Where are all the travel guide apps for Android?

travel guide apps for AndroidNearly two years ago, I bought my first smartphone: the T-Mobile Android MyTouch*. I’m only occasionally jealous of my iPhone-carrying friends, as I find few travel guide apps for Android. Even after a move to Istanbul, I still use and rely upon it daily; Android‘s interface is fast and easy-to-use, and seamless use of Google applications like Gmail and Google Maps is part of the reason I bought it in the first place. Living in a foreign country means English-language books and magazines are expensive and hard-to-find, and like many travelers, I don’t want to carry bulky books around when I’m on the road. This leaves a perfect opportunity for mobile developers to provide real travel guide content and not just travel-booking apps, especially apps produced by reliable media sources with professional editorial. These days, every guidebook and travel magazine publisher is coming out with apps for the iPhone and now iPad, supplying users with content and directions on the go, but there are hardly any for Android.

So what’s available for mobile travelers from the top travel book and print sources? Better hope you’re running Apple OS…Guidebooks:

  • Fodor’s: Happy 75th Birthday Mr. Fodor, but we wish you had more than just five city guides for purchase (in London, New York, Paris, Rome, and San Francisco) and only for Apple.
  • Frommer’s: iPhone guides are available for ten major cities in the US, Europe and Asia, but nada for Android.
  • Lonely Planet: iPhone users are spoiled for choice: dozens of city guides, language phrasebooks, audio walking tours, and eBooks optimized for the iPad. Android users in 32 countries including the US are in luck: there’s a free Trippy app to organize itinerary items, as well as 25 “augmented reality” Compass city guides and 14 phrasebooks. NOTE: This article originally mentioned that the Compass guides were unavailable in the Android Market store, but they should work for most US users. I happen to be in a country where paid apps are not available and not shown in the Market.
  • LUXE City Guides: 20 cheeky city guides work for a variety of mobile phones, including iPhone and Blackberry, but none are compatible with my Android. Bonus: the apps come with free regular updates and maps that the paper guides don’t have.
  • Rick Steves: If you are headed to Europe, you can get audio guides for many big attractions and historic walks for iPhone, plus maps for the iPad. You can also download the audio files free for your computer, and props to Rick for mentioning that Android apps are at least in development.
  • Rough Guides: Here’s a new one: the Rough Guides app works for many phones but NOT the iPhone OR Android! It’s not as slick as some of the other guides (it’s a Java app) and you will use data to use it on the road, but it provides lots of info for many cities in Europe. You can also find a Rough Guides photo app on iTunes to view pictures from around the world with Google Maps and captions from Rough Guides.
  • Time Out: City travelers and residents might want to look at the apps from Time Out for 5 European cities and Buenos Aires, with Manchester and New York on the way. More cities are available for free on iTunes, search for Time Out on iTunes to see what’s available. iPhone only.
  • Wallpaper* City Guides: 10 of the design mag’s 80 city guides are for sale for iPhone for Europe, Tokyo, New York and Los Angeles.

Print media:

  • Conde Nast Traveler: It makes sense for magazines to embrace the iPad, and CNT has free Apple apps specifically for Italy, cruises, and their annual Gold List of hotels and resorts. Blackberry users can download an etiquette guide, but Android users are snubbed.
  • National Geographic: As befitting any explorer, Nat Geo has a world atlas, national parks maps, and games featuring their amazing photography, all for iPhone. A special interactive edition of National Geographic Traveler is for sale on the iPad; you can also read it on your computer. Androids can download a quiz game and various wallpapers; and all mobile users can access a mobile-friendly version of their website at natgeomobile.com.
  • Outside: Adventure travelers can purchase and read full issues on the iPad, but no subscription option yet.
  • Travel + Leisure: The other big travel glossy also has an iPad app for special issues. Four issues have been released so far with one available now on iTunes (romantic getaways) but future editions will follow to be read on the app. Just in time for spring break and summer, they’ve also released a Travel + Leisure Family app with advice and articles specifically geared towards travel and families. The apps are both free but you’ll need an iPad – these are designed for tablets, not phones. You can also read full issues of T+L and their foodie cousin Food & Wine on Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Color ereader; you can save per issue if you subscribe to the e-reader version.
  • USA Today Travel: Most major newspapers have mobile readers for all types of phones, but USA Today is the only one with their own travel-specific app. AutoPilot combines an array of cool travel booking capabilities and information with articles and blog post from the newspaper. Only iPhone users can enjoy free.

