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Google Maps: cost efficient solution for real time navigation

Hi All,
Traveling throughout the French countryside for a month: will definitely a mobile gps app and prefer Google Maps. My phone is IOS iPhone 11-considering a burner pre-paid phone that I use only for google maps:

  • What type of international pre-paid phone with unlimited data should I buy? Will I be able to install Google Maps and be able to get real-time directions as per google maps, even when I'm not on wi-fi? -My understanding is that GPS doesn't need wi-fi to function...is this also true of google maps?

Alternative: buy an international sim card w/unlimited for my iPhone 11 & download Google Maps:

  • Any suggestions about which intern'l sim to buy? Better to purchase here or in France? If so, what are the best stores? -Will google maps navigate "steps" without wi-fi? (Many say download when in wi-fi, but I've found that doesn't work well for specific directions (when out of wi-fi).

All suggestions welcome. Cannot afford the very expensive ATT package for 30 days.
Thank you!

Posted by
12 posts

I can't help you with the sim card and burner phone options - we usually go with one of the AT&T plans, so that our phone number remains active when traveling. But I do have a suggestion about mapping apps: take a look at HERE WeGo. You can explore their maps on this website, to see if the level of info and graphics style is acceptable for your needs. At the upper right of that page are the links to pages describing their Android and iOS apps.

This YouTube video presents a comparison of the HERE WeGo and Google mapping apps in action. The user interfaces are somewhat similar, but you might prefer the features or implementation of one or the other. There is an area where I think HERE WeGo is superior, and that is their implementation of offline maps. They offer a nicely organized selection of small and large maps. For example, you can choose to download maps only for the regions of France that you are visiting, or a map of the entire country, or a map of Europe. Google's interface for saving maps offline is a pain. You have to scroll and zoom to a particular area, choose to save it, and then select another region. And you are limited to rectangular sections that might not be large enough, so you have to scan to another region, save that one, etc.

Once you have saved maps on your phone, you can navigate without continuously using cell phone data. The GPS feature of your phone still works, and your map display will still update dynamically. This is a big money saver, and the main reason I chose to use my own phone rather than a burner.

Posted by
58 posts

Julian - thanks for the Here wego suggestion! I watched the YouTube video and am going to get the map of Greece for our trip next month!

Posted by
82 posts

The GPS system is connected to the network of GPS satellites and itself does not use any internet data, it is the applications that consume data via Wifi or GSM

I agree with Julien.

With Here Wego you can download the map of an entire country in a single operation, which is not possible with Google Maps.

With Google Maps you have to display the area to download, then move the view to another area and download again, and so on.

Here Wego uses OpenStreet maps. I travel to Greece very often and since I have Here Wego I have given up Google Maps to find my way (even on foot, on hiking trails).

But consider Here Wego as a navigation application, unlike Google Maps you won't be able to click on a point of interest and get photos of restaurant dishes or hotel room rates (which, with Google Maps, will consume additional data)

Posted by
4147 posts

Download Google maps of the country for offline use. For navigation, place the phone in airplane mode and your phone becomes a gps; no Wi-Fi, no data. When we went to Sicily, I downloaded multiple maps so that there was more detail about smaller sights in certain areas. What you don’t get with downloaded maps are real-time traffic, but that is no big deal.

Posted by
384 posts

Get maps.me, download the maps covering the area you will be visiting before you leave. The maps will be up to date and accurate (not something google is known for) and requires no data once youre on the ground

Posted by
245 posts

If you have ATT, can you not download google maps on your iPhone 11 and subscribe to their international roaming plan? It’s $10/day of use (no bills on days not used) and capped off at $100 per billing cycle. For the convenience, it’s not expensive (esp considering you will be on the road for a month and spending way more there)

You could download other apps in lieu of google maps but no other maps app comes close to google in terms of amount of information, options, usability .

Posted by
46 posts

Wow so many great creative ideas. I will check out the MapWeGo and the other ideas. Here's my quest::

  1. I really want driving steps to the destination: so in google maps you get the voice (or the steps) instructing one exactly where to turn and exactly when. That is quite helpful when your French is spotty for the signs and you feel in the middle of nowhere.

