Traveling to new countries can cause a lot of headaches sometimes. One of these headaches is knowing where you are at all times. Because our phones rely on cellular data that usually is tied to one carrier, our phones data connection doesn't always work when we are overseas. However, most people think that GPS and Cellular Data are connected, when in reality they are not. The only reason your Google Maps app doesn't work overseas is because it is constantly checking the servers for the most up to date maps. However, the App does know your exact location regardless, even if it can't show it to you. How do you get around this? You use an app called Maps.me! Keep reading for how to use Maps.me to travel the world, and always know where your are, and how to get where you need to go!
First of all, lets get a little crash course on how GPS works. Check out this video that does a good job of explaining it:
How does GPS work?
What does this mean for you? Well, it means even if you don't get data on your phone, you can still use the GPS as long as you have an app that saves its maps. Google maps works, but it requires you to find the download map option which isn't always very intuitive. That's why I recommend you install an app called Maps.me.
Check out this video from Map.me to get a better idea!
Offline Maps - It Just Makes Sense!
When you first open the app up, it will prompt you to download the local map. It does this using a combination of GPS and whatever Wifi or Cellular network you are on. Make sure you open it before your trip, or at least during your trip when you have wifi. If you install the app, but forget to download the maps, and then try to open it abroad, you're in for a bad time. Here is a screenshot of what you see when you first open the app:
Since I am in Tucson, it by default will download Tucson. However, if you wish to prepare for a trip, just hit the three little bars in the bottom right hand corner. This will give you the settings menu:
Select download maps, and you will be shown the following page:
Simply search for the city or country you are visiting at the top. This will then give you the option to download the map directly to the phone. Once you have the map downloaded you will have access to local businesses, local attractions, and routing information between locations. Here are some of the categories:
Save Your Places, You Will Thank Me Later!
One of the cool things about using a digital map, is the ability to save your locations for easy reference later. After you download your local map, the first thing I like to do is save the location I will be staying at right away. The reason being if I ever need to tell anyone where I am staying, it only takes two seconds because you simply open your map, and find the pin that is placed there. In Maps.me, the process could not be simpler.
Simply touch the location you want to save, and hit the little star on the bottom right hand corner.
This will place a handy little pin that is always visible, no matter how far out you zoom in the map. I use this feature when I'm talking to the locals, and they recommend a place to eat, or visit
Need to figure out how far something is? There is no need to ask a local. As long as you know where you need to go, Maps.me has you covered. Simply hit the route to option at the bottom after selecting a location and you will be able to not only see how far a place is by car, but walking and cycling as well. If you have an internet connection it will also give you an estimate for uber as well!
Above you will see the different options depending on which one you choose, and the time it takes to get there at the bottom. This has been a lifesaver overseas where people aren't always very exact when it comes to distance. You may hear, "Oh, yes it's a short walk from here." Well short walk is relative, so Maps.me does a great job of giving you a more exact time.
When you hit the start button, you are prompted with the following message:
Please be mindful of this. Offline maps means that things are not always up to date. Keep this in mind when using the maps, you still need to be very aware of what you are doing. After you accept, you see the same layout that you are used to on any routing map:
Just follow the directions and never fear getting lost again while traveling!
What You Need To Know About Driving Abroad
When traveling, I usually rent a car. It gives you a level of freedom you don't usually get when you are abroad. The only drawback is that most rental car centers overseas require that you are comfortable driving a manual transmission (See Tara learning to drive a manual taxi in Africa here). If you can have someone teach you to drive a stick here in the states (or wherever you may be), you will gain so much more freedom when you are abroad. Automatic transmissions are not very common outside of the united states, so learn now or be under the tyrannical thumb of uber and taxis. Also, when you are in your own rental car, you will see so much more of the country you visit. It truly makes the experience that much more worthwhile. However, it's pretty impractical to travel with your normal car mount. Most are not very small, and can be a pain because they fall out of the holder at every bump. This was an issue for us, that we found a very practical solution for. At home we use this magnetic mount that works amazingly well.
While shopping at a little store in greece, I found a smaller magnetic mount that worked perfectly with most cars, and was super tiny which is perfect for traveling. Here is the same one I found on Amazon:
I simply throw the tiny magnetic clip in my backpack, and whenever I need to drive around another country, I don't have to worry about holding the phone in my hands while I'm trying to shift gears. It's made the whole experience much more enjoyable. Here are some pics of our phones in action!
I hope you enjoyed this blog post! This little post is basically a condensed version of the instructions that I give groups of new travelers when I first meet up with them! Don't worry, if this seems like too much work for you, when you're on a trip with us, just ask and I will be more than happy to set it up on your phone and give you a walk through on it! Until next time! Travel Safe!