Getting around can be a tricky business and although I’m a big fan of pulling out an Ordnance Survey map and plotting my route with that, a compass and a dose of common sense it’s not the most practical approach to navigating Central London at rush hour. Luckily I have an iPhone and some clever people have done clever things and made clever little apps which make getting around a doddle - here’s my top 5, all of which are completely free.
This little app first landed on my phone a couple of years ago and replaced a stupidly expensive (and stupidly stupid) SatNav app which was less than reliable at the best of times. Waze is community-based and relies on user input to keep traffic conditions and road information up to date. Stuck in traffic? Report it and Waze will update the map in real time to help other users avoid the delay or give them a realistic arrival time. It’s easy to use and frequently updated, plus the recent acquisition by Google should mean the app will just keep getting better.
Once you’ve arrived you’ll need to park up and that can be a bit of a mission, luckily Yellow Line makes finding a free bay a little less painful. The app will display parking information based on your current location including what restrictions are currently in force and where the nearest free bays are. You can also find petrol stations, electric charge points and the location of paid car parks. It currently only covers a portion of London but they’re working to expand the database to cover all 32 boroughs at the moment.
Update: Yellow Line Tweeted us to say the app will be updated in November 2013 to cover all of London.
Available for iPhone
If you have to pay for parking there’s nothing worse than realising you’re all out of change, that’s where Parkmobile comes in. The free service covers most major cities in England and is really straight forward to use - just sign up, add a payment card and you’re good to go. Once you’re ready to park all you need to do is input your car registration along with the zone number and hit ‘Start Parking’, the app will send your details to the local enforcement agency and start timing your session. Once you’re finished, hit ‘Stop Parking’ and the cost will be charged to your payment card. You can even log onto the website to manage your account and download invoices.
I’ve lived in London for nearly 8 years now and yet I still get confused by public transport in the city from time to time. Citymapper entered my world fairly recently but so far it's made getting around much easier (especially when you accidently miss the last tube). It’ll find your location using the phone’s in-built GPS and then give you directions to your destination using either bus, tube, train or a combination of the three. It even gives you rain safe options, Boris Bike locations (including bike and space info), tube line status, estimated trip costs and a novelty mode of transport such as jetpack or slingshot if you really need to get home in a rush (or just fancy a giggle when you’re waiting for a nightbus in the rain).
Hailing a Black Cab is one of the coolest things you can do, especially if you shout “Taxi!” and the top of your voice whilst holding a briefcase and umbrella (Just me?). Well, that’s all good and well when there’s orange lights a plenty but what happens when they’re nowhere to be seen? Hailo lets you set your pick up location (and a set destination such as Heathrow if needs be) and gives you real-time information about the cabs in your area, once you click ‘Pick me up here’ a cab will be assigned to you and head your way. Once booked you get the driver’s name, registration number and an ETA which updates if the cabbie gets stuck in traffic. You can even set up an account to charge the cost directly to a payment card and grab an invoice once you’re done. The whole service is very slick and features such as not starting the meter until 5 minutes after notifying you of the cabs arrival make it incredibly easy to use.
The various app stores are packed full of solutions for getting around in a car, on foot and using public transport, check out the ones above and share your own personal favourites in the comments below. Don't forget to check out the Zipcar app which allows you to find, book and unlock our vehicles (you can even honk the horn if you're struggling to find your car!)
What apps do you use to get from A to B?