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January 20th, 2015

Santiago City Guide App by Gabriel O'Rorke

So, why are more and more people going to the internet for travel recommendations?

The reason comes down to a memory shared by many - a memory from the days of backpacking with the beloved guidebook (or ‘bible’)...

After using a long-haul bus ride to choose your hostel, you arrive late at night in a rough-around-the edges bus station, stumble into a taxi (or decide to walk depending on budget or lack of relevant currency), finally arriving at your earmarked hostel only to find it has either closed down, burned down or is fully booked.

The problem with print is that it can't keep up with the pace of change in the world of travel. That’s why, a year after moving to Chile, I have published a Santiago City Guide in the form of an app.

Yes an app. Published by Apple, available for smart phones, tablets and androids. All the content is online so it’s constantly updated and added to. Quite honestly, the internet is the only place that can attempt to keep up with all the details tourists need.

The main thing that spurred me on to write a guide was that my favourite part of Santiago - a leafy street called Avenida Italia with lots of hidden courtyards filled with coffee and boutique shops - was not in any of the hardback guide books.

That’s because it emerged overnight. Well, over the last two years but that’s overnight in print terms. And there's lots more change to come to Santiago: crumbling Downtown is being scrubbed up, more new areas are emerging, and hotels, world-class restaurants and cafes are opening.

The other thing that motivated me was the fact that too many people see Santiago as nothing more than a stopover before exploring the rest of the country. Understandable as there’s plenty see elsewhere - lakes, volcanoes, desert, vineyards, glaciers and mo’ai - but you can also have your hat blown off by Santiago. You just need to know where to go.

It is a city filled with parks, museums and history. A modest, understated city (it’s not very Chilean to blow your own trumpet) where the best places are in hidden pockets off the beaten track. This means you need a guide to see the best of Santiago.

The tagline for the Santiago City Guide is ‘live like a local’ because I live here, cycle the streets daily and my research was very hands on. I met locals, bar, cafe, restaurant and hotel owners and asked them for stories rather than just dry facts. I also took all the photos myself and uploaded them via Instagram to give the guide a modern, urban feel.

And this is just the beginning, at the moment there are 160 entries but I’m going to keep adding and have plans to include short videos soon. I’m also working on a series of ‘My Top 5’ entries which will have tips from locals - the first has been published and is by a chef-cum-food blogger who gives his top 5 Santiago restaurants.

There’s also an entry on Chilenismos. "The Chileans are very inventive when it comes to Spanish," says a Spanish friend here in Santiago. If even the Spanish are struggling, the rest of us need help!

You can download the new Santiago City Guide here: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/santiago-city-guide/id786798878?mt=8

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