The first time a good friend of mine put on the Vive headset, she immediately exclaimed, "So, this is the new way to travel!" While staying in your living room to travel the world will never live up to actually traveling around, forging new friendships and memories, it is definitely a close second.
Not only is traveling in VR an unbelievably freeing experience for those incapable of physically traveling, whether due to mobility issues or bank account issues, it also provides a sort of test for aspiring travelers — think you want to visit Rome? Why not test it out first?
As the quality of VR displays increases, so does the level of immersion. I was frankly surprised how drawn in I was even using Gear VR with a Samsung Note 5. VISO Places, the app that uses Google Maps to take you basically anywhere you want to go, had me traveling around my own city for about 30 minutes before I realized I could go anywhere I wanted.
There will no doubt be a lot more travel apps arriving in the near future as cruise lines, hotel chains, and airlines realize the potential when it comes to attracting would-be customers to their services. As 360-degree cameras become more popular, we will no doubt see a rise in user-shot video of remote and wild locations.
Travel in VR is already a lot of fun, but it's going to be seriously great. We can't wait to see where it takes us, but for now here are the best apps you can use to travel around the world without leaving your living room.
- Best travel apps for Google Cardboard
- Best travel apps for Samsung Gear VR
- Best travel apps for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive
Best travel apps for Google Cardboard
First opening YouVisit VR on your phone is a thrill; you see vivid, stylized images with fun titles and clearly marked categories, and music related to the region or activity plays. Most newer videos have at least 10,000 views, and I'm reminded of how much people love our world.
There are a ton of videos to choose from with more on the way. For now, enjoy a trip to India, go for a hike in several mountain ranges across the world, take a guided tour of Paris, and so much more.
The Wild Within
Want to know what Canada's British Columbia is all about without having to physically travel there? The Wild Within delivers two separate paths you can take; stay along the coastline and see fishing villages, whales breaching the surface, and gulls swooping down for a bite to eat, or head inland and see the rainforest, mountains, and waterfalls.
No matter what path you take, you're going to want to take the other right away. B.C. is a beautiful place just waiting for you to discover.
Best travel apps for Samsung Gear VR
If you enjoy guided tours full of music, interesting people, and breathtaking vistas, YouVisit Showcase will be right up your alley.
Choose from several set destinations that are really more like performances put on by the landscape and people native to the area. I took a trip to Alaska and a trip to Vietnam, then enjoyed a helicopter ride over New York City.
With more videos coming, YouVisit Showcase should be experience by everyone.
When I realized I could say — yes, there is voice recognition — pretty much any location on earth and it would take me there, my jaw almost hit the floor. Piggybacking off of Google Maps but not affiliated with Google, VISO Places lets you travel anywhere Google's been and lets you look around and teleport to nearby locations.
I spent a good 30 minutes walking around my own city, places I'd already been, before I realized I could go check out museums in Italy and machine shops in Bangalore, India.
The HD images are a pleasure to look at, even using a Note 5, and loading times are almost non-existent. This is a true choose your own adventure; you won't be disappointed.
Nomads currently has three presentations for you to enjoy. Follow the Maasai nomads through southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, swim with the Bajau sea nomads in South East Asia, and join the herders of Mongolia as they sweep through central Asia.
Nomads give a glimpse into the lives and hardships of these people, and demonstrates a life very different from our own. Here's to hoping we get more content from Nomads in the near future.
Littlstar is little more than a video viewing platform with a robust and growing travel section. I enjoyed a tour of Notre Dame district of Paris with a very nice French guide — if only I could remember his name. Did I leave a tip? I think I was too overwhelmed with seeing the cathedral.
Video quality when streaming isn't fantastic, but there is the option to download each video. Take a safari, see what's hidden in Iceland (hint: not ice), or finally go on that Caribbean vacation you've always meant to take.
Discovery VR has behind it the reputation Discovery as a brand has built over the last 30 years. No difference here — within the app (also available for Oculus rift) you'll find a ton of quality programs built specifically for VR. Learn about rhino poaching in Nepal, or take a swing through the rainforest as Tarzan — this was seriously cool.
Yes, there is a lot of non-travel content to slog through, but what they do have geared toward travel is quality stuff. Try the Tarzan video; you won't regret it.
Best travel apps for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive
If you're one who plots a course based on artistic merit of a region or city, you're going to love Woofbert. Take trips to famous museums and art galleries where you can browse the selection hanging and standing within. No other tourists get in your way, and no admission fees drain the bank.
Do you have a favorite artist in mind? There's a possibility their studio is on display within Woofbert. Only one way to find out! This app is only available for the Oculus Rift.
You start off floating high above the earth. The stars around you twinkle, but you're more interested in the points of interest denoted on the globe. You point with your controller, click once, and you're transported to your destination of choice.
No matter where you go, there are brochures laying around ready for you to pick up and read. I spent a few minutes locked in an Alcatraz jail cell listening to the previous occupants lamentations before becoming claustrophobic. I hit up a castle sitting high on a ridge in Germany next — the vista was unbelievable as I teleported atop the walls.
Travel the world and have a free tour guide no matter where you go? Can't really beat that… With more locations constantly on the way, Realities is a can't-miss app available for both Rift and Vive.
Where did you go?
What app and platform are you using to travel? What is your favorite destination? Did we miss any apps you love to travel with? Let us know in the comments section below!