I have never been good at directions. Some people call it stupidity, I prefer to call it being geographically challenged. Either way I am the eternal butt of family jokes, as I consistently get lost within a half-mile radius of my own house. Had I been born a decade earlier I could easily have become one of those people who ends up 1000 miles from where they were supposed to be, after blindly following a SatNav with a typo in the destination.
Throughout the years I had developed an unhealthy dependence on Google maps, after over-relying on the App to get me literally everywhere. That is, until I moved to London in February 2020 and fell in love with a whole new transport mapping app which led to my dwindling relationship, and eventual breakup, with Google maps.
It was my brother who introduced me to Citymapper after I moved to London, telling me I “must” get it. Naturally I ignored his advice from him for as long as possible-until one day I found myself trying to navigate a particularly faffy journey from East to South London, involving two tubes and at least one bus journey. So I gave in, and downloaded Citymapper.
I wouldn’t quote John Green’s teen romance ‘A Fault In Our Stars lightly’, but I really did fall in love with Citymapper the way you fall asleep: “Slowly, then all at once.” At first I would only ever dip into the App to navigate my more convoluted trips across London. I liked the way it always gave me several different route options, and the exact cost of each of them.
Soon I was using Citymapper for all my trips, even if I already knew the way, making excuses to spend time with it. I loved the way it would combine all of London’s transport modes – including the more obscure ones like ferry and e-scooters – to give you the best possible route and journey time. I liked the way its GO function gave me step-by-step directions to walk between them. It made me feel looked after.
These days I don’t go a day without using the app. If I’m standing at a bus stop, Citymapper’s live wait times will tell me exactly when the next bus I want is due, down to the minute – plus ETAs for the next several buses, in case I decide to pop to Tesco’s instead. Naturally, you can save your favorite places in order to tell the map to “get me home” if you’re ever too inebriated to type out your own address.
Via some kind of inner-city sorcery the App knows exactly what is happening across London’s transport network at all times, staying up-to-date with all tube line changes, pre-planned or unexpected. You can even personalize this feature, so that you get automatic alerts when there is disruption to your favorite tube, train, bus or tram line. The App doesn’t miss a trick – it even tells you which is your best exit from any given tube station, so you’re on the right side of the road to reach your destination.
Other online reviews of the app suggest it has been equally life-changing for others. This one is my personal favorite: “It’s become a weird and possibly sad fact of my life that waiting and receiving Citymapper updates have overtaken Christmases and birthdays on the anticipation and excitometer.”
The best part of the app is the cost function, which must have saved me a small fortune since moving here. My housemate and I were recently discussing how lost we feel when we visit other cities and we can’t use this App (although some other cities do have it, including Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Dublin, and some cities abroad including New York and Barcelona).
All in all, I don’t claim this of many things – but Citymapper really has changed my life. I take far too much pleasure in leaning over friends’ shoulders when they looking up direction, then sighing dramatically if I see them using anything other than Citymapper, then sharing the secret with them. I’m not sure how I’d get around London without it anymore. Probably about twice as slowly, and at twice the price.
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