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Using iPhone's Maps or Google Maps while driving in S.W. Ireland?

On July 5, we will fly from London to Cork and rent a car to visit the Kerry and Dingle peninsulas, with Killarney as our base, for 3 nights/4 days. (Then back to London.)

This is the part of Ireland that we completely missed on our first trip in 2004. On that trip we landed in Shannon and had 8 days with a rental car, a B&B booklet, and no guidance. This was before GPS, so we had no idea what we were doing or even what direction we were heading, especially during the first few days in the West. (Basically we just drove clockwise, hitting the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, Galway, Connemara, Westport, Sligo, Donegal, Ulster Folk Park, Portrush, Giants Causeway, Newgrange, Slane, Dublin, Powerscourt, Waterford, Blarney, then back to Limerick/Shannon.).

This time we want to see the quadrant of Ireland that we missed before, especially the Dingle and Kerry peninsulas, in a more relaxed manner. I'd like to use the familiar Maps or Google Maps app on my iPhone ... IF that works in Ireland. Has anyone used it there? Is cellular service available to access it in these area? And what cellular services work around there? My AT&T plan offers me Irish service via Vodaphone. And on previous trips to England I installed sim cards from 3Com.

Is this a good plan for driving in this part of Ireland? Or, as my husband anticipates, do we just follow the line of tour buses at 10 mph?

Posted by
1168 posts

I have been told not to try and navigate Ireland without a GPS so we are renting one from the car rental place.

Posted by
7933 posts

I just returned from a trip that had me driving in Italy and Austria. On previous trips I used a Garmin GPS. This time I used my iPhone and Google Maps. It worked like a charm for driving. When using it in pedestrian mode I found it wasn't always as good. It's entirely possible it was operator error. Definitely use GPS rather than relying on following tour buses.

Posted by
32 posts

Thanks for your experiences. I requested GPS if available but already paid $28.02 for stick shift car without it.
$28.02 for 4 days? Hard to believe.

I'm much more familiar with iPhone navigation than how to use a car's GPS. (Only tried that once, in Germany in 2005, and it didn't go well.)

I haven't driven a stick shift in 10 years but thought that would be just fine ... until I realized that in Ireland you are sitting on the right of the car, thus shifting with an inexperienced left arm. So I just tried to modify my booking to an automatic online ... and got offers of an extra $150 or more. Perhaps a phone call is in order!

Posted by
1168 posts

We rented an automatic and it was a lot moe expensive but there is no way that I am driving a stick on the "wrong's side of the road. Money well spent I think :)

Posted by
1005 posts

Just got back from using Google Maps in Ireland and it works fine for drivers. The best feature--it even works off-line. You must have a Google account and download the sections of Ireland you want in advance. But when you're there, you can use route planning and get voice directions while you are off-line. It even recalculates if you make a mistake and turn off your route. However, it's important to have a car charger and a phone mount if you go this route. Unfortunately, the Apple Maps function doesn't work off-line, so I prefer Google Maps.

Posted by
227 posts

On our September trip to the south and west of Ireland we tried using our iphone for navigation (we had a Verizon international phone plan). There wasn't a problem with cellphone service but, although the GPS function worked some of the time, there were other times when SIRI led us far afield over narrow rural roads rather than a direct highway route. We were told by our landlady that this is sometimes a problem in this part of Ireland. We finally give up and started using a regular road map and it worked out just fine. Also be aware that many times you will not have an address to give as a destination--we found that many places have no street address, just a name, and the program won't recognize the destination.

Posted by
32 posts

These last 3 tips are very helpful for what I need!

That's good info about the Google Maps app working better than the Apple one. I use both here, and often don't know the difference.

How do you go about downloading the maps in advance, T.? Do you initiate it from the Google Maps app on the phone or through your Google account on the computer? Since we'll only be 4 days in the sw of Ireland, that should be a manageable area. Thanks for reminding me to pack the car charger.

Good to hear you found the automatic worth the money, Sharon. I'm sure NOW that we had an automatic last time in Ireland. I'd remember shifting with the left hand! I just snatched that cheap rental car price too quickly as an unanticipated add-on when booking the flights.

Posted by
7933 posts

I totally agree with Sharon about renting an automatic. I'll drive a stick elsewhere, but I got automatics for Ireland and Scotland.

Using your phone for GPS depletes your battery quickly. I always used my car charger. I brought a mount for my phone so I could see it as well as hear it.

Posted by
32 posts

Thanks for all your tips.

I just got the car rental changed from an Economy size stick shift to a Compact automatic. Also added insurance.
Cost $227 but now I feel comfortable that this will be an enjoyable experience.
8 days from now!

Posted by
3437 posts

There are a lot of things Apple I like, but their Maps app is not one of them. I strongly suggest using Google Maps. I used it on my last trip to Italy and was never sent wrong.

Posted by
1005 posts

Glad you found the instructions. I highly recommend downloading an area where you live and then testing Google Maps at home before you go. It's important to check it off-line, so set your phone to Airplane Mode and then give it a try. Unfortunately, while it works for driving off-line, it doesn't work for walking directions off-line.

Posted by
32 posts

I tried it locally, T., as you suggested.
Entered a place about 20 miles away, then turned on Airplane Mode. The Google voice kept giving me oral instructions to the destination.
This is promising!

Posted by
208 posts

I just returned from Ireland where I used the Google Maps offline feature for driving, and it worked well. There were a few times when it said "Turn left on X road" and there would be 2 roads close together; neither with the name "X," but that's due to the quirkiness of Ireland's road names and signs. I was never seriously off course.

It was especially good for navigating into cities and to and from the airport.

I have the new Google Project Fi phone, and I even used it for walking directions a few times by turning on the data roaming, but I kept that to a minimum.

You will definitely need a car charger because the Google Maps offline navigation burns up battery time quickly.

IMPORTANT: Make sure that the rental car charger plug works before you leave the lot. Some of them don't.

Posted by
166 posts

I rented a Hotspot WIFI gadget with my rental car from Hertz and used my I Phone GPS map. Navigation was the best we have ever had. We did not make any wrong turns. I also could put it my pocket or backpack on hikes etc. Unlike the Garmin we used in England which sent us up a bus lane going the wrong way. Unfortunately we got our picture and a ticket in the mail after we got home. GPS. We left Dublin on the Sunday of the big celebration when many roads were closed. It navigated us beautifully down some back streets to get out of Dublin.

Posted by
32 posts

Thanks for all the tips!
We leave for London tomorrow, then flying to Cork Tuesday and back to London Friday night.
We'll also be renting a car the following week in Stratford-upon-Avon for the Cottswolds.
Downloaded the Google Maps for both areas.