Thank you, Google Maps.
Sometimes I can’t believe I used to travel without my phone, aka Google Maps. Along with my passport, it's probably the most important thing I pack, even if I don't have an international data plan. Recently I got back from a trip to Barcelona and had zero problems navigating all because of this one trick.
Google Maps allows you to download the map of any city/cities you’re visiting for offline access. The downloaded map gives you crazy amounts of detail including street names, restaurants, popular spots, etc. You can even see your live location, so you can see exactly where you are at any time as you walk along the street towards your destination. There's even a handy arrow that helps you see which way you're facing as you walk so that you know whether to head south, east, left, right, etc. It's amazing!
You can also pin places you want to visit, which is such an amazing feature. Before leaving for Spain, my friend and I charted out all the buildings, museums, and restaurants we wanted to visit in Barcelona, favorited them, then downloaded our map. The minute we stepped off the plane, we knew exactly where to go and what to do, all without needing to run for WiFi or paying for international data. Score.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you out:
Download A Map
Open your Google Maps app, and search for the city you want to download. I’m using Barcelona. When the map pulls up on your screen, you can zoom in or out and make the map cover as much area as you want.
Good to know: downloaded maps DO take up space on your phone, so I zoom in enough that I can see just the parts that I want to visit. Just know that you won't be able to access more than what you see on your screen when you download it (unless you have data).
You’ll see a little white menu on the bottom with labels like “directions” “label” “share”. Scroll to the right and click “Download”.
A little menu will pop up letting you know how much room it’ll take, then it’ll do its thing. It will take a couple of minutes, and will stay downloaded for 365 days (or you can remove the download once you’re home from your trip).
Then, this little menu will pop up — click "download" if you have the space.
How To Pin Places
Type in the name of the place you want to visit (Let’s use Casa Batlló). Once the place pops up, open up the menu , and click the “Save” button. You can mark it however you want (Favorites, Want To Go, Starred Places, etc). I’m using Want To Go, but you do you. Now you have a little pin on Casa Batlló! Easy, peasy.
That little gray bar will bring up a pop-up menu — If you click "save" you'll see some options. I usually use the green flag, but do what you'd like.
Here's What It Looks Like, All Downloaded
A Couple Tricks
Map Out Where You Want To Go
Before leaving, my travel friends sat down and we mapped out what museums, buildings, restaurants, and other things in Barcelona we didn't want to miss and pinned every one. It helped give us an idea of how far away each attraction was, and allowed us to have a map of all the things we wanted to get done that day. Seeing everything mapped out also helped us know which order to see everything in because we could easily see which spots were close by meaning we should hit them one right after the other before moving on to another part of the city.
Do This With WiFi
The trick to this helpful travel tip is being prepared beforehand … you HAVE to download the map and all of your saved places before you get somewhere for it to be the most helpful without data. If you have a good connection on your layover, or if you are really prepared, do this before you are leaving.
You won't be able to use Google Maps without data if you didn't download your map while you were either connected to WiFi or had data. You also can't download it without data/WiFi.
Even if I do have data ... I still download the map ahead of time because there's nothing more obnoxious than your data running slow while you're trying to look something up.
Your hostel, the train station, the bus station, the restaurants that look interesting, favorite museums, pretty buildings, cafes … the more you pin, the more options you have when you’re traveling.
If some activity finishes early or the museum is actually closed that day, you can just look at your downloaded map to figure out what to do next, instead of hunting for an internet cafe to do some Googling. It’s always a good idea to have several ideas of where to go and what to do when you’re traveling so you can really fit in a full day of adventures with minimal stops to “figure out what to do next”.
Spend a whole semester traveling around
ILP volunteers are only teaching English or volunteering in an orphanage part time — that means free time, every weekend off, and vacation days to really explore. Sounds fun? Get your questions answered here: