Use Google Maps with a web con­nec­tion

If you’re head­ing off on hol­i­day, you can down­load Google maps to your phone. Jim Martin shows how

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We all take our phones on hol­i­day, but most of us have to pay for mo­bile data abroad. Phones are great for nav­i­gat­ing thanks to their GPS, but map data can soon rack up large bills. The good news is that you can down­load Google maps and use them to nav­i­gate with no Wi-Fi or 3G/4G con­nec­tion.

Off­line maps have been avail­able from Google for a few years, but it’s only re­cently that you were able to quickly and eas­ily down­load mul­ti­ple maps straight to your phone – both on iPhone and An­droid – and get driv­ing di­rec­tions while off­line. You won’t be able to search for restau­rants or shops, but you can use maps to nav­i­gate to an ad­dress or post­code. You can’t se­lect cy­cling or walk­ing di­rec­tions, only driv­ing, and you won’t get traffic in­for­ma­tion or be able to change the route like you nor­mally can.

Down­load Google maps

You down­load the map for a lo­cale di­rectly onto your smart­phone. Ob­vi­ously, you’ll want to do this be­fore you set off, as a large map could eat into your data plan and, of course, the rea­son you’re down­load­ing it is that you might not have a sig­nal or mo­bile where you’re go­ing. Google has lim­ited the size of the map you can in­stall on your de­vice, but as this cur­rently stands at 120,000 square kilo­me­tres, you should be good for most trips.

To down­load a map, open the Maps app on your smart­phone or tablet (with GPS) and make sure you’re signed in. To check, tap the three hor­i­zon­tal bars to the left of the search bar and see if your name or email ad­dress is shown. If not you should see a Sign in op­tion.

In this same menu, you’ll see Off­line ar­eas. Tap this and you’ll prob­a­bly see ‘Rec­om­mended ar­eas’ and your Home lo­ca­tion. Since down­loads only per­sist for 29 days, it’s only worth down­load­ing this if you think you’ll need it soon.

De­pend­ing on the road den­sity, down­loads can take up 500MB, though rural ar­eas can use up to 10 times less than this. There’s no limit to how many ar­eas you can down­load, only the in­ter­nal stor­age of your phone. Now search for the place you in­tend to visit or scroll there on the map. When you find the place go back to the Off­line ar­eas menu and tap the big blue ‘+’ but­ton. You can zoom in or out – the app will tell you if the area is too large or not. Some­times there’s a limit to how much you can zoom in – don’t worry if you can’t see in­di­vid­ual roads as they will still be down­loaded. Just tap the Down­load but­ton when you’re ready.

Some ar­eas are un­avail­able to down­load be­cause of re­stric­tions, but on the whole you should find you can down­load what you need.

You must leave the Maps app open un­til the down­load is fin­ished: check on its progress by go­ing back to Off­line ar­eas. Tap the cog icon at the top of the Off­line ar­eas screen and you can choose whether to have those off­line ar­eas up­dated au­to­mat­i­cally or not, and whether to down­load map data over Wi-Fi only or also with mo­bile data.

Delete a map

Don’t for­get that down­loaded ar­eas ex­pire af­ter 29 days, so don’t down­load too early. To delete a down­loaded area, tap on it in Off­line ar­eas and you’ll see the Delete but­ton. Here you can also re­name it.

Nav­i­gate a map

Nav­i­gat­ing your off­line maps is ex­actly the same as if you were on­line. Sim­ply tap the turn ar­row in the blue cir­cle near the bot­tom of the map and search for your des­ti­na­tion in the search bar. You can get driv­ing di­rec­tions from your cur­rent po­si­tion – or you can choose a dif­fer­ent start­ing ad­dress.

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