Though I’ve written smartphone apps to Argentina and Chile, I missed the opportunity to do separate apps on Buenos Aires and Santiago. Though my own apps contain substantial material on both capital cities, other authors managed to take on the task before I could, and I recently had a chance to test out Gabriel O’Rorke’s Santiago City Guide.
Having met Gabriel briefly last year, I can say that she’s a cheerful and personable Scot whose name is misleadingly masculine and Irish (among Chileans, she goes by “Gabriela”). Because she’s a year-round Santiago resident, she has the advantage of frequenting spots that I see only occasionally (though I visit the city every year and once wrote a guidebook to it for a publisher best unnamed here, I rarely spend more than a couple weeks at a time now).
Like other similar apps, including my own, the Santiago City Guide approaches the destination via several sortable categories: neighborhoods, overviews, activities, architecture, art and culture, bars and drinks, cafés, daytrips, family-friendly, food, hidden gems, hotels and hostels, indulgences, music and dance, outdoors, and shopping, plus a few others.
That said, I find the organization a little confusing, with overlapping areas that, to me at least, make it a little awkward to find what I already know is there. For instance, the app lists a large number of sights for Santiago’s downtown (Centro) under the “Everything” heading, but doesn’t give an overview, though it does provide detailed information on smaller neighborhoods such as Barrio Yungay that lie within Santiago Centro (which, in fact, is an independent municipality). At the same time, it doesn’t provide comparable details on the adjacent Barrio Brasil, which has a greater density of sights and services (some of which do appear in the app), while identifying wealthy Las Condes as a “barrio” when it’s a separate municipality within Gran Santiago (Greater Santiago).
None of this reduces the quality of the coverage, but it did cost me more time to find the items I was seeking. When I did locate descriptions of well-known restaurants such as the Peruvian classic Astrid y Gastón and the inconspicuous sandwich shop Fuente Mardoqueo, I think it might take others longer to do. That said, once you know it’s on the app, the map function makes it easy to locate geographically; the descriptions are brief but useful, with a relatively small number of Instagrammatic photos. The app would also benefit from a systematic summary of public transportation, including the exemplary Metro and the Transantiago bus system.
It’s worth emphasizing that, while I’ve pointed some things that bother me a little, they’re easily remedied and frequent updates become available at no additional cost. It’s also interesting to see another writer’s perspective that includes some items that simply would not occur to me – most notably an organic hair salon and a Pilates studio. It’s worth adding that the app (like my own) is also available in an Android version and that, at just US$2.99, the price is certainly right.