I don’t like traveling with tour books. I enjoy reading travel guides because they help give me ideas for what to do — for some reason I find them more helpful than browsing websites with similar information (it might have something to do with information overload).
When I was approached by GPSMyCity to host a giveaway for their app, I thought it’d be an opportunity to review what could be a useful travel app to replace those travel guidebooks. In an effort to fully evaluate the app’s usefulness, I decided to download the Taipei guide — I can offer some insight into what tourist sites are recommended at least. Of course, it might’ve been better if I had downloaded the guide for Seoul as I headed there with my parents.
The attraction of an app such as GPSMyCity is that it’s offline and easy to use (though I keep forgetting that the phone’s back button doesn’t work in the app). Unless you’re staying in a place for a month or more, you’re unlikely to have a local SIM card (or in the case of Japan, you’re not able to buy one). There are also plenty of destinations (mainly more developed nations) that don’t offer much in the way of free Wi-Fi, thus limiting travelers’ ability to check maps or information.
I tried downloading offline maps before traveling to Seoul in April. While the offline map was helpful, especially with GPS, it didn’t have recommendations and required a lot of memory — I immediately deleted it after returning to Taipei.
GPSMyCity requires significantly less memory than offline maps. Of course, the map on the app is low resolution when zooming in — it can be difficult to read but it does use GPS to help guide you through the streets. The other downside to the map is that you can’t search for an address (if you could, I’m sure it’d increase the memory requirement). It does, however, allow you to search by place name, assuming the place is included in the app (odd how so many 7-Elevens are listed but Din Tai Fung isn’t).
The real downside to the app’s map is that it has categories at the top for things like dining, hotels, and nightlife, but very few places come up when choosing the categories (nothing shows up for nightlife). Of course, this may get updated in the future (I hope so). It also lacks an MRT map to help you reach your destination — fortunately, the Taipei MRT system is easy to navigate.
The app has a nice list of places to visit around Taipei with addresses and short descriptions. It also has a few walking tours — Dadaocheng and Ximending are the only two that make sense in that part. The Art Gallery walk is alright, but could use some improvement. I would assume other cities would have more walking tours. You can also choose your destinations and the app will plot them on the map for you.
Despite lacking clear navigation, GPSMyCity offers a good list of destinations for tourists to plan their trips. This app is geared more toward travelers who prefer reading the highlights to determine an itinerary — most tourist destinations have more detailed info for visitors anyway.
For an update to the Taipei guide, I’d suggest the company add nightlife listings as well as options for biking and hiking trails.
The company’s website has a vast selection of cities you can peruse. If you search through the site, you can see all the sightseeing walks that would be contained in the app. Some of the cities also have travel articles, which are available through iTunes but not for Android.
In addition to GPSMyCity, I would recommend downloading Taipei Bus Tracker. It helps with bus routes and schedules throughout Taipei and New Taipei and even lists YouBike stations. As for traveling to Seoul, I would recommend the Seoul Subway app, which is even used by locals to navigate the enormous web of subway lines.
One side note on the app — I’m not sure if this is just mine that has a glitch, but every time I open it, it says “verifying download.” The screen stays on for about 20 seconds before the app opens.
Now for the fun part – the giveaway
I’m giving away five codes for readers to download the full version of GPSMyCity for Android and iPhone (you can find all their destinations here). All you have to do is:
- Head over to Facebook and like Booze, Food, Travel (if you haven’t already).
- Comment on the Facebook post linking to this page — just tell me where you want to go and why.
It’s really simple. I’ll choose five winners (family members are ineligible) on July 15.
Disclaimer: I received a free full version of the GPSMyCity app for Taipei in exchange for writing an objective review and running this giveaway.