Two of our favorite magazines, Budget Travel and Afar, have no mobile apps yet but great online communities to tap into their extensive knowledge.

All in all, other than Lonely Planet’s Compass guides, a pretty weak showing for Android travelers. While iPhone has been around longer as a mobile platform that Android, they’ve lost the market share of users to the little green robot. As Android is available on a variety of phone manufacturers and providers, expect that number to continue to grow, along with the variety and depth of content for mobile and tablet users. Will the developers ever catch up or will travelers have to choose?

*Android has not endorsed this or paid me anything to write about them. But to show I’m not biased – Apple, feel free to send me a sample phone and I’ll test out the apps!

Photo courtesy Flickr user closari. Special thanks to Sean O’Neill, who blogs on Budget Travel and the new BBC Travel blog.

Vancouver proclaimed best non-U.S. city by dead-tree readers

Okay, so I’ve heard Vancouver’s a great place (never been but do want to go). But, do I really need Conde Nast Traveler‘s readers to tell me that? A dwindling number of print readers says that Vancouver rocks, according to CBC, making it the top city in North American outside the United States (talk about a drastically narrowed field …) for the fifth time since 2004.

There’s no word on whether Conde Nast Traveler readers in Mexico City, Montreal and Buenos Aires are in tears or considering revenge.

According to James Terry of Tourism Vancouver, reports CBC, “The award is a tribute to the people who work on the front lines of the city’s tourism and hospitality sector.”

[photo by PoYang via Flickr]

Controversy over Condé Nast Traveler’s World Savers Awards

The popular magazine Condé Nast Traveler hosts the annual World Savers Awards to recognize the efforts of hotels, airlines, tour and cruise companies that give something back through their environmental or social programs. But one recipient of the 2010 award is attracting controversy over its actions.

Wilderness Safaris won this year’s award in the Health Initiatives category for its HIV/AIDS program, which includes the construction of clinics in South Africa, Zambia, and Malawi. Now Survival International, which supports the rights of indigenous peoples, says Wilderness Safaris falls short of its image as positive force in the community.

It points to its new luxury lodge, the Kalahari Plains Camp, set on the traditional lands of the Bushmen in Botswana. The lodge boasts a bar and swimming pool while the Bushmen have to walk for miles to get water. The local people used to have a well, but the government capped it when it kicked the Bushmen off the land in 2002. Survival International and the Bushmen went to court and won the right for the Bushmen to return to their lands, but the government still won’t allow them to reopen the well.

Wilderness Safaris says providing water isn’t their responsibility, but Survival International points out that they constructed a well near one of their resorts in Zimbabwe in order to attract more wildlife.

How much responsibility does a resort have to the local community? Tell us what you think in the comments section.

[Photo courtesy Ian Beatty]

Daily Pampering: Tcherassi – Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure agree for once

Rooftop loungeA few months ago, Tom Johansmeyer offered our readers a First look at Tcherassi Hotel. Well, it seems everyone in the industry has been looking — and liking what they see.

Both Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure have deemed the luxury Cartagena hotel as one of the best. It appeared in both CNT’s list of 134 exceptional hotels (each of which they inspected anonymously) and Travel + Leisure’s prestigious “It List” of just 45 properties.

“An incredible amount of hard work, creativity and passion went into this project,” says Ilan Segal, Managing Partner of Tcherassi Hotels. “It is beyond rewarding to be recognized by the world’s foremost authority on luxury travel as one of the best in the world.”

Tcherassi features just seven perfect rooms in Cartagena, Columbia’s Old City. What was once a colonial mansion has been transformed by Latin fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi into a dynamic hotel estate featuring four pools, a 40-seat restaurant, a full-service spa, a vertical garden and 360 degree views of the city and the sea.

For more information or to book, visit Tcherassi Hotel + Spa.

