Combining travel with fun, many tourists are playing Pokémon GO, a smartphone game that uses global positioning systems to help players track down make-believe characters in real-life locations.
The game has created a whole new reason to travel. Pokémon GO isn't something you can play while sitting at home. The app enables you to capture virtual creatures on your smartphone screen as you see the world. Your phone will vibrate to let you know when you're closing in on various Pokémon, which you can then attempt to catch with a Pokéball.
National Geographic describes the game as a city guide that encourages exploration. It also fosters social interaction. In areas where Pokémon Go is popular, some players hold meet-ups and chase the virtual creatures in groups.
The game has become a global phenomenon. According to a July report by SurveyMonkey Inc., the app gets 4 to 5 million downloads per day in the U.S. alone.
Best Places to Play
National Geographic lists New Zealand, Australia, the U.S., the Netherlands, and Canada as the most popular destinations for travelers who want to play the game.
New Zealanders have created a live Snapchat account for Pokémon fans to share photos and videos. The BBC reports that one New Zealand man recently quit his job so he could play the game full time. In Sydney, Australia a typical day of chasing Pokémon characters ends with kayaking in the city's scenic harbor.
In several U.S. cities, including New York, Seattle, and Boston, fans have organized Pokémon meet-ups and pubcrawls. The larger the population, the more Pokémon you're likely to find.
In the Netherlands, Zuiderpark in The Hague is one of the most popular places to play, National Geographic reports. The Canadian city of Toronto is another gathering place for enthusiasts. Popular spots to play in the city include Kensington Market, Nathan Phillips Square, and Toronto Island.
Remember, you will need a Wi-Fi connection in order to connect to the servers and avoid overdraft fees and international costs on data.
Looking for a Bargain
If you're planning a bargain Pokémon vacation, U.S. News & World Report ranks Budapest, Hungary as the most affordable travel destination in Europe. You can chase down elusive creatures while checking out the city's rich neoclassical and baroque architecture.
Another travel bargain is Lisbon, Portugal, where you can hunt down Pokémon characters in the beautiful Parque das Nações (Park of the Nations).
On the Greek island of Crete, another bargain destination, you can search for Pokémon fantasy creatures along beautiful beaches.
There are many travel bargains in Asia. Unfortunately, however, Pokémon Go has not officially launched in most Asian countries, according to a July report in NextShark.com. Fans in France, India, South America, Africa, Russia, and the Middle East also are waiting for the game to arrive.
If you're planning a Pokémon travel adventure, an updated list of countries where the game is available can be found on Polygon. New countries are being added regularly.
You can capture more than 100 species of Pokémon as you travel the world, as various locations feature different types of Pokémon characters. USgamer says fight-themed characters can typically be found near "gyms" around the world, which are hotspots for friendly battles between "trainers." Electricity-themed characters can be found near industrial buildings, and ghost characters can be found in parking lots and near cemeteries. The game really immerses the player into the virtual world.
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Where Not to Play
According to a report in USA Today, not everyone is enamored with Pokémon GO; some take issue with the places where people choose to play. Recently, the director of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. urged players not to chase down make-believe characters among the exhibits created to preserve the memory of people who were killed during the Holocaust.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid playing the game in places that require quiet, respectful behavior.
Pokémon GO is a game that requires players to walk, so consider walkability when you choose a location for play.
It's best to play the game where you aren't likely to fall down or bump into stationary objects while staring at your smartphone screen. For example, you don't want to risk injury chasing GPS-based characters while climbing the steep steps of the Torre Grossa in San Gimignano, Italy. Walking along the Seine River in Paris is an equally bad choice, unless you've brought a dry set of clothes to change into. You'll have more fun if you play it safe.