Mobal has a pre-paid sim card, but any calls/texts made are post-paid. That seems risky plus I lose the use of my phone.
I think a separate pre-paid/burner phone that I can use alongside my regular phone is the ticket, just for google maps with unlimited data. I have never used a burner phone: can anyone offer intell on these? Especially brands? Best Buy even has them for Europe.

ATT for 30 days is $30: not bad for calls/texts. But DATA CHARGES are $10/day: which brings it up to at least $300/month.

Regarding downloading maps in wi-fi, then attempting to get them offline, that has never worked for me: either the wi-fi onsite was too weak, or I had to goof with it for so long it was just too frustrating. And maps weren't detailed enough to guide my driving. Google Maps or Via Michelin is really what I want: that way I won't get lost (as often at least!).

Tell me more! Thank you!

Posted by
12 posts

ATT now offers their "International Day Plan", which charges $10 per day. But there are important details. You need to be enrolled in an ATT domestic plan that is compatible. The $10 charge is applied only on those days when your phone is used (for downloaded data, calls, or sent texts). You also have to be careful about calls via WiFi, but I don't remember why. And you have to be in a country that is on their list for IDP.

The good news is that they won't ding you for more than 10 of the $10 charges, within a single billing period. So for one phone the max charge in that billing period is $100 (not $300). If you have a second phone on the same bill, it gets dinged $5 per usage day, capped at $50 in a billing period. But if your traveling dates overlap two or more billing periods, the counters get reset.

If you go with this plan, be sure to call ATT or visit one of their retail outlets, to get confirmation, and to clear up any questions.

I don't see why you are concerned about downloaded maps, when using navigation apps with cell data disabled. It works fine for me. I just download all the maps I need, at home before a trip. But I use HERE WeGo, not Google.

Posted by
82 posts

About voice guidance,

both Maps.me and Here Wego have this function. Both use the same cartographic data from "Openstreetmap" which is a non-commercial open source database.
There may be differences in handling this data, but in offline mode guidance efficiency will be about the same for both apps.

Via Michelin has its own cartography which is probably the most effective for France but to my knowledge it cannot be used offline (you will not be able to download maps in advance to use the application in offline mode). It is also free but it will display advertisements.

The problems you are having using Google Maps are probably due to what has been explained to you previously (maps partially downloaded).

Posted by
115 posts

I’ll just throw in another recommendation for HERE WeGo. I used it in Paris a couple months ago and it worked great offline! Way better than than Google maps ever did for me.

Posted by
7 posts

Hi. I downloaded Here We Go. I have a question: how do I turn off the autocorrect? The program doesn't like the names of the places in France that I'm trying to enter. Thanks in advance.

Posted by
82 posts

This may be different depending on the models and versions, but if you are on Android, when the keyboard is displayed to enter the destination there is normally an icon at the bottom right (a rectangle made of small dots). select this icon, you will have access to the text input parameters.

Posted by
46 posts

I am testing the HereWeGo app:
A. I downloaded a map of Brittany: but I couldn't get it to display. Should I enable "offline use"? I wanted to just see it, save it, then use it offline as a test. But couldn't get the download to populate?
B. It took me several tries to get the IOS app: just wouldn't download to my iPhone 11. Finally it worked, but wondering if their OS is a bit wonky.
C. Does HereWeGo use data for driving guidance? Or when one gets the map downloaded, will it do driving guidance via GPS (without data)?
D. Do privacy controls influence functionality? Are there any I should turn off (IOS)?

Incredible to believe that I could get a google map app without the exorbitant price tag.
Thank you.

Posted by
1402 posts

Your iPhone 11 should support dual SIM capabilities. One physical and one or more E SIMs. I came across Airalo when doing some research. They offer country specific, regional and I believe global E SIM plans. You can purchase on the website or via their app available in both Apple and Android stores. Prices seem reasonable. If you drill down on their plans you can see the underlying carrier(s) that they use.

