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This is a familiar problem right? You’re in a new country for a few weeks but you don’t have a data plan. So there are a few things you can do. You can use Google Maps when you have Wifi and take a bunch of screenshots and hope for the best or you revert back to old school paper maps. Lucky for you there’s a better way.
How to make Google Maps offline ready
This travel hack has actually been around for over a year now and inconveniently tucked away as a hidden feature on the Google Maps app. That being said, the latest version of Google Maps on both Android and iOS make the feature a bit more accessible. Keep in mind that I have an iPhone 5S with iOS6 so the screenshots and steps are going to be biased that way.
Search for a specific place
Step 1: Search for the place of interest like “Toronto” and zoom into the level of detail that you want. Step 2: Pull up the place information sheet that shows up at the bottom of the screen. Tap “Save map to use offline”. Step 3: Sometimes the area is too large and will say “Area too large, zoom in”. All you have to do is pinch and zoom to the area of interest. Step 4: Tap “Save”. Step 5: Give the map a name and tap “Save”. Step 6: You’ll see a saving progress bar at the top and when it’s done, it’ll go away and then you’re all set!
Save a general area
This is similar to the above but what if you’re not wanting to search something specific like “Toronto” but just move the map around to a general area you’re interested in Step 1: Move the map to the area of interest. Step 2: Tap the search box at the top and scroll down to the bottom of the page. Step 3: Tap “Save map to use offline” Shortcut: Instead of scrolling to the bottom, you can always just type “Ok maps” (kind of like their “Ok glass” thing for Google Glass) and it’ll go into map saving mode. Step 4: Adjust the zoom, name it and save it.
Viewing saved maps
So how do you manage all these offline maps that you just saved. What if you want to delete some? What if you want to rename them or update them? Well you just need to go into this not-so-secret area in the app.
Step 1: Tap the small user icon on the top right hand side.
Step 2: Scroll down to “Offline maps”
- Simply tap on any of the saved maps and it’ll take you directly to that map
- Tap “View all and manage”
- Tap on the 3 dots on the right hand side of any of the saved offline maps and you’ll get a prompt that asks you whether you want to Rename, Update or Delete.
- Note: For updating, I’ve noticed that it doesn’t give you a lot of time to make changes to the map. Once you’re in update mode, you have a few seconds before it starts to save the updated view. This part isn’t particularly user friendly.
- By default, all maps are set to expire after 30 days. That’s good since the cached maps won’t take up space on your phone forever.
- Won’t be able to use search or navigation when offline. That makes sense.
- Some geographic areas can’t be saved. I looked at their list of available countries and it’s honestly quite extensive so I don’t think you’ll run into this problem unless you go somewhere really remote.