Getting used to a metro system in a new place can be taxing enough. Let alone the buses. Or, heaven forbid, bus/metro/tram combinations – which are surely only an option for long-term residents.
So, how does a visitor learn all the local tricks and get from A to B in the least possible time, without accidentally making a duff change that leaves you in the opposite end of town? Using the right transport website, or app, can make it a surprisingly level playing field for both tourists and residents.
HopStop.com is one of those sites that you use once and immediately wonder how you’ve lived so long without it. It offers door-to-door directions, meaning you can type in your current location and your intended destination, and it will list all your options for getting there – bus, train, combinations – plus the estimated journey time and fare. If you’re running late, there is also a taxi option, again with a journey time and price, and if your chosen route is currently experiencing problems, there are real-time updates too.
Current coverage is weighted heavily on the US and Canada, although that span is broad, including all the big cities (New York, Boston, Montreal and Toronto), plus less obvious destinations, from Albuquerque to Walla Walla in Washington state. It also covers plenty of UK destinations (London, East Anglia, Wales, Yorkshire), plus various other cities across the world, including Sydney, Berlin, Tel Aviv and Moscow.
Having being acquired by Apple in July, it is one to watch – although that takeover has been somewhat controversial, with Apple doing its normal trick of immediately withdrawing support for other platforms, Android and Windows, as it seeks desperately to compete with Google Maps. “Users weep softly into their paper bus schedules,” lamented the website Android Police when their service bit the dust.
Anyone can, however, use the web version of HopStop to check the best route before leaving the house. And although it’s not entirely flawless, it’s a guaranteed time saver and makes new cities suddenly seem far more accessible.
Other sites worth bookmarking
Citymapper: Similar to HopStop, this app is currently only available in London and New York; if you live in these places it’s a must and the user-friendly interface makes it equally essential for visitors. As an added bonus, it includes bike routes, with fast and quiet options. Word of advice: put a password on your phone, or else someone could steal your bag and your house keys, click “Get me home” (which stores your address) and they’d probably beat you to the front door, or at least get very close. It’s available for Apple and Android.
MetrO: This transport app is not instantly as clear as some of its rivals and the information is more basic, but its coverage is even more extensive, totally 400 destinations, with plenty of South American and Asian destinations in the mix. It works on iPhones, Android and Blackberry.
Walkit: This UK website has been around for years and although other sites have sprung up around it, offering more comprehensive coverage on all modes of transport, Walkit has stuck to what it knows best: travel on two feet. Coverage includes London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, plus Norwich, High Wycombe, Stockport and much more. Over the years, it has expanded to offer themed and circular walks, giving it added recreational value. Plus a new feature allows you to find out what is in walking distance from your current destination.
Uber: Don’t want to fuss around with public transport? This is the taxi service of the future. Download the app and get a car straight to your current location at the click of a button. You can follow the car’s progress as it moves towards you; it’s cashless (charged automatically to your account); and fares can be easily split between passengers. Covering various global cities, it is currently gaining a lot of traction in the US, and although it has plenty of rivals, the San Francisco-based operators are particularly savvy at marketing, with stunts that have included Deloreans and ice-cream trucks. It has also had some AirBnB-style run-ins with the authorities.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk