Which map app to use?

World Map 2019

Map apps can be extremely useful tools when travelling to new destinations! The offline functions were particularly useful in the past when roaming was expensive. Now, with cheap local sim cards and unlocked phones, the need for offline maps may be less pressing. My aim is to provide a few examples of which map app you could use. I list some pros and cons, but mainly there are differences in the pros. And if you want a second opinion, I found this interesting article by keepgo.com. I will also suggest some criteria to evaluate which map app might be right for you. However, there are nearly endless apps available, so choose yours based on your own criteria! Also please let me know if you have any other top pros and cons, and I will be happy to evaluate the suggestions.

GoogleMaps

Has anyone not used GoogleMaps? An easy-to-use multi-functional map and mini online tour guide in one.

Pros

  • Intuitive app
  • Free
  • Regularly updated
  • Easy to save favourite places or places you want to go
  • Can set home and work addresses
  • Can add notes to places
  • Share place lists with others
  • Ability to save off-line maps
  • Easy to access on the phone, iPad or computer
  • Time and cost of different routes
  • Many search options

Cons

  • Not available in some countries like China and Cuba
  • Opening hours for places are not always up to date
  • Reviews can be variable and it is difficult to tell if the reviews are validated as anyone can create an account and post, even the business itself

Citymapper

As the name suggests, Citymapper is useful for getting around cities, especially larger ones.

Pros

  • Clear and accurate map view and details for the transport are easy to read
  • A number of choices for your type of transport including public transport, car share, walking and cycling. They also just added a kick scooter to the list in 2021!
  • For London, you can see the tube prices for the proposed journey
  • Can set home and work addresses
  • Works very well in cities especially those with extensive public transport
  • You can vote to add a city, so the power of the crowd can help drive the app development
  • Free version is quite useful

Cons

  • This is only for larger cities with multiple modes of transportation especially public options. Therefore this is not useful for remote locations or roads less travelled
  • You need to pay for some of the options (AKA Routing Powers) to get better sorted and prioritised options for transport

Maps.me

Maps.me was very useful in China and Cuba, where other apps such as Googlemaps are banned! However due to the less user-friendly interface and a delay in updating the direction, I struggled to use this app. Also it just feels a bit clunky to map a route, and the maps are at times less detailed that desired. Recently, I noticed that they have some travel partnerships, but I did not figure out yet how they work. Maybe those will add a new benefit to using the app so it is worth checking out.

Pros

  • The most useful feature about this app is it is not banned in China, Cuba, and other communist countries
  • Very detailed house numbers in some cities
  • Selection of types of transport available
  • Ability to download offline maps which was useful in Cuba where internet is limited and controlled
  • Can mark places of interest
  • Generally useful to get to the right area to find the places of interest even if not exactly to the location

Cons

  • The arrow for which direction you are headed sometimes takes awhile to catch up, so I have sometimes found after several minutes that I had been walking in the wrong direction
  • Selection of types of transport is somewhat limited
  • You need to zoom in to know where stations are located
  • Locations of places are sometimes not exactly where they appear to be on the map

Waze

I would classify Waze as an app for drivers to get from Point A to Point B in the quickest way possible. The maps are clear and easy to follow, and they are also quite cute. The community feedback is very helpful for continuously updated road and travel news. However, the routing has sometimes led me through restricted access roads. And you have to be quick to follow the new routes or you just send up in a secondary traffic jam.

Pros

  • Driving directions updated by the community on an ongoing basis
  • More for driving than for sightseeing, so getting from point A to B
  • Automatically remembers past addresses used
  • Can set home and work addresses
  • You can choose your language
  • Adjustable for miles or kilometres
  • Clear map display and customisable options

Cons

  • You need to be an early adopter of shortcuts otherwise you will just be following a traffic jam in a different direction
  • Sometimes Waze takes you via private access or illegal routes and sometimes it is difficult to reverse once you have started
  • Very computerised voice

Criteria to consider

  • Is this app available / allowed in my destination country?
  • Is the app free?
  • How much data does it use?
  • Can I save information offline, in case I do not have a connection?
  • What do I need to use the app for? (e.g. to get from point A to point B or to find places of interest in the area?)
  • Completeness of data
  • Correctness of data
  • Quality of maps
  • Coverage of maps – City or rural
  • Ease of use
  • Ability to save useful information or notes
  • Safety (and legality) of the selected routes

A Few Personal Experiences

Personally, my favourite go to map app is GoogleMaps.

I usually alternate between GoogleMaps and Waze when I am driving in familiar countries. Waze has the advantage of being updated on an ongoing basis by your fellow drivers in the community. There are alerts for police and speed cameras, for those who need those. However, shortcuts are only useful when you are close, otherwise they get busier as more drivers follow Waze through a diversion. I also once when on an illegal dirt road in Los Angeles while following Waze. I could not turn around because it was narrow and there were other Waze-followers behind me so I had to keep going!

Citymapper is great for when you are in a big city. I use this for getting around London or other large cities, as I find the options clearer to review than on Googlemaps.

The only time I used maps.me was in China and Cuba, which has blocked all of my normal apps like GoogleMaps and Whatsapp. It was fairly accurate though not always very detailed.

So which map app do you prefer, and why?

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