Let your fingers do the walking in Amsterdam - Europe - Travel - The Independent

Let your fingers do the walking in Amsterdam

Dump your guidebook, says Jonathan Dyson, and let your mobile phone direct you around the city

If you have ever despaired of lugging a guidebook around a foreign city and spending half your time trying to find the page on vegetarian restaurants or that must-see exhibition when you should be soaking up the atmosphere and passing yourself off as a local (or at least a reasonably savvy tourist), then help may be at hand. The O2 mobile phone network is about to launch the first two in a series of Get Roaming city guides, which aim to make vital and up-to-the-minute information available in the form of text messages. For use across all mobile phone networks (for the same price as normal text-messaging), the guides are unashamedly young and trendy, aimed at the "20- 35-year-old urban explorer", and compiled by staff at the style magazine Dazed & Confused, with input from in-touch locals such as DJs and designers in each of the cities featured.

If you have ever despaired of lugging a guidebook around a foreign city and spending half your time trying to find the page on vegetarian restaurants or that must-see exhibition when you should be soaking up the atmosphere and passing yourself off as a local (or at least a reasonably savvy tourist), then help may be at hand. The O2 mobile phone network is about to launch the first two in a series of Get Roaming city guides, which aim to make vital and up-to-the-minute information available in the form of text messages. For use across all mobile phone networks (for the same price as normal text-messaging), the guides are unashamedly young and trendy, aimed at the "20- 35-year-old urban explorer", and compiled by staff at the style magazine Dazed & Confused, with input from in-touch locals such as DJs and designers in each of the cities featured.

So what are they like in practice? The first two guides are to Paris and Amsterdam. A recent weekend test-run in the latter showed up both potential benefits and possible drawbacks. The guides are essentially internet-based, and also come in notebook-sized taster versions, which will be available free in bars, clubs, record stores and airports around Britain from the end of this month. Both internet and notebook form are brief and to the point – you're not going to get a 1,000-word essay on the history of Calvinism or the Dutch war of independence – and have keywords dotted around such as "lovers", "ride" and "designer".

This is where your mobile phone comes in, either supplementing or replacing the guidebooks altogether for those who really can't be bothered. So, assuming you can remember the keywords – and they're pretty logical – or have stored them in your phone beforehand, all you have to do is send them as text messages to 80202 and back comes regularly updated info, as and when you need it.

For "lovers" we got directed to candlelit Lovers Boat Tours. For "ride", we were offered "the Amsterdam oddity of reasonably priced and excellently serviced taxis". And for "designer", we were sent to Megazino, a discount designer-clothes outlet. Being a group of shy and retiring journalists – OK, we still hadn't had a drink – we did not put the "lovers" recommendation to the test, but the "ride" taxis were indeed dramatically better than the expensive and surly norm, and Megazino was an oasis of Etro, Armani an D&G in a city not blessed with an excess of great clothes shops. Also, we did not even have to attempt to pronounce Megazino's consonant-soup address (ah, the English abroad) to the nice, cheap taxi driver – we just handed him the phone and let him read it from the display.

So much for some of our daytime experiences. Night-time was not quite as successful. We started our evening at Bar With No Name, as recommended in the guide by Pip, a transplanted Londoner who edits the city's offbeat listings magazine Shark. It was, as hoped, discreetly luxe and intimate. But for how long, one couldn't help wondering, if hordes of visitors like ourselves start barging in brandishing their beeping Nokias?

One refreshing aspect of the guide is that it gives you some of the downside to a destination, and users are encouraged to text and e-mail their own verdicts to the base internet site to keep it as reliable and up-to-date as possible. So, in our choice of nightclub, we should perhaps have heeded the advice of Pinky & Lennart, guide contributors (performing at this year's Edinburgh Festival with their new show SNACK!), who declare there are no good clubs in Amsterdam and you should instead head for Now&Wow in Rotterdam. Instead, we went to Amsterdam's Paradiso which (sorry, DJ duo Richard and Karin) really wasn't very happening, unless it just goes trashy at the weekend. It also has fierce door security, including body searches that would give Schipol airport a run for its money. (At this point we did, in fact, lose a member of the party, who was caught in possession of a suspiciously origami'd 10 euro note, but we only realised this half an hour after we had got inside – whoops).

The once ultra-fashionable Supper Club, which we also checked out, had a similar past-its-sell-by-date atmosphere to Paradiso, but perhaps that is just Amsterdam for you, and although it is refreshing to have a guide with very few listings, it can be frustrating if you don't care for any of the selections.

It was also pointed out by one of our number that there are no gay listings – this in a city that probably has more gay venues than anywhere else in Europe. We did, anyway, stumble into one of the gay areas, around Warmoestraat, en route to the obligatory early-hours trawl round the red-light district, for those of us who had never seen a prostitute sitting in a shop window before (again, curiously, an aspect of the city not referred to in the guide). Which I suppose brought us to the final possible drawback to the Get Roaming concept: do you really want to be seen tapping away into your mobile late at night in a foreign city and in an area of town that is possibly far from safe?

As O2 is keen to point out, the Get Roaming concept is still in its formative stages, and it is open to suggestions. In the future the company hopes to develop it with services including guest-listing for venues (send a text and you get on the guest list), message and photo boards on the web site, interactive phone mapping and the ability to download the entire guide to your electronic personal organiser (it is already available on XDA Pocket PC). So get charging now.

The Facts

Getting there

Jonathan Dyson travelled to Amsterdam with easyJet which offers return fares from £83 (0870-600 0000; www.easyjet.co.uk).

Being there

The author stayed at Hotel Arena, Gravesanderstraat 51 (00 31 20 8502410; www.hotelarena.nl), which offers double rooms from €100 (£67) per night.

Further information

For more details about the O2 city guides and to get access to full listings, visit www.o2.co.uk/getroaming.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week