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.

Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Sport
Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header at the back post
footballArsenal vs QPR match report
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
News
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
i100
Sport
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
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

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all