Travel App Review Series by Jon—the Roaming Husband

You’re visiting a new place and don’t know how to get around so you reach for your trusty phone and pull up a maps app. There are quite a few map programs available in your app store, so which one is best? I can’t speak for all of them, but I do have my favorites. A quick disclaimer: I have a cell phone plan (for which I’m grandfathered in) that gives me unlimited data in most countries. This plan makes searching a map on the street quite affordable. Generally, data isn’t cheap though. Before you travel you should always check your cell phone plan and see how much, if any, data you have available overseas. The last thing anyone wants is to come home to a nasty cell phone bill.

The three map apps that I use most frequently are Citymapper, Moovit, and Google Maps. All three of these apps will help you navigate a city. Each will:

  • Predict which route is best to take.
  • Show you various options of how to get to your location.
  • Estimate the time it will take to get there.
  • Allow you to download maps for offline use.

For this travel app review, let’s first take a look at Citymapper. This app is quite useful when it comes to navigating mass transportation…as long as you are travelling to a place that Citymapper services. The app is great for finding real-time information about bus schedules in Rome, but don’t count on it in Florence because the developers haven’t made it there yet. One of the things that I really like about the app is that there is a feature that allows you to share your ETA with a group of people. This comes in handy if you have a group event where people are coming from all over, because you can share your location. It would also be good for families to keep connected with older children who might be off exploring alone. Where Citymapper falls a bit short is its overall availability. At last check, this app is available in 39 urban areas across the world.

Moovit has a lot of features that I like, especially its clean design. Moovit is divided into three very simple categories: directions, lines, and stations. The app allows you to route a trip, or search for current arrival/departure information at any bus or train station near you. The developers of Moovit opted for coverage over frills. The nice part about this app is that if you are a world traveler the app works in over 2,000 cities worldwide. I also enjoy that it shows real-time information while you are traveling on public transportation. We once hopped a bus in Florence due to an impending thunderstorm and weren’t really sure where it was going to take us. Using the Moovit app we were able the navigate the route as the bus moved down hill and were able to get off at the closest stop to our apartment.

Finally, let’s talk about Google Maps. This app is an extremely comprehensive map program with some of the most advanced features out there. It is my preferred app when walking through any unfamiliar city, as I like its clear directions. There are so many features that Google Maps offers that I can’t go into them all in this post, but I love the “your places” feature, which allows me to create lists of my favorite spots in any city. There are also a lot of curated maps to choose from—people have made maps where travelers can find street art in Florence, the best vintage shops in one city, or the most awesome eateries in another. You are well aware of how Google dominates the market, which works well when needing to crowd-source maps. I also like that I can see Google reviews for the places that I’m contemplating visiting. With location sharing, a timeline of where I’ve been, and the ability to see if I’ve visited a place before (essential when I’m trying to locate a restaurant I ate at a year ago), the added touches of Google Maps makes it the undisputed leader in my book.

That being said, Google could learn a thing or two from the simplistic setup implemented by the creators of Moovit. In my opinion, Moovit compliments Google Maps brilliantly. Google is my preferred app when walking in a new city; it gives me audible instructions on when and where to turn. I have to say, it’s very entertaining listening to how Google butchers Italian street names. However, I switch to Moovit when I need information on mass transit. I would recommend downloading both before your next holiday. Happy travels!

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