – especially if you have a language barrier to deal with. Lost your password for a virtual card? You’ll be able to recover or reset it within minutes, while you should also be able to lock the card from your phone at any time.

2. Language translation tools 

When we asked The Local’s readers in Germany and Sweden about the best tech solutions for international living, a huge number cited translation apps and tools. Whether you’re a complete newcomer or you’ve settled in and begun learning the language but need a translator for more complex tasks, these solutions can be a lifeline.

Scared to ask a passerby for directions? Terrified of another blank look from a puzzled official behind a counter? Just type in or say the word in English (or your native language) and get an instant stress-relieving translation. 

Kara Beller, originally from California but living in Hamburg since May 2020, summed up how many of you feel about translation apps: “I would be dead without them!”

While Google Translate is obviously the best-known service, it’s not without flaws and there are a wide range of options you could try. Are you looking for the top tool for just one language? Or do you live in a country (or lead a life) where you’re befuddled by several different languages? Many apps cover dozens of leading languages but searching for a specialist locally-invented tool could hold more value for some of you.

3. Virtual phone numbers 

While some futurologists have predicted the death of voice communication, people continue to talk to each other on the phone. If you live an international life, phone calls may be vital for staying in touch with family, dealing with admin tasks back home, or running a business. These are some of the reasons for setting up a virtual phone number (a number that’s not fixed to a specific device or phone line and can forward incoming calls to another phone or device).

Many international people find it helpful to keep a virtual phone number from back home – such as non-Europeans living in Europe who can face steep charges for long-distance calls that cannot be done via services like WhatsApp, such as those with a bank.

Nayane Smith, a Brazilian reader of The Local who lives in Sweden, says she began using a virtual phone number for better communication “with my family, as well as with the new contact network here”. 

With a virtual phone number from Zadarma, you pay as little as €1.60 per month to make the number yours and all incoming calls are free. Subscribers include small business owners wanting to expand their geographical presence, personal users and even an airline call centre. If you’re not ready to make a long-term commitment, you don’t need to worry as there’s no minimum contract term (three-month minimum to include SMS services).

Live in the UK? The re-introduction of European roaming charges by many UK mobile network providers offers one more reason to consider a virtual number – simply make and receive calls to or from Europe through a European virtual number to avoid roaming charges.

Find out more about Zadarma’s virtual phone numbers – more than 30,000 numbers are available in 100 countries globally

Virtual numbers can help you with your work and personal life. Photo: Getty Images

4. Digital health tech 

Video consultations with doctors have become increasingly accessible in many countries in recent years. The chance to speak with a medical expert in English (or perhaps another preferred language) and effectively face-to-face just by picking up your smartphone holds obvious appeal.

If you have a busy life and you’re not fluent in the local language, such services – some of which are also available at all hours – could really make things easier for you. That would have been true even pre-pandemic, but is clearly even more the case now as Covid-19 continues to affect our daily lives.

If you’re new to a country or planning a move, why not search for the best options whether through public or private healthcare services and work out exactly what you can expect (from advice to diagnoses to prescriptions and perhaps even policies on personal data)?

5. Cloud storage 

We’re well into the 2020s and you really don’t want to be burdened with bundles of printed documents or a slow, overloaded laptop or phone. Cloud storage continues to evolve and is favoured by many people who live abroad.

It’s a great option as a business tool, as well as for storing and organising the huge number of photos you take with your smartphone. But a cloud service also offers a single, secure location in which to save important personal documents you may need again in the not-too-distant future.

Need a photo of your passport or a copy of your birth certificate? Store them in the cloud, so you can access them whenever you’re online while freeing up space on your devices.

Want to make your international life easier? Discover Zadarma’s virtual phone numbers, available for a monthly fee of as little as €1.60. Ready to sign up? Register here

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

The smartphone apps that make living in Austria easier

It’s well known that we all spend too much time on our phones, but there are some useful apps that make living in Austria easier.

The smartphone apps that make living in Austria easier

For anyone with a smartphone, using an app is a part of daily life, whether it’s for transport, banking, essential admin or social media.

