Spotted by Locals may be the answer to a common travel issue: You go to a new city excited about getting to know the culture and the people and how they live their lives…
Often touristic areas then cater to the obvious needs of the tourists and you find the typical sign at the door: “We speak English”, right?
Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could just experience the city like a local and go to the un-crowded places that hold the best quality?
There is an app for that!
A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Bart van Poll, founder Spotted by Locals, a company based in Amsterdam that created an iPhone app of the same name.
The premise behind their service is to provide insider tips for 41 cities in Europe, as its name points to, tips written by locals.
Just a fantastic tool when planning a trip!
The app was certainly interesting to me, as a cultural traveler I am always looking for that extra something that can enhance my experience.
What Spotted by Locals offer
You can actually get access to the city guides in three different ways:
The free online city guides list local recommended places in a blog-like fashion.
Or you can purchase the PDF guides (For 2,99 Euro), which have a table of contents organized by neighborhoods, though the recommended places are organized alphabetically inside the document.
Or you can use their iPhone app, appropriately called Spotted by Locals.
Spotted by Locals iPhone edition
The iPhone app has several advantages. For one, it’s completely self-contained, which means you don’t have to be connected to the internet for it to work.
It has its own maps for every spot and if you are using GPS, it can tell you which spots are near you.
The tips are updated regularly, so you always have the latest information.
You can also mark your favorites and add them to a special list for later review.
So when you launch the app, you get this cover:
The first time you’re, you’ll see an empty space with a sign asking you to start downloading. When you hit the “Download Guides” button you’re taken to the following screen, where you select the city guide you wish to download:
For this example I’m going to be downloading Paris and Rome. So you select the name of the city you want to download and you get this screen which explains what the guide is about:
You now get this screen where you choose whether you want to get only the first five tips for the city or if you want to download the full guide for $4,99 dollars (claims my iPod touch):
And the download process looks like as follows. With a decent wi-fi connection, the download is a few seconds. I guess downloading the full version may take a few minutes, so be prepared for that.
For this review I’ve only downloaded the free first five tips. So what I get for Paris and Rome is like the next couple of images.
Now, if you’re a bit clumsy and don’t know that much about the city, you can get a bit lost here because in this view, you can’t actually tell which city you’re looking at, unless you hit the “Home” button (low right) and go back to choose the city.
Ok, so for the sake of this tour, let’s now use Rome as an example. I’ve selected Ditta G. Poggi – Historic art supplies as an interesting place, so I get a brief review of what this place is about.
And if I’m interested and want to go to the place, I hit the “Maps & details” button at the bottom to get a map which I can zoom in and out with your regular pinching finger motion:
My only problem with this test is that when I’m in a new city and looking on a map, I like to identify some unmistakeable places for orientation, which I couldn’t do here.
For instance in this example, the round building on the top left corner is actually The Pantheon, except it’s not marked as The Pantheon in this view.
However, if you hit the “Open in Maps” button just below this map, it’ll open the Maps app in your iPhone and locate the place in that app.
By setting it to satellite view, I could easily tell that the round building is indeed the Pantheon which will make it much easier for me to get to the place.
Going back to the app, you can add star status (by tapping the small star button at the bottom right of the place’s screen) to your favorite spots which will put them in a special list that you can access by hitting the “Favorites” star button at the bottom.
If you hit the button “List” you go back then to the complete list of spots and those you have marked as your favorites will have a green start beside them.
Notice in the image above that spots are classified into four categories: Restaurants, historical spots, shopping and relaxing which helps you filter according to your interests.
Hitting the “All spots” buttons shows you the complete list again.
Hitting the button “Nearby” will show you spots that are near you, provided you’re using GPS, which I find really really neat!
Hitting the button “Map” will show you all the spots in one single map.
Who are the spotters?
Well, they’re locals that have been picked by the company, people who live in the city and know and can recommend the best spots.
If you’d like to know more about them, you only need to tap on their name to see their profile screen inside the app.
You can also apply through the website or the app itself to become a spotter!
If you’d like more information you can check the FAQ section of the app:
I think Spotted by Locals is a great service, which offers many interesting and fun places to explore in some fantastic European cities.
I think that having all the options to check the guides is a winner, there really is no excuse not to go off the beaten path end explore something new, like a local!
I haven’t tested the app on site, so I can’t comment on that, but the level of professionalism that I see in the website, the app and the PDF guides gives me confidence that this app is spot on!
Here’s a short video explaining the app:
Do you know of any other app similar to this?
Have you used it? What was your experience?
How could this app be even better?
Join the conversation in Facebook!
Update, April 29th, 2014: Spotted By Locals has launched their Android apps.