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Tips for navigating when driving

The three of us are a bit wiped out after trying to manage Scottish road signs from Glasgow to Kelso and all the roundabouts plus paper and GPS maps that don’t all agree with each other. The good news we went through beautifully scenic Borders countryside and arrived safely. The other news is that we went the wrong way several times and often were guessing where we were. If anyone has tips for an excellent map app that helps navigate all the un-named towns, tiny road signs and other UK driving challenges please let me know. BTW, I know there’s a limit to how much to include in the Rick Steve’s books, but why nothing about this area south of Edinburgh?

Posted by
6113 posts

I always use CoPilot for navigating anywhere in Europe. No app is going to help with road signs on the ground.

RS misses many great parts of the UK, but with all books, there’s a limit to what can be included.

Posted by
33299 posts

if your gps consistently disagreed with the map, either you weren't using the gps correctly or your map is out of date or perhaps you misread the map. Most stand alone or car installed units will tell you exactly where you are if you tap the car icon.

Posted by
1386 posts

Hi, bmerritt326,

Personally, I find that a good road atlas and a compass are all that are required. Even in the Borders. But that's just me.

As far as the Rick Steves' guide is concerned, there is nothing south of Edinburgh. That area does not exist. Ditto for Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, the Moray Coast, the Outer Hebrides, Arran, the Flow Country, etc. That's why it's always advisable to supplement the RS guide with a comprehensive guide like Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide. It adds a little bit of weight to your suitcase, but the extra information made available to you is well worth the extra few ounces!


Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
6081 posts

I use You can download the maps when you have wifi and then use the app offline similar to GPS with step be step instructions. We had a few issues in France in which an actual GPS was wrong or confusing, but not many.There are typically multiple ways to get places so I think it can be the case where GPS would be different from what a person is reading on a map. We didn't have any difficulty with We typically look at the map in the evening and again in the morning, but except for getting a general idea where we are, we don't follow along with a map as we drive. I think that would be unnecessarily confusing.

Posted by
5678 posts

Here's what I do.

  1. I plot out on a map where I am going.
  2. I look at the towns and villages that are along the way between me and my destination.
  3. I write down those towns on a piece of paper and have it hand. I do it as neatly as I can so I read it easily.
  4. I accept that I will get lost and that getting lost is part of the journey and vacation and you never know what you'll find in an unexpected detour.
  5. I do keep the map handy.

I have resorted to GPS occasionally, but I'm using the work phone and feel really guilty if I use it too much even though they expect usage when I am in the UK. I find that this works for me because the roundabouts and street signs often focus more on the destinations ahead than on a route number and/or a direction.

This works if you don't have too many things that require exact arrival. I just leave more time to get a ferry. I guess I just don't like to over-schedule and would rather arrive a bit early and go for a walk or discover something new than have too many deadlines. It won't work for everyone.

Posted by
286 posts

I used CoPilot in Wales and it worked fine, including showing the correct route through roundabouts. However, it is a good idea to have a paper map that shows the big picture.

Posted by
119 posts

For tips, you might find useful the driving advice and insight that visiting Americans have written for fellow Americans and Canadians on the link below.

A feature I like on Apple or Google maps, phone or tablet, the live location blob, whether in a car, train or on foot, shows exactly where you are, you need a connection to the web/wifi/mobile data/GSM.

Something I do, When i set my GPS/sat nav destination up, i mute the voice, I like seeing the ETA info, so too the displayed mileage countdown ( you know if your making progress and in the right direction) I unmute GPS when Im locating a local address on town/suburban roads.

I agree with the procedure poster Pamela NY, uses, especially if solo, this is what I did (and still do) before GPS /sat nav existed, with the addition of including the road number e.g. A720 . B6360, (also mentioned in the US visitors advice below) the road numbering system in Britain does have a logic once you've looked into it and is very useful.

The road signs have a built in colour code, it's useful to research what the colours are telling you.

Posted by
3392 posts

I use my iPhone and Google maps offline for all of Europe and have never been steered wrong. Even the tiniest, most out-of-the-way places show up. Rick's recommendations are based on his own experiences and are designed to give an overall flavor for a country. They are not designed to be comprehensive guides to the entire country or region. All the other places are for you to discover as you travel more.

Posted by
11294 posts

"I know there’s a limit to how much to include in the Rick Steve’s books, but why nothing about this area south of Edinburgh?"

The first part of your sentence is the answer to the second part.

More specifically, Rick's guides (for any country) are NOT comprehensive. They focus, in great detail, on places he personally thinks will be of most interest to US visitors, with limited time, on a first trip, with no further specialized interests (say, Renaissance art or Medieval history). They ignore everything else. Again, this is a deliberate choice. He gives much more nitty-gritty about places he includes, and in exchange, omits lots of places.

The more a person deviates from his target audience, the more they need to supplement his books with other sources of information.

Furthermore, for his Italy guide, one of his staff members posted here that his publisher has laid down the law: the book cannot be a single page longer! So, if he were to add anything to that guide, he has to take something out. (That's why Sicily is a separate book, and no Sicily information is included in the regular Italy book). I'm sure that specific admonition wasn't given for every country guide, but it does show that the limit of what Rick can include is not only dictated by his wishes alone.

No, I don't work for him. But an understanding of his strengths and weaknesses is key to using his books successfully.