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I’m reading about navigating around Scotland, as we’ll have a car and be doing a lot of sightseeing and driving major highways and backroads. Our car will be equipped with SatNav, which I think will be a great help. I keep reading about how you need to use the ‘What3words’ to help with location. Can someone help me out? Does this mean we don’t need numerical coordinates? I’m used to putting in an address and getting the directions, but I think I’m going to need some guidance here:) Thank you!

Posted by
6640 posts

In September our rental came with a vehicle manufacturer installed navigation system and it worked just like in the states. Our rental was a Hyundai Tucson. We didn’t pay extra for it.

Posted by
2530 posts

I keep reading about how you need to use the ‘What3words’ to help with location.

where are you reading that?

Posted by
163 posts

What3Words is a location system primarily used by law enforcement, first responders, etc. find people. I recommend downloading it but it is not a mainstream nav system. Your rental will have a standard nav system.

Posted by
1296 posts

Hi Terry -

I’m not sure you need to use what3words. Unless your sat nav demands it. An address and/or postcode should be accurate enough.

If it’s just a matter of working out where you are or conversely to advise the emergency services (God forbid) where you are can use the Ordnance Survey grid reference if you want to plot where you are on an Ordnance Survey paper map (it’s fairly easy to work out how to do it) and once in the U.K. you can also download the app ‘OS Locate’ (it’s free!) which will give you your grid reference, height above sea level and a compass. It works off your phone’s gps and doesn’t necessarily need a phone signal.

While it won’t help you navigate by your in car sat nav, it’s a useful little back up, especially if you go off hiking into the countryside - Scotland has a lot of that!


Posted by
95 posts

For those wondering where I’m reading about What3words and where I’m seeing this… some of the lodging I’ve booked on AirB&B has an address followed by the suggestion to use the What3Words App and and the three words to use to help locate. For example ‘ tadpoles.infants.heads’ is one we were given for a lodging booked near Portree on Skye.
I was also given a What3Words code for our hotel near Kings Cross in London, so it’s not just used for rural locations. It’s new to me, so I’m just a bit curious!

Posted by
32994 posts

it is marketed quite strongly by its inventor - and you can find any 3 metre square anywhere in the world which is quite cool. Some businesses which want to look cool have added it to their marketing.

It might be handy if you are way out in the boonies and either want to go to a particular rural place like the corner of a field or the junction of two paths where a Postcode would do little or nothing for you.

I don't see what good it will do in an urban area.

I doesn't navigate - it just shows where that 3mx3m square is. It is also possible to innocently give it a slightly wrong word in which case it takes you somewhere way far away.

I keep it on my phone in case I need help in an emergency, but for nothing else.

Posted by
95 posts

Thank you for clearing this up for me! As always, this forum is amazing! I learn so much.

Posted by
1165 posts

What 3 words can be very useful out in the sticks. Our postcode includes about 30 houses widely spread and tricky to find for delivery drivers and guests. Given then the what 3 words address gets them right to our door. Of little use in a town though I would think.

Posted by
34 posts

We were in Scotland for 6 weeks in May & June 2022. Our rental car had a NAV system which we never used. We simply went to the TESCO store in Oban, paid £10 for a TESCO sim card, which they installed & tested. We then linked our iPhone 13 to the navigation screen on our rental (via Apple Carplay) and used Google maps throughout our time in Scotland. It even worked well in most remote locations ....... NC500. The sim card was good for 30 days. After the initial 30 days we visited another TESCO store & added another 30 days. The £10 sim card also allowed us to make local calls. We are returning to Wales & Scotland in Sept and plan to do likewise.
Be sure and have the rental car company test the link between your phone (even before new sim card) & the navigation screen.

Posted by
1650 posts

Most of the time W3W is not useful for most people. UK SatNavs work on the postcode which averages to about 30 properties in residential areas. In urban areas this is not a problem, but as Skyegirl points out in a rural area or the islands those properties can be spread out.

Per a friend for deliveries 'when you reach the roundabout zero your trip meter, we are exactly at one mile from there'. Their postcode covers several remote houses and farms. W3W is an added benefit but as pointed out, take it for the time being as being an extra due to wobbles.

Posted by
80 posts

W3W has been recommended by the company organising our self guided walking tour in rural France. Apparently has been useful for locating lost walkers.

Posted by
6788 posts

From the BBC article linked above:

Mark Lewis, the head of ICT at Mountain Rescue England and Wales
(MREW), said that the use of the W3W app had been "testing" for rescue

He gave the BBC a database from the last 12 months which listed 45
locations across England and Wales that rescuers received from lost or
injured walkers and climbers, which turned out to be incorrect.

Examples included:

jump.legend.warblers which was in Vietnam
duties.factory.person was located in China
dignitary.fake.view turned out to be in India
refuse.housework.housebound was in Australia
middle.plugged.nourished was in the US
demand.heave.surprise was actually in Canada
flesh.unzip.whirlwind was in Russia

Sounds like something from Monty Python (for some reason, in my head I hear it in John Cleese's voice...) or maybe a great drinking game, but not so good for finding, well, anything.

"naked. broccoli. orangutan. OK, where am I?"

I think most of the planet seems pretty well addressed with GPS, and that works well enough to land jumbo jets filled with passengers on dark and stormy nights. I know, numbers are hard, but...this seems a bit daft to me and wildly prone to errors.

From a practical standpoint, I would caution anyone who is planning to jump in a rented a car in a foreign land, that any built-in sat nav system you find in your car may not be as easy to use as yelling at Alexa to order more toilet paper.

I have encountered sat-nav systems that were only mildly entertaining and no more useful for finding my way than any other drinking games would have been. One in a rented car in Japan appeared to locate things using the phone numbers associated with that address (like those never change...). One in Lithuania I could never figure out at all (the fact that it was voice and text activated only in Lithuanian made it more difficult for me, a non-Lithuanian speaker).

A good paper map and Google maps on my phone works for me.

Take me to hairball.iguana.candelstick - fast!

Posted by
1650 posts

Had a courtesy hire car through the insurance when mine was off the road having a rear end shunt on a dual carriageway.

I did not like the car. It was an oversized Vauxhall. When I handed it back I'd set the speed and distance to kilometres, the outside temp to silly units (farenheit) and the display language to French.

Posted by
95 posts

So, we will definitely want to have a good map with us!