Traveling to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil can be intimidating. There’s a lot of concern for safety, and many of us don’t speak fluent (or any) Portuguese. With 2016 Summer Olympics around the corner, many of us will be flocking here.

As the CEO of Owaves, I’ve spent the last two months out here in Rio de Janeiro preparing our team for the upcoming events. With some Spanish, zero Portuguese, and a whole bunch of anxiety, I’ve landed on a few favorite Apps that have helped me find my way. Rio is an amazing, beautiful destination. Best to be safe, prepared and ready to have a good time.


Despite local services such as GoHouse and VivaReal, AirBnb has been a life-saver for last-minute comfortable and affordable accommodations in Rio de Janeiro.  As a first-time user of the service while moving out here, I had no expectations other than to find a place.  The human aspect that AirBnb emphasizes through its review and accreditation process is the game-changer that makes this more than an accommodation App.  It bridges people, hence cultures, hence the world in a seamless, 2.0 way.


I had switched over to Waze from GoogleMaps (never Apple Maps!) about a year or two ago to see what all the hubbub was about.  Besides the fact that it seemed to encourage me to text while driving and has a bunch of distracting elements, it started to win me over by convincing me its routes were the smartest and fastest.  It took one headline about a couple erroneously getting led to a dangerous same-name favela and consequently being shot, to steer me clear of Waze for my trip to Brazil.  In Rio, trusty old GoogleMaps is doing the trick, and leading me in the right direction – whether by foot, BRT, taxi or Apple Watch.


I think my worst favorite memory of traveling to Costa Rica was taking a bus to a local, secluded surf spot and having the driver blast Usher and Britney Spears all the way there.  In Rio, I’ve been grateful to hear more local tunes while out and about.  Probably my new favorite pastime here (if that makes sense), is busting out my Shazam on long taxi rides.  Taxi drivers here frequently sing while they drive and are always listening to the right tunes.  Two new artists courtesy of this crew: the Brazilian Tim Maia (Gostava Tanto De Voce) and Spain-based Bebe (Siempre Me Quedara).

Apple Health

With changing time zones, DST spring-forward, and teammates in different time zones all over the world, my body clock needs constant monitoring.  Apple Health takes me half-way there by allowing me to FINALLY store all my sleep and exercise data in ONE safe and secure place.  I know with Apple’s $700B ecosystem, my data won’t disintegrate due to a short-term change in policy or some other nonsense.  I also keep track of my weight, HR and BP.  Weight will give me an indicator on my eating habits, for example making sure I don’t budget myself to negative calories.

What’s App

It’s the best way to talk to Mom.  Period.  I was told over and over, that since we’re iPhone to iPhone that iMessage and FaceTime would take care of everything…  Well, for whatever reason this hasn’t sustained.  Likely because I need a local SIM card to get affordable internet on my phone, these supposed iBenefits have all but disappeared and What’s App is there for the rescue on the all important umbilical cord. Not to mention it’s a great way to connect with locals. Win-win.


Speaking of managing my body clock…  Owaves picks up where Apple leaves off by providing an easy-to-use interface to view all my sleep and exercise data.  Apple Health integration is working SUPER on our prototype and will be released soon… My favorite part about tracking my activity w/ Owaves & Apple Health is no 3rd party device needed, it’s all on iPhone.  

Google Translate

I don’t speak Portuguese, and surprisingly, not many Brazilians speak English.  Enter, language gap. Google Translate has saved me in many taxi rides, restaurant orders, and mobile carrier stores.  It’s AMAZING.  Can translate images in real-time using the camera (augmented reality anyone?!), it can translate audio to text in seconds with remarkable accuracy (it was sufficient to kick me out of a room on one occasion!), and then of course text-to-text.  My favorite use case is hovering the camera over menus to figure out my order.

XE Currency

I haven’t done daily mental math since grade school. Somewhere after 4th grade I just turned that button off. Well, dividing things by four-ish on a continual basis sounds easy enough, but add in the real-time stress of being late, lost or concerned for your physical safety, and all of a sudden your brain is worried about other things. XE to the rescue, two or three buttons later, you have the number you owe right in front of you.