Random House, publisher of the popular Fodor’s series of travel guides, has gone beyond offering simple electronic version so their books, and now offers standalone applications for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. They currently offer the following large cities:
Stop what you’re doing, and go download them now—because while they’re not a bad deal for a travel guide at $5.99, they went on sale today, and are completely free! Just make sure to download them soon; I don’t know how long this promotion will be going for.
Paperback versions of these city guides run around $15, while their e-book versions are around $10 each. If you’re the type to want to browse through a paper version, this app will serve to augment them nicely.
That said, these apps are comprehensive, standalone apps with complete information for your destination. They’re unlike many so-called travel guide apps that are just teasers that require you to buy a full or paper version, or guides designed by marketing departments and which are filled with listings for advertisement sponsors. Arm yourself with one of these Fodor’s apps and you can actually get around like a bona fide traveler.
One outstanding feature you will appreciate is the ability to download the maps to your device in advance. Between this, and the fact that you install all the content as part of the app’s installation, means that you can use an iPod Touch or non-3G iPad to navigate around without the need for a cell (or even wi-fi) connection. This is great for international travelers who don’t want to pay for (or do not have the ability to get) overseas data packages. Some large cities, like San Francisco, are notorious for poor reception, so having all the data in advance is very helpful.
Other helpful features:
- Field notes – whatever page you’re on, you have the ability to add your own comments. You can also access your entire list of “field notes,” so you don’t have to return to the venue’s app page to retrieve your notes.
- “Subway” map – for some cities, there is a page just for transit maps (although the link from the main view calls them all “subway” maps). The San Francisco app offers a transit map that includes all public lines within the city. The map is extraordinarily complicated, but you can stretch out the view and decipher the details. Keep in mind, however, that the map only covers the city itself, so for example, the San Francisco transit map only shows the BART line in the city (although BART itself travels to the East Bay). Oddly enough, the London app does not offer a link to the London Underground map.
- “Fodor’s Choice” – basically Fodor’s “best of the best” list for the city, it offers a nice sample of iconic and famous locations, making it easy to pick a few to visit if you are short on time.
- Features – is a list of lists, with entries such as “What the locals do,” “great souvenirs,” or “what to eat,” offering visitors a way to pick a theme. This particular section is a hidden gem, since I’m not sure their printed guides have information condensed in this way. The San Francisco edition includes top walking tours, for example, which is a great way to see the city.
- Travel Tips – consists of the basics about a city that you would normally find in a paper book’s preface or intro section, it covers things like weather and safety.
Finally, if you do have data coverage while you’re using this app, you can do some things like find out how close you are to a particular attraction, get directions to a nearby restaurant, and for some restaurants, even make a reservation online.
A big nod of thanks to moriond at the Tom Bihn forums for posting about the sale. Thanks moriond!