Google Maps is a great free alternative to a dedicated sat nav, and is also very handy if you’re on foot. But did you know you can use it offline too?
That means when you go abroad you’ll have a map stored on your phone, and you won’t have to pay roaming fees to use it.
Not only that, but you can also use it in areas where you won’t have mobile reception. The only thing is, you’ll need to be organized and sort it out before you go.
Follow our handy guide, and you’ll know your way around like a local.
Step 1: Find the area you want to use
First of all, you’ll need to download the Google Maps app. It should come pre-installed on your Android phone, but if not - or if you’ve deleted it - you can download it for free from Google Play.
In the search bar, type the name of the area you’d like to download a map for. It doesn’t have to be abroad – it could be somewhere remote in the UK.
Tap the bar at the bottom of the screen that contains the word you searched for. Then, if it’s somewhere specific, like a landmark or a train station, tap the three buttons in the top right corner. This will open the sub-menu and give you the option to ‘Download offline area’.
Step 2: Download it
A map will appear showing the area you can download. The maximum size is 46,332 square miles (120,000 square kilometres). If you try to save a bigger area, it will ask you to zoom in to select a smaller one.
It will also warn you how much space this will take on your phone – in our case, up to 175MB – and how much space you have left.
Remember, particularly with large areas, to always download over wi-fi rather than mobile data to prevent racking up a big bill.
If you’re happy, click ‘Download’. It will then prompt you to name the map.
Step 3: View your map offline
Once you’ve downloaded it, the offline area should appear at the top of your screen (the icon looks like a folded map). Drag down and click it to open it.
The icon will disappear after you’ve clicked it.
From then on, open Google Maps, tap the menu icon in the top left (it’s in the search bar), and select ‘Offline areas’ from the drop-down menu.
This will show a list of all the areas you’ve downloaded. To view one, just tap it.
Step 4: Navigation
To browse your offline map, use Google Maps just as you would normally. You can scroll around, and place names and road names should appear just as if you were connected to the internet.
You’ll also be able to get driving directions within your offline area, but not traffic updates. You also won’t be able to get directions for using public transport, cycling or walking. Once downloaded, you can’t modify routes to avoid a toll, say, or a ferry.
To check if your map has downloaded ok and is usable, turn on your phone’s airplane mode, open Google Maps and have a look around your downloaded area.
If you use an Android phone, you can also use Maps in wi-fi only mode (which is more convenient than putting your phone in airplane mode). To do so, go to the Menu, then Settings, and select Wi-Fi only. This will ensure you only use the offline maps you've downloaded, so don't risk running up huge roaming costs when abroad.
Offline areas need to be updated at least every 30 days - Google will prompt you so you don't forget. To get the most up-to-date maps, don’t download them too far in advance of your holiday.
That should be everything you need – happy hols!
Alternative offline sat navs
If you want an app with full sat nav capabilities that works offline, we’d recommend Here WeGo (previously known as Here Maps). The free app lets you download maps from over 100 countries with turn-by-turn voice instructions, absolutely free.