I have said it before, but no-one believed me. This year will see the start of a significant number of people using e-guidebooks instead of hefting around large bricks that the Lonely Planet books are starting to resemble. Lonely Planet actually started to go the right direction when they offered as downloads certain chapters in their guidebook. But this was meant mainly for people to print out before they travel. In theory, you could put the files on your smart phone, but the text would be far too small. Now comes some innovative and thoroughly researched guidebooks for the iPhone produced by the guys at TravelFish.
What TravelFish have done, together with the creative genius at Bytesizecreations.com, is to bring you an interactive guidebook with everything that you will ever need to know during your holiday. At present, they have iPhone apps for the islands of Ko Lanta, Ko Phi Phi and Ko Samet. In addition, they have apps for Luang Prabang in Laos and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. They are priced at $3.99 each. Recently they have released a free “lite” version of Ko Phi Phi which I have been testing out for the last few days. Though of course, the best test would be to actually go to one of these places with the e-guidebook!
When you enter the main menu, you are given icons with eight choices: Background, Sleep, Eat & meet, See & do, Transport, Photos, Bookmarks and Maps. In the first background section, you are given a run-down on the history and main locations around the island. There are also tips on planning your trip. This is not a five minute read as a lot of time and research has gone into producing these guides. It is also beautifully illustrated throughout with thumbnails which you can tap on to see a larger picture. In my lite version there is only one photo gallery. Apparently there is more in the full version. The lite version also doesn’t review so many hotels and guesthouses.
The next section is places to stay. They have reviewed a wide variety of accommodation which gives you basic information, prices and also a location on the map. With the GPS on your iPhone, it can also tell you where you are in relation to that hotel! Though obviously I am not able to confirm this myself. There are also links for the hotel’s website if they have one. Another pretty cool feature are the telephone numbers which you have to just tap and it will start dialling for you! The hotels are sorted by location but there is also a map of the island so you can find out which hotels are nearest to where you are standing.
The other sections are self-explanatory. It will help you find places to eat, give you suggestions on what to do and finally tell you how to get to the island as well as how to get around once you are there. I was a little disappointed with the map section as it seemed to only have pins for hotels. It would have been nice if they also marked other places. Like walks you can go on and the lookout to see grand views of the island. But, then again, it is only a small island. Overall, the concept and execution is excellent. They have certainly raised the bar for travel apps on the iPhone and I hope in the not too distant future we will be seeing more people producing applications such as these. At present, Travelfish have three free guides which you can use to test out first before buying the full version. I am sure you won’t be disappointed.