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GPS question-how's the service?

We will be driving in Scotland in July. We will have international data through our phone company and usually prefer using navigation from the phone. With that said, when we did this in France there were times we were on 3g and couldn't believe how slow it was, at least for searching for our destination. I am pretty sure data isn't needed to use maps (honestly not sure). Either way, do you see any issue using the phones GPS vs TomTom. We would have to buy and install UK maps on the TomTom.

Posted by
1108 posts

I will try this in every country from now on. I cannot believe I had never tried it !

When we were in France driving for 10 days from the Dordogne into Nice last fall, we used Google Maps. We have ATT but turn off Data when we travel. Each night I would open up Google Maps while we were on WiFi in our B&B. Click the Menu at the top left and click Offline Maps. Click Custom Map and look at the map area you will be traveling the next day. No matter how large of an area - a town, a 4 hour drive...whatever. Click Download and the map area will download. We did this at night because of the time needed to download the area we wanted.
When we woke up and began driving (with no wifi), I could type any address/location and I would have turn by turn directions from the map area I downloaded.

This worked better than the maps.me app and the GPS that we brought to use in the car. And we didn't need wifi or data. Ha !

Posted by
2688 posts

I used google maps downloaded for offline use in Sicily last September and it worked fine. No need to use any data, so data speed isn’t an issue. Just put you phone in airplane mode to use the downloaded maps. In airplane mode, the phone essentially becomes a GPS. I also had a Garmin, but the google maps worked well for finding a few small out of the way places that were not on my Garmin. For Scotland, just download the entire country from home before going over. Google forces you to update it every month, but the update goes very quickly. By downloading it at home, if you want to download a specific area while in country, it won’t take nearly as long. Or, download the country and smaller areas while at home, all before going over.

Posted by
4689 posts

Yes, Google Maps "offline" works quite well without mobile data. But, having data helps. For one, it lets you get real-time traffic info (more useful in cities or where a freeway might have an accident or big delay). For another, you can search for things as you go like restaurants, check out menus, etc.

I would do both. Data is cheap in Europe if you simply buy a SIM card. Download the offline maps so you don't have to rely on data - but get a SIM anyway so you can use data when it is available. If you hit an area with no mobile coverage. you can still get by with the offline maps.

Posted by
1108 posts

Good to note about the traffic, Andrew.

And YES, I still bring my paper maps too. But I love maps......

Posted by
2688 posts

I too carry a paper map. Let’s my wife find additional towns to stop in, en route.

Posted by
17 posts

Hi. We took a 3-week driving trip through Scotland in 2015. The car we rented came with GPS, although we hadn't requested it. It was a lifesaver for us. In so many towns, the locations we were visiting took us down narrow and winding one-way streets. Our driver load was already high driving on the opposite side of the road (which turned out to be more challenging than we'd anticipated), so having our "helper" with her calm demeanor and British accent guide us through traffic and remind us which entrance to take on roundabouts gave us more confidence, and saved us in many a confusing warren of roads. We had a very good map book with us, but it didn't really have the detail we needed in the towns, although we appreciated being able to pour over the maps before leaving in the morning. I'd be concerned about coverage if relying on your phone. We bought sim cards for our phones when we arrived, but found ourselves in and out of range in the Highlands. Have fun! We're headed back this summer to spend time in Shetland and Orkney.

Posted by
3995 posts

Data coverage in parts of rural Scotland is non-existent, but you should be ok in the major towns and cities.

I use CoPilot throughout Europe, which doesn’t eat into your data allowance. My cars both have inbuilt satnav, so data usage isn’t an issue for me in the UK.

Posted by
629 posts

My GPS with a Europe/GB card takes up a minimum of space compared to all of the laptops, tablets and phones that other travellers pack. I like taking my GPS because I can preload key addresses (airports, hotels, B&Bs, attractions, relative's homes, etc.) at my leisure and have them at our finger tips in the rental car. Also, the added cost per day of a rental car (we rent for 2 - 3 weeks) with a GPS is about the same price as buying a brand new GPS at home. With all of the new regulations coming out about cell phones in cars, I'd rather not be using one while busy driving.

Posted by
4689 posts

Bob, I'm not aware of a GPS unit that is smaller than a smart phone. The same laws that apply to using a smart phone attached to your dash with a suction cup would apply to using a GPS in the same way. It's pretty easy to create your own Google Map of your hotels, points of interest, etc. and access it from your smart phone - that's what I always do. I do it from my laptop while doing research for my trip and it's automatically available on my phone.

Not saying people who don't have smart phones should go out and buy one if they'd prefer a stand-alone GPS - but if already have a smart phone, there's really no point in a separate GPS just for driving. Bring a car charger for it and a suction cup. You don't even need mobile data for it if you download the map "offline" in Google Maps, but having data gives you real-time traffic into, etc. and SIM cards are pretty cheap these days.