How did we live without apps? Years ago, when I impulsively took off for Mexico for five months, I spent countless dollars in steaming internet cafes trying to coordinate transport arrangements and reach Couchsurfing hosts. Now, we all have a personalized tour-guide/concierge/social coordinator in our pocket – all for free.
Here are five apps we dig that will help you get the most bang for your frugal buck when out and about in Portland:
# 1. Cart Compass PDX (iOS & Android)
Portland and food carts go together like oak-smoked bacon and free-range eggs. This handy app will guide you to the quasi-mobile food haven of your choice. Or, if you’re new to the food cart game, serve up reviews and ratings to help you decide where to take the plunge. The location feature guides you to the nearest food cart, should hunger overtake you suddenly, while menus and social media contact details ensure you connect with the perfect lunch spot. Do your bit for the community by adding photos, reviews, and suggesting new carts to add to the database.
# 2. Art Trekker (Android)
Get your culture fix for free with this handy guide to Portland’s rich and varied public art collection. The city is home to more than 475 works of public art, dotted across its parks, squares, court houses, fire stations, and more. Art Trekker has a discovery feature to help you find the works of art nearest you, as well as conventional maps. Tap on the photo of the artwork for detailed information and save your favorites in a personal gallery. This could be a fantastic tool to organize an artsy scavenger hunt, or to plan a rainy day itinerary of museums and galleries.
# 3. Roadify (iOS & Adroid)
A great public transport system is only as useful as your knowledge of it. Roadify is a genius little app that serves up real time transit agency data to answer essential questions like: How do I get there? When does the next bus arrive? In PDX, Roadify incorporates TriMet data and schedules with live updates from local users so you know exactly what’s going on with your ride. It also has maps with step-by-step directions, and a run down of local transport options like bikes, so you can scope out your options without flipping between apps.
# 4. Couchsurfing (iOS & Adroid)
Long before Airbnb, there was Couchsurfing, a site that connected travelers with hosts for free or almost-free accommodation. Part cultural exchange, part “take the plunge and see who you meet,” it has moved into the smartphone era with this app. Now you can browse your current or future destination, chat with potential hosts, or offer your own couch. If you’re already hooked up with a place to stay, the app’s “Hangouts” area is a great way to meet people and find out about local events. As on the Couchsurfing website, you’ll need to create a profile and get verified as a common-sense safety measure.
# 5. Meetup App (iOS & Android)
Like Couchsurfing, Meetup was born online in the days of yore and has evolved. Meetup is a social facilitator that alerts you to groups and activities in the area. The app lets you browse groups, message, and sign up to attend events. The Portland Meetup scene is, as you might expect, rife with hiking, yoga, fitness, music, cooking, and photography groups, among myriad others. Some are designed for residents but many welcome visitors. Read the group info to get a feel for the vibe and drop the organizer a note if you have any questions.
Any or all of these apps will make your Portland visit/life a little easier, while enhancing your culinary, cultural, and social worlds. Try them out!