I’ve traveled with and reviewed a few iPhone apps on here before. Luxury Latin America contributor Zora O’Neill has out one called Cool Cancun & Isla Mujeres (here’s my review) and contributor Christopher Baker has out one for Costa Rica.
These were both published by a company called Sutro Media and that’s also the case with the latest one I’ve been checking out: Argentina Travel Adventures. It’s from Wayne Bernhardson, who has spent 30 years traveling in Argentina and Chile. He does the Moon guides for those countries, has a home in Argentina, speaks Spanish fluently, and has an Argentine wife. So yes, he knows what he’s talking about.
The app is full of inside information and filtered advice on lots of essentials like airports, taxis, and attractions. There are categories on architecture, art & culture, museums, festivals, nightlife, and plenty more. The wildlife section has pictures and descriptions, the restaurant section gives you a sense of what to expect and will lead you to places that have stood the test of time. Click the listing for Cafe Tortini and you get a great description and a photo plus their address (with a map link), a phone number, opening hours, and even a Wikipedia link. So if you know what you’re looking for and the place is included in this app, you’re all set.
The problem is, what if it’s not included? By their very nature, these apps only include a tiny fraction of what you’ll find in a guidebook. That’s fine if you’re looking for filtered results and a quickie description, but not so great if you want more choices or more depth. While I’m sure the 8 wineries highlighted, for example, are quite worth a visit, they represent a tiny fraction of what’s out there. (I visited more than that just in Cafayate, for instance—all open to the public.)
The hotel listings are a mixed jumble of budget ranges and places all thrown together on one scrolling page. It literally goes from Alvear Palace in Buenos Aires to an obscure kelp-collecting village to a winery with a 2-room guesthouse in Mendoza. If you want to see the best options in one specific destination, you have to click on the sluggish map and drill down.
So maybe the better question is, “Will an app be good enough?” After all, at $2.99 for this Argentina app, you can hardly complain that it’s not comprehensive enough or lacks structure. For people who just want the basics in their pocket and will get sleepy reading more than three paragraphs at a time, this collection of bite-sized nuggets will be perfect. You get the filtered recommendations from an expert without having to make any decisions from a long menu of options. It adds zero ounces to your bag or pocket and is with you even when you’re not carrying a daypack. And no need to look like a lost tourist holding a guidebook: you’re just playing around on your smart phone!
If you want to dig deeper though and have some context instead of just a list of things to click on, I’d recommend upgrading to his books Moon Handbook Argentina for $17 paperback/$13 Kindle, Moon Handbook Buenos Aires for $15 paperback/$9 Kindle, or Moon Patagonia for $22 paperback/$10 Kindle instead.
Also note that there’s no Android version of this app for now, which always seems kind of odd given Android’s higher (and growing) market share over the Apple system. I’m told it’s on the way though.