Science

4 apps you didn’t know could help you explore new destinations

Your smartphone has a GPS chip inside it, which means it knows where you are at all times. This is slightly scary from a privacy perspective, but very helpful if you need to find the best places to get pizza within a one-mile radius.

When you find yourself in a somewhat unfamiliar place, you most likely load up an app like Google Maps or Apple Maps to see what’s around—but those aren’t your only options.

You can tap into social media platforms to see what users around you are posting, as well as what the locals have said about the place you’re in. All you need is the right app and knowing what to search for.

Twitter

If you’re a seasoned Twitter user you’ll know the platform covers everything from breaking news to whimsical thoughts to photos of local landmarks. You can tap into all of this and more by using the app (available for Android and iOS) to filter tweets and only see what people have posted close to your location. You’ll be relying on users geotagging their tweets, which is something not everyone does, but you should still find plenty of content to help you find your next stop, especially in busy locations.

[Related: Transform your Twitter timeline with these 11 features and add-ons]

From the app, tap the magnifying glass icon at the bottom, then enter your query in the box at the top of the screen. You can type in “burgers” if you’re looking for somewhere to eat, or “view” if you want to find a local beauty spot, for example.

On the results page, tap the filters button in the top right corner (it looks like two sliders), and then choose Near you under the Location heading. Tap on Apply and your results will only show tweets sent close to where you are.

Wikipedia

The idea of spending your vacation scrolling through Wikipedia may not excite you, but the people-powered encyclopedia is great for looking up areas of interest in the part of the world that you find yourself in.

Wikipedia has a special page dedicated to articles written about places near your location—just load up the URL https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Nearby in your mobile browser to see the results.

When we tried this out we got results on local museums, sculptures, specific areas of the city, venues, and historical events, so there’s a lot to explore. It can lead you to nearby areas of interest that you were looking for, and perhaps some that weren’t even on your radar.

Snapchat

Snapchat is responsible for the stories format that you’ll now find everywhere from Instagram to LinkedIn. When people make these stories public and tag them with a location, you can view them all in the Snapchat app for Android or iOS.

The app opens up into the camera view by default, but you can get to the map by tapping the location pin icon in the lower-left corner. Take a look around the area you’re currently in and see if there are any public stories: you’ll see them by colored hotspots, with red and dark red indicating the busiest locations in terms of snaps.

Tap on any hotspot to see what people are posting from there. When you see a snap that interests you, you can swipe up to see more details, including the user who uploaded it, the Snapchat lens they used (if any), as well as anyone tagged in the post. It’s a good way to see what’s going on around you at each moment, whether you’re close to a popular landmark or in the middle of a public event.

Instagram

Like Snapchat, you can use Instagram (available for Android and iOS) to look for public posts close to where you are. Tap the magnifying glass on the navigation bar at the bottom, then type in your current location in the search bar at the top.

You’ll see a selection of results on screen, but if you tap the Places filter, Instagram will show you locations that match your search rather than anything in the captions or comments. You can search for specific venues as well as towns and cities, and once you find what you’re looking for, you can pick the correct place from the list and start exploring.

Tap Top to see popular posts and Recent to see newer ones, and you’ll soon find out which are the most Instagrammable spots close to you.

Spotted by Locals

We’ve tried to avoid traditional mapping and travel apps on this list, but Spotted by Locals (available for Android and iOS) is definitely worth a mention. As you may have guessed from the name, it taps into local knowledge to reveal spots of interest that tourists might not otherwise come across.

[Related: Smart tips for travelers looking for a sustainable getaway]

You’re not really going to find much here if you’re traveling out into the middle of nowhere, but the app works great in major cities, where the busiest spots have the most contributions from locals.

Open up the app and you’ll see a choice of destinations: Tap on a place or use the search box at the top to find your current location. Each guide will set you back $4, but you can preview what you get before buying—including guides to restaurants, shops, and special views.



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