Unfortunately I cannot offer any first hand experience with them. I did find one online review where the author had an issue getting data. They found the cause to be multiple carriers offering service in their location. Selecting a carrier solved the problem. I’ll see if I can find that article.

https://www.airalo.com/france-esim

Posted by
30 posts

I have a concern about downloading the maps in advance. Will these use too much space on my phone? How do you manage that?

Posted by
139 posts

JosiePosie, Carolyn, etc: I am going to make an outrageous suggestion. Buy an inexpensive 8 inch to 10 inch tablet such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab A line. Download "HereWeGo" and/or "GoogleMaps" for your areas of interest before traveling. Use the program in the offline mode. (We vastly prefer "HereWeGo" because of better maps and clearer driving directions. Even use it locally.) Obviously, the larger screen is easier to use while driving and minimizes 'fat-fingering' mistakes. I have added to our Android devices a GPS satellite program "GPS Essentials" to verify signals before starting the navigation program. It will also give data on Lat/Long, elevation, and all kinds of neat geeky stuff.

If you have any concerns about memory capacity for any device, get a 32 to 64 gigabyte micro-SD card. Stick it in the appropriate slot (usually same area as the SIM card). Use it to store photos, books, bird or plant guides, and such 'slow' data to leave the internal memory for 'fast' access data. Most anyplace you can buy a micro-SD card can install it for you.

Posted by
46 posts

To Larry 42
Thank you for the step by step...sorry to be so slow! I assume you are suggesting wi-fi be turned on/available before I download driving/map instructions. I just tried your suggestion on my iPhone: turned off wi-fi and got an address, but no directions. For maps to download, one must be in wi-fi.
And what I really don't understand is how does one populate the map which has already been downloaded. I keep tapping the map I downloaded and nothing happens, whether I am online or offline.

Posted by
384 posts

I think you just zoom in to the area for the map you downloaded. That's how Maps.me works, anyway. You should have a world map by default, just zoom in on paris

As a default, it will usually open in your current location

Posted by
46 posts

Thank you for the links...but they don't help at all. In fact Here.com provides zero in the way of support. But they do link you up with a generic chat w/no connection to HereWeGo, which is a pretty crafty way to collect data. I created a profile, I downloaded a map and I cannot view it. In fact, I can't even find MAP MODE.
I can get driving directions in wi-fi (with data charges) but what good is that? Got Google Maps for that. Buying a burner phone, getting a sim in France and loading GoogleMaps seems alot quicker with much less fussin' around. Appears the newly designed app needs alot of work.
suggestions?

Posted by
82 posts

Sorry about that

It could be a problem specific to your phone or its configuration or a compatibility problem, something like that.

Maybe one of your friends could take a look and solve the problem.

It's not really a new application, it's the on-board GPS system that equips your car if you have a Buick, Ford, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Hummer, GMC, Jeep, RAM, Pontiac, etc.

Posted by
2737 posts

Following up on Larry's suggestion, for such a long trip, just go the easy route and buy a Garmin. Or Tomtom or whatever kind of GPS is being used in Europe these days. Buy before your trip or get one at someplace like FNAC when you get there. You can donate it to a friend or the rental car company when you leave, it's really not that big an expense considering what you'll be spending on the trip and the convenience (and security) it will bring.

Posted by
139 posts

JosiePosie (SFO) We have Android devices so am not fully conversant with iOS. I can mention what to do with the Android version. First, turn on your wifi and GPS/location. Load the app from the online store and start it (ignore if already done). Look for the main menu at the very bottom of the screen. Swipe the menu options up. Ignore the collection option for now. Next is "Your Maps" - you maybe don't have any. At the "use app offline" option, make sure that the button is "off" or grayed out. Nearby is "Manage maps" - tap that line. At the "download maps" screen: 1. "Download via wi-fi only" - yes/ blue button; 2. "Storage media" - if you have 20 gb or more free, you can select internal. If not, select SD card if installed; 3. At screen bottom, select "download new maps".

