When traveling internationally (or even domestically!), at some point you will be lost.
Having an offline navigational map is a good idea for any traveler. The directions aren’t perfect, and you won’t get live traffic updates. Some roads may even change before your maps update!
But they are much better than nothing! At the very least, you have a picture of your location (just like a retro paper map!) to help you find your way.
What I Like About Maps.me
Even if you have global roaming with your service provider (like Sprint’s Open World plan, or Google Project Fi) or you pick up a temporary SIM card once you get to the country you’re visiting, you should still have an offline navigation app. My favorite is Maps.me!
OpenStreetMap is an open source website, meaning users can add or change data. It’s like the Wikipedia of maps!
Anyone can edit the maps to make corrections and add locations. As you’ll see, the data is not complete right now. But as it grows, becomes more reliable.
The app’s user interface is minimalist, which I love! You can see more of the map on your screen instead of lots of banners and buttons. And it’s so smooth!
1. Download Maps
If you’re preparing to travel to an area where you don’t expect to have internet connection, tap “Download Maps” and add the area to your offline collection. You’ll have fully functioning maps, even with NO Wi-Fi or cellular internet – just GPS. We found it a lifesaver in Djibouti!
This is my favorite feature, because I can download large areas.
Once you find the country you’re looking for, you can tap it to view all the cities and areas inside that country. You can choose to download just certain areas, or tap “Download All” for the entire country.
After your trip, you can delete any maps you’re finished using to free-up the memory on your phone. Just long-press the file to bring up a menu, and press “Delete“.
2. Add Location
This is the tool that makes the Maps.me app useful for other travelers!
By clicking “Add Location“, you can restaurants, hospitals, gas stations, or anything else not yet recorded on the map, so other travelers know about it. This is the “open source” feature of the app.
3. Share My Location
You can send your location through the menu in Maps.me, and your friends can see your location even if they don’t have the app. It’s a good SOS feature if you find yourself in an unfamiliar location, or just handy for folks trying to meet up.
You can tap on the magnifying glass at the bottom left of the screen to bring up a search page. Then you can type your destination in the top search bar. You can also see your search history, or choose a category to get local suggestions.
Tap where you want to go, and you will get directions from your current location.
Tapping the arrow between 2 circles next to the magnifying glass at the bottom of the screen will bring up 2 search bars.
You can type in your starting point and ending point and see directions from any area. You will receive directions from areas other than your current location. This helps me to choose hotels by viewing the distance to different restaurants and activities.
You can also scan the map for places that interest you, and tap the map to get directions. If you want to remember the spot, you can bookmark it by clicking the icon that appears at the bottom left of the screen.
When you click the icon to the bottom right of the home screen, you’ll be given 4 options:
What I Don’t Like About Maps.me
Because Maps.me is open source, it relies on users to input its information. Which I like. However, there are plenty of areas on the map that have not been added yet.
As a test, I typed in easy locations, like Starbucks and Panera, and the map would find plenty of locations. However it would also miss plenty. The closest Panera according to the app was 15 miles away, when there was really a Panera ~2 miles away!
The point is, it’s not perfect. If you want to find a Starbucks, it will take you to Starbucks. But you may pass another Starbucks along the way!
That’s where you and I come in! We can tag the closer Starbucks for other users.
If you want to find popular tourist destinations, like a national park, a zoo, a museum, etc., it’s most likely already in the app, and will work like a charm.
How Does it Compare to Other Offline Maps?
There are plenty of offline navigation apps, but I especially like Maps.me. Other popular apps are:
1. HERE WeGo Maps
HERE WeGo maps, (previously HERE Maps) is another one of my favorite offline navigational apps.
With HERE Maps, you must download an entire country at a time. You won’t be able to download a specific city, like you can with Maps.me. Also, some countries aren’t available (like Pakistan, for example), so depending on where you’re wandering, this might not be the app for you.
2. Google Maps
It is possible to use Google Maps offline. Similar to Maps.me, you can download custom areas of a map to your phone, instead of entire countries.
That said, it’s still a perfect app for folks who are aware of these limitations and okay with smaller maps.
Also, your offline maps will expire in 30 days if you don’t update them.
3. MapFactor GPS Navigation Maps
There is still plenty of work to be done on the Maps.me app, but I love how easy it is to download maps, the smooth and uncluttered user interface, and the idea of travelers collaborating to improve it. I find it invaluable to use in places where there is no cellphone or internet service because it will still work with GPS!
It has been downloaded 10 million times, and I don’t think it will take long for the travel community to record popular locations to the app.
Which offline navigation app do you recommend?