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

Talking Travel with Peter J. Frank, Editor-in-Chief of Concierge.com

For Peter J. Frank, Editor-in-Chief of Concierge.com, the on-line magazine spin off of Condé Nast Traveler, every day life and travel blend together. Vacations and work look a lot alike. Not that he’s complaining, but as he told Christopher Eliott earlier this year (see article), even trips meant just for fun and dinners out with friends often involve note-taking. Business trips might take him to those places most of us would drool over, but the pace would leave even the most seasoned of us breathless and wondering, now where am I again?

Seriously–as he explained his job, 11 days in the Florida Keys means 10 different hotels. Lucky for us though, Peter translates his notes into travel advice, making sure that Concierge.com’s readers have enough insider information to make the best choices when deciding what’s perfect for them. The August issue took on cruises, for example. A cruise ship by any other name would not smell as sweet.

Since Peter’s been sorting the dazzling from the dud experiences for 14 years now–he also was also an editor at Travel and Leisure, Condé Nast and the travel section of Men’s Journal,—we at Gadling decided he’d be perfect for a Talking Travel sit down. Happily, we were able to snag Peter for an e-mail interview so he could pass on more of his travel tidbits and tales. Enjoy.

You’ve been a travel-writing type guy for awhile. Has travel always been your passion or did you just fall into it?

I’ve always loved traveling, but it wasn’t in my life plan to become a travel editor. I’d studied English in college and wanted to move to New York, so it made sense to get into magazines – and my first job happened to be at a great travel magazine, Condé Nast Traveler. I worked my way up from there.

What was the trip you took that first hooked you into travel? What made it so special? How old were you?

I was about 19 when backpacked around Italy for a week. I had traveled in Europe before, but this was my first solo trip and a great lesson in self-sufficiency: I had to decipher train schedules, talk my way into packed pensiones, order off exotic menus, and so forth. I saw some great cities off the main tourist track: Perugia, Ravello, Verona. I ended up in Venice, where I met my father and stepmother, who had just gotten off a cruise and were staying at the Danieli. My clothes were all filthy from a week’s worth of traveling, so I sent my laundry in–$200 worth. He’s still after me for the money!

Where do you think cutting corners on the cost of a trip is a bad idea? What experiences do you think are worth paying for?

You can definitely save on laundry! I don’t mind splurging on a fabulous hotel or a great restaurant — actually, part of my job is to review places that are expensive, so I can tell our users whether it’s worth their hard-earned dough. But I try to balance out big-money places with less-expensive options, since our readers are also looking for ways to save. Regardless, I think it’s always worth spending money for the opportunity to experience the best of a foreign culture, whether that means eating the best sushi in Tokyo or paying a hefty admission fee to see the treasures of the Louvre, or hiring a guide to explain the intricacies of, say, the temples at Angkor. If you’ve come all that way, it would be a shame to miss out on the highlights for the sake of saving a few bucks.

Photo: Peter, the guy in the middle, has his notebook and pen in hand, not only paying attention to the sumptuous food in front of him, but his dining companions’ as well. (Photo credit: Ruby Washington/The New York Times)

The latest Conceirge.com has a mega section on cruise ships. That’s quite a menu. What do you think are the most important questions a person should ask before making a cruise ship choice?

We did that story, “Cruise 101“, because so many people ask us the difference between one cruise line and another. They don’t really understand what makes, say, Royal Caribbean distinct from Princess, or Sea Dream from Silversea. Unlike a hotel, once you board a cruise ship, you’re pretty much stuck there, so it’s critical to know that the ship you’re choosing is the right one for you. Will you be comfortable in the cabin? Will the other passengers be people like you? Is the emphasis on cultural discovery, or luxurious indulgence, or partying and socializing? Those more “philosophical” questions are just as important as those about price or logistics.

If all a person can afford is that budget cruise to the Bahamas, what can they do to make their experience a stand out?

Temper your expectations. If you’re only paying $500 for a weeklong cruise, and you’re expecting gourmet cuisine and a spacious cabin, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Understand what’s included and what’s not: A lot of cruise lines pile up the extra charges. And focus on why you’re there — to relax, to spend time with your family, to work on your tan — not on all the little things that might go wrong.

