BEST GOOGLE MAP HACKS
Of all the new and unfamiliar things you notice about a city, perhaps what gets overlooked most is its topography – how its neighbourhoods are organised, the shape of the city grid and the width of the streets. From Boston’s maze of streets (so confusing they are thought to have evolved from cow paths) to Berlin’s graffitied boulevards named after poets and politicians, a city’s structure has a profound impact on the way we experience it.
Luckily, there’s an app that aggregates all this information for us.
With more than one billion monthly users worldwide, Google Maps has become synonymous with getting from A to B. But it offers so much more than that for travellers, including a range of new features that help you plan a holiday on the go.
A couple of years ago, after an unsuccessful attempt at finding “New York’s best Pho” in Bushwick, Brooklyn, my hotel concierge gave me this game-changing gem of wisdom: you can pre-downloaded maps to use offline. Accessing these is now my first port of call at the airport, so they’re ready to use as soon as I land.
Simply search for any address (or just the name of a city or region), swipe up from the bottom to obtain more information, and tap the download button.
They will be stored in “offline maps” in the main menu. As normal, use the blue GPS icon to navigate, which will work when you’re offline or in airplane mode.
Travellers will soon be able to start navigating by using augmented reality, which essentially is able to recreate the street in front of you on your phone.
“You instantly know where you are,” Google vice-president Aparna Chennapragada said at the announcement in May 2018. “No fussing with the phone. The street names and the directions are right there in front of you.”
The user’s path will be lit with arrows that flash green when you need to change direction. It also shows you nearby places, such as bars and restaurants. Keep your eyes peeled for the official release date from Google HQ in the coming months (and be sure to keep the app up to date).
Also hot off the press is the “explore” update, accessible via an icon at the bottom left of the home page. This opens up a new section dedicated to helping you browse and locate the best food, night-life, entertainment and services close to you.
The best part is the curated “best of ” lists, recommended by local users. Right now, near my co-working space in the hipster Berlin suburb of AltTreptow, I can see the following lists: Craft Beer in Neukolln, Drinks & DJ Sets and Trendy Kreuzberg Cafes.
Look out Time Out, it appears that Google Maps could be moving in on your territory.
‘FOR ME’ FEED
Soon to be rolled out across iOS and Android is the “For Me” feature, essentially like a social media feed of suggested restaurants, bars and tips, based on your previous reviews and browsing habits.
A perfect feature for time-poor travellers; the feed recommends places which are local, of quality and, most importantly, in line with your tastes. What will they think of next?
Google Maps’ latest features take you straight to where you want to go. Island of Capri, anyone?