At next screen, select "North & Central America" for training purposes. Then select United States. Then select California (if you are there now) - download arrow to right should show a busy circle. When that is done, go back using back arrow to the "download maps" screen. California should be listed. Go back to the main menu by selecting the "X" upper left. Now scroll down to "account & settings" & "set up your profile" area ( I think you said you did this). SKIP "set up your profile" and select "settings". At "appearance", select "theme - automatic" and at "map view - day". At units select "distance - imperial US" and "temperature - Fahrenheit" ( you can change later if you want to in Europe). Back at "settings - navigation" leave these alone for now. Go back via the "X" button. Still at the main menu, select "use app offline" as yes/blue button. You should be able to swipe the main menu area down & off screen, leaving a California map in place.

Return to iOS settings & turn OFF wifi, roaming, cell data, whatever . Leave GPS/ location ON. Activate Here WeGo app. The app screen should show "offline" in upper right. Go outside to view sky and wait for GPS fix to show as a GREEN button in lower right. Tap the green button and the map should zoom in to your location. Walk around and the map should move to follow you. If you lose your location on the map for any reason (you can zoom & swipe away from your location if you want), just tap the green button in the lower right to return.
Sorry this is so involved. I hope the iOS version is similar enough to the Android to help you. There are lots of options - some, especially collections & your account, of minimal use. Any mapping app works better on a tablet, some are capable and cheap. If you still have problems "private message" me and we'll try to solve them.

Posted by
139 posts

JosiePosie(SFO) As a footnote: when you enter an address to search for, you can usually abbreviate cardinal directions (N, E, S.E., W, etc) but not the street name or the words street, road, boulevard or such. Include but do not abbreviate city, town, state, province, country, etc names. You usually have to enter the address data in the local/map language. Some map bases accept abbreviations, some do not.

Posted by
46 posts

Hi Larry42,
Just sent you a private message regarding all your good advice on the Samsung Tablet. Just fyi.
JP

Posted by
32 posts

We used Google Maps during our trip to France last fall. Our biggest mistake was blind reliance on Google once we got in the car - we should have looked at a map on our tablets beforehand to get a better feel of the route, particularly road quality. In a couple of instances we would have done better driving more miles on better quality roads rather than taking the suggested route. Driving in the Dordogne, we were directed to a one lane dirt road up a mountain which dead ended - had we done a bit more research we could have been on a better road with far less angst

Posted by
46 posts

RE Here We Go for IOS

Looks like the IOS version doesn’t include the options provided on the Android version.
For example, HWG support suggests menu items for “voice options” (“accessibility”)- but these don’t exist on the iOS app. HWG support continues to suggest options that don’t appear in the iOS app-apparently no one there has experience w the iOS version.
Does anyone here able to get voice guidance with HWG on iOS (iPhone)? At times I will get voice navigation but only with wi-fi.

Posted by
1 posts

I found that Downloaded Google Maps (off line) works well for driving, but not walking, navigation .
I found that for walking navigation the open source app OpenStreetMap, where permits a large amount of data to be downloaded for free (for instance, I downloaded all of Italy) was much better than Google it Apple Maps (off line). Check it out.
OsmAnd
Strang name, but open source and lots of free data for use offline, but on GPS.
Enjoy your journey.
SAC

Posted by
46 posts

Hi All you Here We Go evangelists!

A big THANK YOU for all your good advice on using the Here We Go. With your guidance and alot of trial & error I found:

  • iPhone IOS 15 and over, has gillions of (confusing) settings for voice: general/accessbility/audio shows all the voice controls: the right combination makes voice activation actually work!
  • Your advice on downloading maps, creating collections, and using street directions was also awesome.

On the downside, I found the online Here We Go support team lacking--doesn't appear they have any experience with IOS operating systems. And the IOS menus have some bugs: they include controls that only work in Android.

Anyway, looks like I'm good to do!
Warmly,
Josie Josie

Posted by
24 posts

I like maps.me. It’s free and let’s you preload maps so you don’t need to be online while using it. I have only used it for walking directions and have been impressed at how it routes you through pedestrian-only areas (e.g. a courtyard between buildings) and doesn’t send you around the block because that’s where cars can go.