Black Smartphone with a GPS map. Blue Pushpin.

I thought I’d figured out how to cheat the system a few years ago. I was in Germany when I became aware that my phone was not just using some kind of magic “phone waves” or other skulduggery, but was actually employing several different technologies that allowed me to text, make phone calls and use my GPS. I suppose I already knew that in a way, but what I didn’t know is that I didn’t need data or a phone signal for my GPS to work. That’s right. GPS belongs in the same exclusive club as oxygen and water. It’s free. It doesn’t matter where you come from or who you are, those satellites are working for free!

I discovered that I could be using WiFi at my hotel, pull up my next travel destination on Google maps and even after I left the internet area and hit the highway, my GPS would be showing me where I was on the map. It was great! I was in Colombia driving down dirt roads for hours and the whole time my little blue dot on my IPhone  showed me exactly where I was. If I got off on a wrong road, to be honest, things got a little haywire. The map would start acting all crazy and I’d have to backtrack. Without internet Siri loses any “smart” your smartphone used to have.If I was careful, it worked fairly well. My system wasn’t perfect but it beat not having a map.Who can go back to the prehistoric era of fold up maps? I certainly didn’t want to pay for a data plan either. I’d made the mistake of not turning off my data once when I was driving around Canada. In less than 2 days I ran up data charges of $1200!

I found a couple of travel apps where I could download a city map and use it offline with the app and  GPS working together. Those come in handy if you’re doing cruise ports or European cities and everything is relatively close. A couple of years ago I found what I consider to be the ultimate map. It’s called maps.me and I love it!

You download the app and then you download the country that you are visiting. Not only do you get the towns and streets, but also most of the businesses and places of interest. I’ve been low on gas and really couldn’t take a chance of going much further without a fill-up. I found I could type  in “gas station” and the map showed me the nearest ones. Can’t find an ATM? Yes you can. The most amazing feature is that you can make a list of all the points of interest you’d like to visit in a town and then “bookmark” them. Once you’ve arrived at your first destination, it’s easy to figure out which place to visit next without backtracking. All without internet.

If you don’t have it, get it. You’ll love it whenever you don’t have internet. It’s Maps.me and I love it! Here’s where you can find it: http://maps.me/en/home