There are some apps that are more useful than others though – especially when it comes to living in Austria.

Here are the top apps that every international resident in Austria should have on their phones.

WienMobil

This is the official app of the Wiener Linien – Vienna’s public transport operator – making it an essential tool for anyone living in the capital city or the surrounding area.

The WienMobil app covers all forms of transport in the city, from trains to buses and ride sharing vehicles, and shows all the different forms of transport available for a selected route.

FOR MEMBERS: Ten destinations by direct night train from Austria

Tickets can even be purchased and stored in the app, which means users don’t have to carry a physical ticket when they are going about their daily lives.

WienMobil’s transport partners include Citybike Wien, Europcar, Taxi 31300 and Westbahn.

ÖBB

ÖBB is Austria’s national rail operator and the ÖBB app is useful for anyone that regularly travels by train in Austria – or for anyone visiting the country.

Users can purchase tickets within the app and receive notifications about delays or changes to a service, as well as view information about platforms at specific train stations. 

City, weekly and monthly tickets can also be purchased in the ÖBB app.

Handy-Signatur

Before the pandemic, the Handy-Signatur was a little known app that most people didn’t understand, let alone use.

Then the Covid-19 Green Pass was rolled out, along with many other digital services, and the Handy-Signatur suddenly became an essential app.

But what is it exactly?

The Handy-Signatur is essentially a mobile phone (known as a Handy, in German) signature which turns your phone into a virtual ID card. It allows you to legally sign official documents without having to print them out and sign them by hand.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s Handy-Signatur and how does it work?

There is just one prerequisite for the Handy-Signatur – you need an Austrian or German mobile phone number to use it.

Also, it can be tricky to set up the Handy-Signatur as it requires registering at a registration authority, or at FinanzOnline – Austria’s online portal for the tax office. But once you’re in, it’s a practical tool to have.

However, it’s worth noting that the Handy-Signatur will become known as ID Austria in the future and all signatures will be automatically switched over to the new app.

Green Pass

The Green Pass, or Grüner Pass, is the nationwide app that is used to show proof of 3G (vaccination, recovery or a negative test for Covid-19 ).

Since 3G rules were introduced in Austria in spring 2021, the Green Pass has become an essential part of going to cafes, restaurants and events, and an easy way to show compliance with the rules.

READ MORE: Austria’s Green Pass: What counts as proof of 2G?

The app works by scanning in an official government certificate of vaccination, recovery or negative test. The app then displays a barcode that can be scanned by personnel at 3G or 2G venues and locations, as well as the expiry date of the certificate.

Additionally, the Green Pass is used at airports, at ski resorts when purchasing tickets and is recognised across the EU.

At the time of writing, there was no indication of when the 3G rules would be phased out, so The Local expects the Green Pass to be in use for the foreseeable future.

ÖAMTC

The Austrian Automobile, Motorcycle and Touring Club (ÖAMTC) recently announced that the average price of diesel in Austria hit an all time high of €1.477 per litre.

And prices are set to rise even more in the coming months with the introduction of Austria’s carbon levy of €30 per tonne of fuel from July 2022.

FOR MEMBERS: How to save money on fuel costs in Austria

So what can people do to protect their bank balance from the increased cost of fuel? Use the ÖAMTC app to find the cheapest deals in your area.

In the ÖAMTC app, users can search by petrol or diesel (depending on their vehicle) to view details of current prices at petrol stations in the selected area. For example, type in an address in Vienna and it will display all nearby fuel prices on a map or as a list. 

In these high cost of living times, every little bit helps – even if it’s just saving a few cents on a litre of fuel.

Der Die Das

For anyone learning German and struggling with the articles der, die and das, help is at hand with the Der Die Das app.

Type any German word into the search function and it will bring up the correct definite article, as well as for any alternative forms of the word. It also has a useful explainer about some exceptions to the use of articles.

Even better, it’s free to use. Simply download and start impressing your German-speaking friends with your new-found Deutsch skills.

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