Tag Archives: Tour Guides

The AFAR Mobile Travel App – Take 1

By Lakshmi:

AFAR is just everything a travel company/magazine should aspire to be.  Their content breathes and lives every travel adage you’ve ever heard.

“Get off the beaten track.” 

“Live the moment.”

“Experience life like a local.”

So, when AFAR announced an app, I couldn’t rush any quicker to download it.  Here are some initial reactions from a sample of 1.

The Awesomeness! 

Just like its print publication, the AFAR app opens with beautiful, inviting pictures that beckon you to explore a variety of locations through their local expert curated guides.  For the first option that I clicked, “Big Day Out In Singapore”, it gave me 9 options.  Each of the choices was brief, telling me what to do quickly, so I’ll have more time to enjoy the experience rather than spend time reading.  I’m not sure how the guides are picked, but there is an assortment of locales that you can explore for totally enticing eye candy!

Moving to the Highlights section brings you to another pictorially engaging area populated with interesting architecture (Zaha Hadid), delicious dining (Kupu Maui) and more.  All displayed in the brief prose, stunning photos style that permeates the entire site.

A Nearby feature uses location technology to pinpoint interesting locales that you might want to explore close to you.  A Warning!  Don’t sit in a suburban area and wait to get excited…it yields nothing making you almost doubt your choice of living venue.  But when you are in a more “happening” or popular area, it comes up with choices.

On the Awesomeness factor, the app rocks for being both practical and a handy way to daydream your way out of long queues, waits and more.

The Eensy Weensy Frustrations:

On the opening screen, the app asks you to Sign In using an account, Facebook or Twitter.  The option to skip this step to explore the content is displayed not too prominently on the top right hand corner of the screen.

Using the search feature to do research for a recently concluded trip to Angkor Wat, produced options in Europe, Africa, Asia and more!  It looks like the app uses a key word search rather than relevancy and the search for Angkor produces a result to visit Baron’s place in Cairo.  So, if you are not sure of where exactly a destination is on the map, you’ll go through some frustration navigating this way.

When I tried to join AFAR, the screen was pretty faded with text not standing out.  Now that I have joined, I have the ability to create my own highlights and travel guides, something I will do before our next trip and report back in a Take 2.  That’s where this app could really rock.  Imagine taking trips with AFAR recommendations to guide you along…..kind of like an AFAR trip without the big price tag:)

If you have used the AFAR app, we’d love to hear what your experience has been.  Do drop us a line.

Three Travel Websites – A Boon for the Independent Traveler

By Lakshmi:

We were sitting around after dinner last night and the conversation veered to what our passions were outside our day jobs.  And everyone unanimously agreed that mine was travel.  I love to read travel magazines, newspapers, websites, tweets and track deals.  And when an article appears that caters to my sweet spot of technology meeting a much desired need or solving a travel problem, I am fixated.  And today’s NY Times article on three companies that offer offbeat tours was just a treasure trove of what the independent traveler yearns for.

The breed that we identify as independent travelers typically doesn’t like package tours.  We want to explore.  We don’t want to be just tourists, we want to dive into new experiences.  We don’t want to just take pictures around historic landmarks, we want to know interesting nuances from history that shaped a place or culture.

And these companies seem to be the perfect answer to the independent traveler’s needs.  I will disclose right away that before today I knew nothing about these companies, but I am positive that going forward I will experience each of these companies’ offerings.

In a nutshell, what each of these companies has set up is a network of locals who live and breathe a place, who know about its nuances, have years of experience in the history, can show you how to cook local specialties, etc who have signed up for a fee to be your private tour guide in their city for a specific activity.  Here’s a list of things that completely got me hooked and dreaming.

– Tour the red light district in Amsterdam with a former police officer

– Spend a day with a local in Istanbul, eating your way through town

– Spend two hours in London taking watercolor lessons

– Go on a running tour of Rome

And the list goes on…….and it is not expensive!

I cannot begin to count the number of times I have been in a place and said, “Wouldn’t it be perfect if I could have a local help ………….”  While I did see a number of high-end tours do precisely that, I did not see this need being met for the regular traveler who wants more.  And now we have not one, but four companies, some funded by some pretty heavy weight celebrities on this bandwagon.

So, without more verbiage from me, here are the sites to check out:

www.canaryhop.com

www.sidetour.com

www.vayable.com

To read the NY Times article that brought these sites to my attention, click here:

http://travel.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/travel/click-here-for-an-offbeat-experience.html?pagewanted=all

And since we have not experienced any of them yet, if you have, we would love to hear about your experiences.

Here’s to happy local exploring!