Tech test drive: Not for Tourists app
Not for Tourists (NFT) is known for a series of guidebooks appealing to travellers interested in looking at cities through a local lens. With the launch of the iPhone app in 2009, they have made local knowledge more easily accessible for travellers on the go. Apps are available for 14 US cities and London, and provide valuable insights into where the locals are dining, drinking, shopping, etc.
The road test: We downloaded the iPhone app for Los Angeles ($2.99), a city we already knew as a local, and filtered through the guide to determine whether the content was encompassing, accurate and pertinent for both locals and visitors.
The highlights: NFT has a coolness factor often missing in most run-of-the mill travel guides. The information is honest, anecdotal and for the most part, on par with our own opinions. It breaks down neighbourhoods (Beverly Hills “palm trees, broad avenues, rich people”) and locations in a personal and relatable manner.
The content is fairly extensive and broken into categories (restaurants, nightlife, attractions, etc). We like that there are also atypical categories aligned with our interests such as art galleries, farmer’s markets, coffee, community gardens and yoga as well as categories such as pharmacies, libraries, animal hospitals and parking – things that locals need to know. Some listings are not linked to reviews, but all feature an address, telephone number, price points and an option to bookmark or link to Google maps for directions. Information is accessible offline (or in airplane mode), however, you cannot link to the GPS function and do a search “close by” without an Internet connection.
The speedbumps: NFT faces one big problem: descriptions are inconsistent. They are not available for all listings, and the ones that are vary from great information to poorly written, out of date, inaccurate portrayals. For example, a review for The Abbey, a bar in West Hollywood, reads “ On March 5th, Jennifer Love Hewitt will host an Oscar Night Party…” So…great. What if I am in town on any other of the other 364 days of the year? To be fair, these terrible write-ups are few and far between (in Los Angeles at least), but we would like to see some better quality control and definitely an attempt to update old listings (trendy “new” Bar Lubitsch actually opened in 2008), particularly in regards to rapidly changing industries like restaurants or nightlife. We would also like to see the app made available for Android and Blackberry users.
The bottom line: This is your app for travelling like a local. You’ll find insider tips well as a wealth of honest information although, we’d just like to see it updated more frequently. If it were available in more cities – we’d really like to see them expand into European capitals – it’d be an absolute necessity for urban exploration. However, at this stage, its limited library makes it a supplement to, not a replacement for Lonely Planet, Rough Guide and Frommer’s.