Lonely Planet has launched Guides, a smartphone app that combines Google Maps-style points-of-interest, with the best local travel advice found in its traditional guidebooks. Best of all, Guides is completely free. The app launches with guides available for 38 cities around the world, with more coming soon.
Each city guide is downloaded separately, so you don’t end up with a mass of guides about places you’re not going. Open one up, and you’re presented with a map of the city, which is handily downloaded for offline use — an essential for many travelers. Lonely Planet says each Guide has 1,000 points-of-interest mapped out, and will pinpoint your location to help you find ones nearby.
The Guides are broken down into sections, such as where to stay and where to eat, plus most of the city highlights are put into their own categories. These include art, parks and gardens, wildlife, history, and views. Tap one of these, and the map view gets rid of all the places that aren’t relevant, making browsing much easier. All the important details on each place is found by selecting its dot on the map. Each city also has a ‘need to know’ guide and a budget calculator.
Lonely Planet’s initial list of cities featured in the app is like a world must-see tour, including London, Tokyo, Dubai, New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Beijing, Paris, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney, and Vienna.
Guides combines features with which we’re familiar — points-of-interest plotted on a map — and adds in that insider knowledge that only comes with Lonely Planet guidebooks. The app is fast and minimalist. Compare it to something like Yelp or Foursquare, and it’s a delight to look at. One thing, the maps it downloads for offline use are big and you’ll want to use Wi-Fi to do it, and be wary of storage space if it was tight before downloading Guides.
Lonely Planet’s Guides app is available for iOS and Android, with links available here.