Travel guide giants Lonely Planet released a brand new version of their Guides app, with 39 cities for IOS. The new app is meant to combine Lonely Planet’s city guides, featuring plenty of easy to use components.
One such feature is that the guide maps are now available to be used offline. The new Guides is advertised as this new cool travel guide app, that’s really handy when you’re on the go. But if you really want to use it when you’re on the go, it’s crucial to remember to download each city guide individually before you go on your holiday, because by the time you’ve downloaded it, you would’ve easily bought a real map. Another important detail to remember is not to exit or minimise the app while you’re downloading one of the guides because that will only restart your download when you next open it.
Nevertheless, the new Guides has a lot of handy features, such as their ‘near me’ option, which, similarly to the AroundMe app, uses your location to determine points of interest nearby. Once you’ve downloaded a city guide, it automatically shows up on your welcome page and you can always access them offline.
The layout and menu options of the app are pretty straightforward. You have a search tool in the top left corner, which enables you to filter your search by continent (except for Asia and the Middle East, which are in two separate categories). Once you select a city from the continent list and download the guide, things get a bit more complicated. In my case, I selected Hong Kong from the Asia menu.
Each guide consists of a small interactive map, which takes up about half of your screen, with the bottom half being taken up by different buttons. You can pick between different points of interest, restaurants, hotels, shops, bars and outdoor activities around you. If you tap on the ‘Sleep’ button, for example, you’re immediately presented with a list of hotels, with the obvious expensive choices being at the top.
Each hotel section has a small subheading, outlining the nature of the hotel, such as quirky houseboat, budget hotel, midrange boutique hotel, etc. and lets you navigate through them according to your hotel preference. A useful guideline to the price of each hotel is the little pound (£) sign next to the subheading to indicate how expensive it is, £££ being luxurious and £ being budget. When you select a hotel, it gives you a short review of the hotel, with a little map, contact details and the best transport options to get there.
Back to the previous page with the map, when you scroll down the guide menu, you’re given options about different points of interest, specific for your selected town. In my case of Hong Kong, I could pick between Highlights, Colonial & East Meets West Architecture (which is a very specific attraction to Hong Kong), Traditional Culture and Unusual Eats, among many other options of activities and sights you could experience in the city.
This structure is consistent throughout the guides, with the same list and reviews structure throughout all sections. For example, if you go to Culture and activities, it gives you a small outline of what each activity is, where you can practice or observe it, and what else is near that location. In my case, I went for Taichi and discovered that you could join a group that practices it every Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 7:30am and 9am, just outside the Museum of Art.
In addition. the bottom strip menu has four different icons. When you tap on the second one on the left, you get a short overview of your selected city, including what scenery it neighbours, typical cuisine, culture, etc. When you go to Budget in the top right corner, it lets you convert your currency to the local currency and provides you with up to date exchange rates for your selected city. It goes even further – when you scroll down, it tells you the average prices of accommodation, transport and food, along with some information on what sort of credit and debit cards are accepted in that city, and, of course, the code of conduct for tipping, which can save you a lot of awkwardness. There’s an option to save places, which is the third icon on the left, in the bottom menu. This enables you to save hotels, restaurants, bars, sightseeing attractions, parks – every point of interest for every city in a single list. This is very valuable, since it enables you to create your own plan of what you’re excited about visiting once you get into your city.
Guides has 39 different cities for IOS, with more coming over the next few months. For Apple products, you can only use Guides for IOS 8.0 or above, on iPhone or iPod, but surprisingly, not Ipads. That’s okay though, because you can always simply shake your device for feedback, if you have any suggestions for changes.
Overall, Guides are very light and fast on an iPhone, the layout is very simple and yet incorporates a lot of detailed and personalised information about each city. With a range of short, punchy reviews, from restaurants, to hotels, to sightseeing attractions, you can get a quick glimpse of each city’s most famous points of interest and select the ones that excite you the most. You can save your picks for later and even come back to then when you’re offline, roaming your city of choice.
The app is smooth, very user-friendly and easy to navigate – just don’t forget to download those maps before you go!
by Sofia Gerganova