I remember the days when all I used my phone for when travelling was to play music on long distance bus journeys. Back then my phone had no internet and I didn’t even buy local sim cards in order to use it for what it was made for. It was a glorified MP3 player and it wasn’t all that glorious. I lost it in Cambodia at a bar…

Now, it would be unheard of not to travel with a smartphone and buying data packages is considered normal even for a 2 week trip. We are no different and now that we are both working online, having a working phone with data has become even more important.

We use our phones for our travel needs, to connect with people half-way across the world and even for work. But, you know what app I use more than any other? Maybe even more than Facebook? Simple google maps.

Google Maps is my favourite travel app because it makes doing a whole bunch of travel related things super duper easy. Here’s how I use it:

Good ol’ fashioned navigation

Unless you are in China, or the dark depths of nowhere, Google Maps is simply the best navigation app out there. It is easy to use, (mostly) correct even in the most remote areas and, of course, free.

Top Google Maps for Travel Tip 1

If you load your map while in a wifi zone like your hotel, you should then be able to keep your map or route loaded even when you leave that area. The app won’t be able to reroute you if something goes wrong but as long as you have your location on, that little blue dot will help you get where you need to go. You can also download sections of map to use offline but I’ve never found this to be necessary.

Personalisation

My favourite part about google maps is being able to star, favourite and label locations. Having your own personal map, with your hotel, favourite restaurant and that day’s sightseeing location saved, will help you understand your surroundings and, again, find your way even without internet. Being able to add your own labels when you pin a location can help you rediscover, or share, your favourite unmapped coffee spot or even a spectacular view.

Top Google Maps Tip 2

Before I travel somewhere new, I will generally research the top restaurants, bars, cafes and sights to see and find their location on google maps ready for when I arrive. I may not visit all the places on my list but if we are exploring at random and get hungry, I can pull up google maps and look if any of my pre-researched spots are nearby.

Research

On the road we tend to use google maps as our main search engine tool. Because of the google integration, all of the relevant information is right there alongside the location. For example, on our motorbike ride from Hanoi to Hoi An we found no information online about accommodation in Pu Mat National Park. But, when we simply zoomed in on google maps and looked around a bit, 1 homestay popped up. It turned out to be an amazing location we wouldn’t have found otherwise. You can read more about it here.

Top Google Maps Tip 3

Spend a little time zooming in and around your location to find hidden gems! The tourist highlights will show up immediately but the smaller locations only emerge when you dig deep.

Integration

Google maps is integrated with plenty of booking sites like booking.com, so you can search for price and availability right in the app. As well as having star ratings, reviews and pictures, you can make decisions about where to stay, eat and explore, without even leaving the app. I love it when things are that simple, don’t you?

So, when considering all those thousands (millions?) of travel apps out there, don’t forget about how versatile and useful google maps for travel can be. Save space on all those random, fad travel apps and take more photos instead!

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