Friday, January 10, 2014

Our trip to Paris: the most useful apps

This isn't a travel blog officially, but in the spirit of allowing you all to live vicariously through us and learn from our experiences, I want to let you know which of the many travel apps I downloaded turned out to be most useful for us on our Christmas trip to Paris.

Let's start with the most useful:

1. CityMaps2Go Pro  This was on AppsGoneFree a few weeks ago and I'm so glad I snagged it! They also have a free version. The pro version allows for unlimited map downloads, so it is necessary if you're planning to travel more than 3 or 4 times in the near future.

The best part of this app is that it is offline! You download the maps you'll need on your trip and it is all saved on your phone's memory.

You can zoom in almost to the street level and conduct searches for points of interest. When you find what you want, you can drop a pin on the map and take notes on it. I found our Paris apartment and marked it on the map before we arrived. It made things SO much easier. It also was handy when we were wandering around and saw something that made us go "Oh! We should remember to come here for dinner!"

You can use the location arrow in the bottom left to find your exact location in the city. Also clutch for when we came out of a Metro station and asked, "Where are we?" The guidebook, the icon second from the right, uses the Ulmon guidebooks to give you more information about what you're looking at. Very useful for those moments when you turn a corner and say, "Whoa! Wonder what that building is!"

2. Metro Paris Subway by Presselite   There are lots of Paris Metro apps out there, and this one isn't the most fancy looking, but it was the most useful. It uses your location services to tell you which stop you're currently at--though that's really best used when you're above ground, it became useful after we wandered for a while and said "Is there a metro stop nearby?".

It also tells you timetables (though those weren't always reliable. I think that's more the city of Paris's fault and not the app), and you can map out your route using the route feature on the far right.

Apps that were helpful, but not as great as I think the developers mean them to be, were the following:

1. TripAdvisor City Guides   I had troubles with this app before we left Kuwait, though I'm 100% sure  the problem was due to the slow internet/data speeds in this country. It took a few days for the Paris guide to download, and partly because the app pauses the download when your phone falls asleep. Not sure if that's something the developer can change or if it's just a side effect of living in a country with internet issues.

I love that this app is offline and the "Point Me There" feature was really great when we wanted to get to a recommended site. I found the map to not be as detailed as I needed it to be and the pop up "write a review" request every. time. you. open. the. app got really annoying really fast. I understand that the website runs on user reviews and you should give back to the website that is giving you this free app. I just wish that the reminder to leave a review only popped up every 5 times or something like that.

2. French-English translator by Sky Code   I even paid $.99 for this puppy thinking maybe it'll be more accurate than the free ones out there.


It sounded really cool because it has the option to take a photo of the text (for example, a menu) and get it translated, but the photo recognition was not great. It never could recognize the word "sur" and kept recognizing as "km" (for those playing the home game, "km" is not a word in French. I looked it up). This was not helpful for translating sentences from English to French. To test it out I wrote "We found the library" into the app and then we asked a French speaking friend to translate the same sentence. They came up with two completely different sentences.

The app was useful for one word at a time. When I was grocery shopping and couldn't remember the word for mushrooms or just straight up didn't know the word for other ingredients, my high school French got me through the first part of the sentence and the translator helped me fill in some of the blanks.

In the totally useless category goes this app:

HopStop  This app has rave reviews on the app store, including from people who traveled outside the US, but what the reviews don't tell you is that this app runs on data. And since I could not find anywhere that had SIM cards for an iPhone 5C (I know, #firstworldproblem), I didn't have data on this trip.

I'll pull this one back down from the cloud when I'm traveling in a major US city, but for Paris, the metro app already mentioned has a "from here to there" feature that made HopStop unnecessary.

Hopefully if any of you are heading to Paris any time soon, you'll download one or two of these apps and find them as helpful as I did!

Vicariously yours,

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