From your editorial background, I take it you have an interest in adventure travel. Are there any adventures you think a person should not take? What is an adventure travel experience you’ve had that you talk up to your friends.

It’s crucial to understand what you’re getting into before you go – are you physically up for this? Do you have the right shoes, the right clothes? Finishing a strenuous hike or rafting a whitewater river can be exhilarating, but if you’re blistered or freezing, your misery will outweigh the rewards. And while facing down your fears is important – don’t do something if you’re going to be so terrified that you won’t be able to enjoy it. I went whitewater rafting down in Argentina a few years back, on rapids that were about Class IV — stronger than I’d ever done before. A few people on the trip were scared, but I wasn’t. In fact, the boat flipped and I got flung into the water, and had to float a while before I could get back into the boat. It was scary for a minute, but it was also pretty thrilling – and hilarious.

You’ve a background in fashion editing, as well as, travel. What are your favorite clothes that you like to take on a trip and the must-have items?

I’m a terrible packer, actually. I either bring a ton of stuff and end up wearing only half of it, or I pack too little and end up having to shop for clean socks. Fortunately, most places have gotten casual enough that you can get away with packing nice jeans and a few button-down shirts, rather than having to worry about suits and ties. One thing I always wear is slip-on shoes for the flight. I don’t understand why people insist on wearing sneakers or lace-ups or even boots to the airport, when they know they’re going to have to take them off. I just slip ’em off, slip ’em back on, and I’m outta there.

I saw a YouTube video of you on E News last year talking up the hot, sexy clubs around the world where stars go. Fun piece to watch. It has a breezy feel to it. How did you get involved?

That was based on a story we’d done in our “World’s Sexiest” series – I think it was the “World’s Sexiest Parties,” and it was about clubs and bars that the jet-setters go to. The people at E! saw the story and wanted me to talk about it on camera. The celebrity culture in this country has gotten pretty out of hand, but we do cover that a bit as well. Let’s face it, celebrities are pretty good role models when it comes to travel: They can afford to go wherever they want, so if they like a certain club or restaurant or hotel, odds are it’s a pretty special place.

How much do you get to hang out with hot sexy stars? Is this a perk of your job? Being that I’ve never been in a club with a hot, sexy star, I’m just wondering.

Yeah, right! Actually, the reporter who wrote that story works for Style.com and she actually does hang out with the hot, sexy people — not me. The closest I came to hanging out with a star was when I was staying at the same hotel in Miami as Madonna.

Here’s the YouTube video we’re talking about. There’s great footage of Peter. Personally, I think he’s a TV natural. Check out the stars he mentions and see what a difference a year makes.

What do you enjoying most about editing Concierge.com?

Learning about all phenomenal experiences people can have the world over. I have the fortune of working with some pretty terrific writers, who are able to describe the great adventures and experiences they’ve had in language that’s evocative and inspiring. It’s torture sometimes – since I’ll never be able to do all these things myself – but I enjoy reading about them, and sharing them with our users.

It seems that a big part of your job is to enhance people’s life experiences by enticing them to travel. What’s the best travel advice Concierge.com has ever passed onto people?

I think what we do best is collect amazing places and experiences and make them easy for people to learn about. The site is like a catalog of the best things to do and see in the world. That said, we never take a place at face value: We’re not afraid to be critical, and we take pains to explain why a specific hotel is better suited to one type of traveler over another. Just because a place is expensive and luxurious and ranks high on some magazine’s list doesn’t mean it’s the best place for you.

What would be your trip of a lifetime?

I have so many! There are plenty of places I haven’t seen that I feel are critical: Vietnam is at top of that list right now. And there are the destinations that I love returning to again and again, like Rome, Istanbul, Tokyo, [Paris]. It’s a long list that keeps on getting longer!

Here’s the video ” 24 Hours in. . . Paris” from Concierge.com’s video library. It has all of Peter’s favorite places and is a chance to see the City of Love through Peter’s eyes, and probably at his speed.

When Peter does make it to Vietnam, I’m sure his notebook will be overflowing with details. I’ve been to Vietnam five times now, and certainly wouldn’t mind finding another Hanoi hotspot or hidden treasure as the result of Peter’s travels. 24 Hours in. . . Hanoi would be a fine video to see.