I am not the greatest fan of guided tours. Not only do I think that there is very little room for spontaneity when you are exploring a new place with a group, I also feel like you invariably have to forsake your own rhythm to keep up with others. When I do want to walk around a new place with some guidance, I prefer to do so with a self-guided tour. That way, I can take my time getting from point A to point B, stop around a given landmark for as long as I want, or simply focus on the spots and experiences that have more to do with my personal interests.
In the vast world of self-guided tours one can check online these days, GPSmyCity stands out. This app compiles a collection of self-guided walking tours, detailed offline city maps and travel articles that for now cover over 750 cities around the world, but keep on growing every day.
GPSmyCity is right now available for iPhone and iPad and can be downloaded from the AppStore. The team is working on the Android version so that soon enough more travelers can have access to this travel encyclopedia, which can be accessed both online and offline. After downloading the app, simply type in the name of the city which you want to explore and browse the list of suggested walking tours and travel articles. GPSmyCity will offer you the possibility of downloading a general offline map for the city, as well as several walking tours organized by geographical areas or by interest. These maps most commonly cover the city’s landmarks, hotspots, museums and, even theme specific, things like nightlife, LGTB and more.
Apart from the self-guided tours and city maps, GPSmyCity presents several travel articles per destination. These write-ups share information regarding specific aspects of the place you are visiting, and are also useful to simply give you a general overview of the place, as well as new ideas of things to explore that might have not necessarily crossed your mind. This combination of walking and sightseeing tours + traditional blog posts with a mix of text and images are, in my opinion, more engaging than regular travel guides that can sometimes turn out to be a little monotonous or school book like.
These articles have been developed by local people and real world travelers who have indeed visited the places they write about. As the content has not been developed by a team locked up in an office in some corner of the world, you can feel the real essence of the city in the lines that have been written with both passion and real knowledge. I checked out the Lisbon tours and articles and, as someone who knows the capital of Portugal really well, I was happy to see that the content shared on the app does justice to the wonders of our city. The topics covered are so wide, that there is virtually something appealing for most types of travelers out there: from general city overviews to foodie explorations, souvenirs and best-buy suggestions, history and museums, fun and entertainment…
Each map, self-guided walking tour and article can be downloaded individually, so that you can refer to it later, when you are no longer online. If you want to use GPSmyCity’s full features, an upgrade that costs $1.99 would be required. This cost applies to each guide or travel article you may be interested in. When you upgrade, you can use the GPS features to be guided to each place mentioned on the article or tour you are reading. When you see something that catches your attention on the text, click the “GO THERE” button, and follow the navigation on your screen, which is precise and step by step. You do not need an internet connection for this, as the maps are powered by your smart phone’s GPS.
To enjoy a free upgrade for a specific city, get in touch with GPSmyCity and mention that you’ve read about them on Backpack ME.
Alternatively, if you travel a lot, getting a life-time membership for the app would be a good idea. Instead of getting an upgrade for each article or walking tour you may be interested in, you can pay a one time fee of USD60 and get full access to all articles and self-guided walks for over 750 cities worldwide, plus all new places that keep on getting added. GPSmyCity is currently running a crowdfunding campaign that comes with this lifetime membership offer, which allows you to access the full content of the app at 1% of the price you’d be paying to get each city’s content individually. Whether you are planning a trip later this year, or anytime in the future, you can have your basics covered with GPSmyCity.