One of the joys of travelling is exploring new places and immersing yourself in the culture of a destination. Though there’s certainly a place for planes, trains and automobiles when getting from A to B, there’s no doubt that a good old-fashioned wander on foot is one of the quickest ways to get to grips with a new city.
On foot, you can go off the beaten track in Rome, stopping in at hidden trattorias you might previously have missed as you roar past in the traffic. Or get wonderfully lost in the romantic alleyways and backstreets of Barcelona, in search of gothic architecture and quirky boutiques. Or get swept up in the souks of Marrakech and the winding streets of the medina.
However, as much as the Tolkien quote ‘not all those who wander are lost’ might ring true for those with a traveller’s heart, sometimes the opposite can be true. Sometimes, those who wander are horribly lost – and that’s when the tech-savvy reach for their trusty smartphones and the king of map applications, Google Maps.
From its launch in 2005, Google Maps has grown to include points of interest, street view, satellite imagery and turn-by-turn in its offering, to mention just some of its most popular uses. Its ability to save the ardent explorer from hours of frustration and asking for directions makes it a must-have travel companion in our eyes. There’s a very good reason the app boasts more than one billion active daily users.
One of the best features of Google Maps when viewed through the eyes of the frequent traveller is the fact you can use the app even whilst offline. So, those who prefer to keep their roaming safely off and rely on Wi-Fi only when overseas, can also make the most out of this app, too.
Here’s a basic guide to how you can put Google Maps to the test and enjoy your wandering, worry-free, on your next trip:
Finding a location
You’ve heard about that incredible art gallery or a rooftop bar that everyone’s recommending, but you can’t for the life of you find where it is. Cue the locations feature of Google Maps where all you need to do is type the address of the location or the name of the bar or restaurant or gallery into the search bar. You can even type in general search terms if, say, you’re looking for a museum or supermarket in the local area. Google Maps highlights a selection of options for you to try on for size. You should even be able to see opening/closing times, reviews and links to official websites.
This is the function to stop you wandering around in circles, Blair Witch style, before arriving back at where you started with the vaguely unsettling notion you will be lost forever. Simply type in the address or name of the place you want to go, as above, and the app will automatically provide an estimated time of arrival from your current location. If you want the route to start from a different location instead, simply tap on the estimated time or car icon and you will be able to change the route. Next, you can choose whether you want to see the best route by car, by foot, by bike or by public transport. Whether you want to pick the fastest route or the one that avoids the densest traffic, Google Maps offers a selection of options so that you can pick the one best suited to your needs. If you’re using a mobile device, all you need to do is click on the navigation arrow or ‘start’ and Google Maps will begin leading the way in real time, charting your progress as you move.
If you want to protect yourself against losing service or plan to be visiting a place where you won’t be turning your data on, a little bit of forethought with this handy app can go a long way. You can save the relevant maps you might need to your mobile device by searching for the area you need, wherever it may be in the world, then choosing the ‘search offline areas’ option from the main menu. You will then have the option to download the maps and save them for when you are off on your travels. There’s no excuse for getting lost ever again.
As well as downloading the right maps for your trip, don’t forget the essential task of booking the correct travel insurance. Medical Travel Compared can help with this, thanks to our online comparison tool that helps you narrow down the insurers that meet your requirements. Get your travel insurance quote today.
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