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Friday, October 17, 2014 (read 1778 times)
Useful Apps When in Spainby David
I remember on my first trips to Europe coming with a walkman, some guidebooks and Michelin maps in hand ready to tackle navigating the sometimes unnavegable waters that are Europe's cities. All this information on paper was also necessary to find the best places to sleep and eat. Today, all of those things (that took up all the space in my carry on) are now available all within my little smartphone. If you are coming over to Spain for a visit and will be carrying around your iPhone or Android, here are some useful Apps I wish I had when I was traveling back in the day. Here, I will focus more on what's available on iPhone and Android since they make up almost 97% of the mobile OS market.
In an earlier post I wrote about some of your wireless options available while you are traveling in Spain. From the States you can rent a router Mi-Fi or you can get prepaid internet with a SIM card (assuming you have an unlocked smartphone compatible with Spain's mobile system) through any one of the carriers here in Spain. For these apps to work you'll have to have some kind of internet connection.
Fortunately today there are plenty of free applications that provide map services to help you out. Whether you have an iPhone or Android, both include excellent map apps (Yes, even Apple's Maps has improved!) so getting around won't be hard as long as you have an internet connection. Cellular connections are pretty reliable across Spain, but if you go to a very rural area you may be out of luck. A paper map isn't necessary to have but it's always a good back up in a pinch. Also, the Via Michelin app is nice since you have the detail and quality of Michelin maps at your fingertips.
Finding a good place to eat in a new city is often risky business. Plus, your three year old guide book could have some information and recommendations that aren't very useful anymore. A good app to have, especially if you are going to be in the city is yelp, although once you get into rural Spain most apps will leave you pretty dry in this area. However, the food in the more rural areas is usually pretty good, with large portions, family-like service and, more often than naught, at prices that are cheaper than what you would pay in the city. Trip Advisor is an app that has pretty good coverage all over the country too.
It seems that this is one area that is saturated with apps and I haven't found that ONE APP that can do it all. If you're going to look for a hotel at the last minute I recommend you go on the internet and find out what you can about your destination and compare prices between hotel reservation websites and apps. For third party reviews I tend to look at Trip Advisor.
The musical landscape outside of the large cities is relatively narrow. Your choices will usually be Spanish Pop, Pop, Classical and the occasional classic rock channel. A nice, free online alternative is Sky.fm (which will soon be called Radio Tunes). This app will let you pick any one of 65 channels of radio music with an occasional commercial or two (what do you expect? It's free!) in between songs. I'm sure you'll have no problem finding a channel that will fit whatever mood you're in as you watch the countryside go past your window.
Car Sharing in Spain
Relatively new here is car sharing and BlaBlaCar is becoming more and more popular. If your Spanish is ok, doesn't have to be great, this can be a very interesting way to save money traveling across the country. A trip from Madrid to Salamanca will set you back around €12 which is a bit cheaper than bus and quite a bit cheaper than the train. Using this app you'll be able to see what car the person drives, where they are leaving from, if they will go by autovía (preferred) or country road, and other tidbits of information to help you choose the best driver. Between cities the possibilities are high that you'll find a ride when you need it, but if you're going to a village, then a bus may be the only option. As I mentioned before, to use this option it's nice to know a little Spanish since you'll have to coordinate with the driver for pick-up and drop-off as well as be prepared to have a conversation with the other occupants of the car. If you really want to meet Spanish people and have some great conversation this is an excellent app for you.
So there you have it. These are the apps I would have on my phone if I were to come to Spain tomorrow. There are plenty of apps that do the same things but for me, for usability and intuitiveness, these are the ones that I'm most comfortable with. But remember, like those three-year old guidebooks, apps are always changing and new ones are always appearing so always be sure to see what alternatives are available.
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