Although I always buy a SIM card when travelling so I have data while away from wifi, I have recently enjoyed using the googlemaps app offline when we are driving, and I have found it works really well. Why pay for a GPS in your rental vehicle when you have an iPad or iPhone and Googlemaps?! You simply download an area you plan to visit, and then use the GPS function on the app whenever you are driving (or walking). Here are the steps to show you how.
Just a warning – using your device as a GPS does use up your battery so be sure to take a cable to plug your device into the USB or cigarette lighter port of your rental vehicle so your device charges while you’re driving. I always take an extra cable to leave in the car for our entire trip.
(You can probably do this with an Android device as well but I don’t know how. You will have to go to youtube to find a how-to video.)
What you need:
- An iPad or iPhone – the bigger the screen, the easier to use.
- Enough memory space on your device to store downloaded maps.
- A gmail account (easy and free to sign up if you don’t have one).
- The Googlemaps app installed on your device.
To Download a Map to Use Offline
- It’s best to do this before you leave, or someplace where you have and a fast and reliable wifi (or data) connection.
- Open Googlemaps on your device.
- Click on the top left-hand menu (three short horizontal lines indicate a menu).
- Log into your gmail account (if not already logged in) within the app.
- Type your destination in the search bar. It can be a city or a country.
- Click the “DOWNLOAD” button under the blue bar with destination name.
- Move map around so the area you want, fits inside the box. You can’t enlarge the download box so you may have to do more than one download to get entire area.
- You will see how much space you have available on your device at the bottom.
- Click DOWNLOAD in bottom right corner of your screen.
- Wait patiently. It can take a long time to download, depending on the speed of your wifi. I often just walk away and come back later. You will see a percentage downloaded as it goes. It will continue to download in the background as long as you are connected to wifi or data, even if the screen goes to sleep, or the app seems to close and you will be notified once it has finished downloading.
- If you are unable to fit the entire area you want in the download window, repeat the procedure above, moving the box to download a different map segment with just a little overlap from your first download. The overlap part won’t download again and mapping will be seamless when you are using it, despite having downloaded it in two parts.
Once you have all maps downloaded, you just use googlemaps gps as you normally do. Even when you are offline, if you type in a destination, the app will show you the map and give you directions as you drive. If you make a wrong turn, it will reroute your map or give you suggestions for making a u turn.
As with any GPS, you have to use common sense and understand that there can sometimes be errors. I find this is particularly true when using a GPS in small medieval villages in Europe, or areas where there is construction. Once in awhile, I tell Erik to ignore the GPS and go a different route. However, GPS directions are improving all the time.
Before we drive a particularly complex route, I sometimes look at sections of a map using Google Streetview so I can check what roadsigns to watch for, and try to figure out what lane we need to be in to get off the highway.
Below you will find a video of my iPad screen to show you how to download the maps. I won’t have arrows on the screen to point out buttons to click but I will try to describe them and you can always pause the video or go back to figure out what I clicked.
I hope you find this helpful!!
Part One – How to Download Map
Part Two – End of the download
Next up: Preparation for our house/pet sitting trip to the UK on August 17!