Travel Tip: How to read a digital map offline

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There’s a tendency among travelers these days to “wing it” more when it comes to maps. A glove box stuffed with maps used to be a prerequisite of any road trip, but the arrival of smartphones, google maps and GPS mean many of us now leave the paper maps at home.

But what happens when you want to travel somewhere with spotty wifi? Or you don’t want to bother buying a SIM card or international data plan to access a 3G network?

Here are a few simple tips to keep your online maps accessible at all times:

1. We all love Google Maps. If you have the latest version of Google Maps on your iPhone or Android device, it’s easy to download the information to work offline. While connected to WiFi or a network, find the map for the location you want. Then simply type in the phrase: “OK Maps” in the search field. That will bring up a prompt to save the map onto your device to access later.

2. Use iPhone and Android-friendly apps like City Maps 2Go and TripAdvisor Offline City Guides to download city maps to your phone in advance of a trip. Bonus (and this applies to Google Maps too): your GPS works offline and can pinpoint where you are on the downloaded map.

3. And finally, a decidedly low-tech trick: use your phone to snap a photo of the handy small-scale neighbourhood maps you find posted outside of subway stations, at visitor information booths or bike share stands. When you’re trying to find your way just a few blocks from the station, the photo can be a handy reminder if you forget whether you were supposed to turn left or right.

That’s it! Of course, another great way to avoid getting lost is to spend time with a local guide on your first day in a new place. In addition to sharing their local knowledge, they’ll help you get oriented and confident in their city; before you know it, you’ll be the one giving directions to lost tourists.
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