Hey Google, Take Me There… Technology & Navigation

Hey Google, Take Me There… Technology & Navigation

Get lost, but know where you are going

As a female traveler, safety is the most important criterion for me when it comes to where to go and what to do. That does not mean that I don’t like to wander. To be comfortable with getting lost, I always have a couple things I always bring with me:

  1. My phone and a fully-charged pocket battery pack + charger
  2. And a physical map of the region – In case technology goes wrong like you lost your phone, lost connection (GPS  and phone service can’t really get to some places), and the classic “my phone dies.”
  3. Must-have mobile applications

Two mapping apps that I sincerely value (#nosponsor) are Here WeGo (or Here) and Google Maps. If I did not have them, I don’t think I would be able to go as far as I did. Here are some reasons why you should download and get used to them before you go.

Google Maps – everything in one

Google Maps is my absolute favorite app for navigation when traveling. It has a massive database with most countries in the world and information about locations/attraction. Plus, it is also connected to other Google tools, so you can easily search for a place on Google Search Engine and choose to see it on Maps right away. Moreover, there is plenty more feature that the app offer. Here are some most useful ones:

    1. User-friendly: The Map is clear with the option to choose different interfaces like a normal map or satellite images
    2. Information: It has almost all the locations including shops, restaurants, and gelaterias on Earth and basic information about it like opening time, photos, and reviews
    3. Pick a favorite or several: You can “star” the locations to easily find it next time. I “star” all the landmarks and food places I want to hit in a city/ countries. Don’t forget to put a giant star in your hostel or hotel wherever you go. You can search for the address just by touching on the “star”
    4. Explore:  try clicking on the “Explore” button to find out about what is going on in your surrounding area. Sometimes, you will find interesting places that you never thought of. This simple search will also give you options for Restaurants, Gas Station, Medical Center, etc.
    5. Navigation: when online you can find the route to get from A to B easily
    6. Multi-location route: You can add more than one locations on your route (up to 10, I believe), so you can map out your day-route in advance to make traveling more smoothly. I always take a screenshot of this to refer back, in case my phone fail me later. Still, don’t forget to wander.
  • Offline maps: You can download a selected area map to get ready for your trip. This is really helpful if you are limited to data and/or wifi network. All the “Stars” location will show on your offline maps, except for all the info like photos and reviews.
  • Timeline: this is a tool that can help track your and your devices activities, like where you went and potentially help if your phone is lost.

Cons: In Google map, you can not use the direction/navigation function when you are offline (can’t find the exact route from one place to another offline). Thus you will have to have basic map-reading skills and sense of direction because “the arrow” is not always correct. You will have to select the route in advance before you hit the road if you choose to use this.

Here (WeGo) – getting direction offline

This is a very neat navigation app, they have maps of most places in the world and pretty accurate. I used it throughout Europe. There are many overlapping features between Here WeGo and Google Maps including navigations with GPS, building’s maps, maps download, attractions. Similar to Google Maps, you can download the maps you need on a wifi network and use it without and any service required. Here are the differences:

    1. Pros: In contrast to Google Maps’ cons (no direction offline), Here gives you directions for most transportations (car, walking, and biking route) offline as long as you have the map of the place downloaded.
  • Cons:
    • Usually, Here does not obtain as much information as Google Maps has of attractions, entertainment, and other places like food, coffee shop, etc.
    • You will have to download the map of a whole city/country instead of Google Maps’ option to select your download area. So, it can take more memory from your phone and need more time to download. But, you can delete the downloaded maps right after you done using it.
    • You can only go from one location to another, and cannot add a third location on the route

Where to find it: Google Play and Appstore

What if you forget to download the maps in advance? This is one thing I feel grateful for the creation and widespread of McDonalds’ (or any fast food chain). Most of them provide free wifi service or at least for 30 minutes to one hour, which is enough time to download plenty of maps. You just have to purchase a cup of coffee, or anything you want, and sit down waiting for your map to work. Plus, you can usually find outlet pretty easily there, so you can take that opportunity to charge your devices as well.

But why do you need two? It is a part of the “safe-fail” strategy because no application works perfectly all the time, so having another one “just in case” is always better. Also, you can use the two apps as complements to each other pros and cons.

Those are just my suggestions for navigation, let me know if you use other apps for traveling or if you have any questions.

Enjoy your trip and remember to get lost.

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