If you need to know how to navigate foreign cities when you've never been there before and don't speak the language, have I got an app for you. Yes, yes, I do. Which app? Relax, I'll get to it.
How to navigate foreign cities with one mobile app.
Citymapper is by far my new favorite app for travel. If nothing else, it saves me from having to constantly ask directions, butchering the local language and coming off like another illiterate, bone-headed American tourist.
The user interface couldn't be easier to figure out and use. You just choose the city you're in (hopefully, you know that at least), and then touch “Get me somewhere.” Since it uses your device's GPS, it skips the whole “Start” location and just asks you to set a destination.
If you know it, you type it in. However, if you don't know the exact address (but know the general area you want to go), you just leave the field blank and move the map around. The “End” flag stays in the middle of the map so you center the area you want to visit and hit “Get route.”
The Citymapper app then suggests multiple route options — for walking, riding a bike, driving in a car, or public mass transit — to get you there, complete with estimated times.
As a bonus, it remembers recent places you've requested, so you don't have to remember (or repeatedly type in) your hotel address, it becomes an option after you type it in once. Nice.
Even more impressively, Citymapper always seems to know which way you're facing. It adds a V-shaped graphic to the “You are here” blue dot which indicates the direction you're facing. To follow their route, all you need to do it turn until the V-shape faces the same direction as the route, and you know you're going in the right direction — for some reason, Google Maps can't seem to get that trick right.
Unfortunately, that cool feature may be to cover for that fact that the app can't orient itself like most car GPS devices so that forward is always straight ahead. But whatevs, it still works fine.
It does a bunch of other stuff, too. But Citymapper frankly doesn't need to. Just the ability to quickly and easily figure out how to get around an unfamiliar city is good enough for me.
Citymapper has a bunch of cities mapped.
Citymapper is currently available for cities such as London, New York, Paris, Berlin, Washington DC, Madrid, Boston, Barcelona, San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, Milan, Rome, México, Manchester, Hamburg, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, São Paulo, Singapore, Toronto, Vancouver, and Montréal — I assume they'll be adding more as time and budget permits.
There's a limit to the storage space on your typical iPhone or Android device, so you have to make choices about which apps stay and which apps go. Do yourself a favor and download the Citymapper App today. It's either that, or you'll have to trust your fellow man.
And that's just crazy. Right?