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GPS or map atlas

We'll be traveling by auto from Nice to Joucas, then on to Vaison la Romaine, Avignon, Les Baux, Carcassone, Dordogne, Beynac, Loire Valley, Chartres, Versailles, ending up at Orly Airport. Are the maps of france sufficient...or should we try to download a GPS of France
for our Tom Tom GPS? Thanks.

Posted by
629 posts

We find that a GPS just makes life a little easier. We always carry a map/atlas in case of detours, road construction and changes in routes. We've only had some difficulty with our GPS on very narrow, windy streets inside the old central areas of large cities.

Posted by
2725 posts

I would never travel without a map. The question is: do you also need a GPS? I have found the road signs in France are so good that a GPS is not really necessary. (One caveat I haven't been everywhere you are going.) That said, there is one reason I found a GPS helpful when we were looking for our B&Bs. If you decide not to take a GPS, make sure you have good locations to the places you are staying.

Posted by
1021 posts

I agree with what has been said. The Michelin maps are good; you can get by with them which we all did before GPS. But GPS makes it easier to find places. It also helps greatly in getting into and out of strange cities and towns. I agree that the road signs are good, but in traffic or dim light they can be missed or misinterpreted. GPS eliminates 360 degree trips around roundabouts and backing up along a narrow country road to a missed intersection.

Posted by
3696 posts

I have driven all over with some good maps, some terrible maps, and sometimes no maps, just following road signs...so I eventually find my way as I have returned home every trip. Last trip to England I downloaded the maps to my new GPS, and it was great. If I am alone I have my travel partner (I cdall her Gabby...and she has a British accent ) who tells me what to do, and if I am with someone they do not have to spend all the time navigating. Made life easier. She makes a few miscalculations now and then but always steers me in the right direction eventually.

Posted by
6 posts

The GPS maps of Europe seem quite expensive. I am looking at buying a GPS for about $120 or so, but then to pay another $125 (I think this is what Garmin was charging, or one of the companies) seems insane.

Posted by
629 posts

I bought a Europe 2010 card for my Garmin for $45 on Craigs List. Will NOT pay inflated prices when it is not necessary.

Posted by
1167 posts

When I was in Provence in 2009 I found the GPS in the car gave worse routing in some cases than even the sketch maps in the RS, let alone the Michelin map. The GPS is certainly convenient in the cities but I would also take a map.

Posted by
1021 posts

Garmin nüvi 275 with N America and Europe maps is available on Amazon for $188.70; free shipping w/ prime membership.

Posted by
1525 posts

I fear that a day will come when almost everyone has a GPS device embedded in their brains. Then there will be an extreme solar flare knocking out all satellite communication and everyone will simply stop moving - frozen in fear without any sense of direction. Eventually extreme hunger and dehydration will take it's toll. Animals will feast and the earth will return to the days before monkeys learned how to use tools. I like maps. They are more fun. I'm not a Luddite. I put the maps on my iPod Touch using the screen shot function and the Google Maps app. They are extrodinarily accurate down to the wording of the exit sign, and includes every pathway imaginable - including some walking/hiking paths. But listen to a little voice telling me to turn left now? No thank you. No fun at all...

Posted by
10245 posts

We travel with both. The GPS for getting out of the airport mazes, finding our way through cities, and finding addresses, but maps for deciding which backroads to take and where to stop.

Posted by
12040 posts

I tinkered around with a GPS when I first moved here, but stopped using it. As others have noted, especially in Germany and France, the road signs will point you to almost anywhere you want to go, even to restaurants, stores and lodgings. I stopped using my GPS after one too many instances where it pointed me in the opposite direction of the road sign, when it told me to turn onto a tractor or forest path (try getting to Burg Eltz from the A61 with a TomTom for some interesting direction recommendations!), and finally, when it directed me to drive straight into the Rhine. I occassionally take a wrong turn, but it's easy enough to recover if you haven't trusted your brain completely to a GPS. Oh, and where GPS units really fail? If there's road construction in a city with narrow, winding one-way streets? The flow of traffic will change and a GPS will be useless.

Posted by
931 posts

I love Terry Katheryn's comments. I too have used all types of maps, but my navigator and I both love our GPS. Yes, the roads were pretty well marked in France, but a map does not warn you when you are near a fixed radar unit, nor does it talk to you and explain, ahead of time, that you will have a turn coming and you had better get in the center lane, or right lane, etc. We love the fact that "Jeanette" talks to us. Many times I don't even have to look at the screen. Yes, I won't go without taking a smll Michelin fold out map of the country, but I no longer have to take the 200lb! Michelin Road Atlas. But the best thing about the GPS is its contribution to marital bliss. No more" you missed the turn!", and no more "Quick, look at the map and tell me what street I turn on.... now? Our TOM TOM came with maps of the EU and the US, Canada, etc. It might be better to buy a new unit with all of the maps included. Or buy your French map on Ebay or CList, and sell it when you get back.

Posted by
1064 posts

Tom and some of the travelers from the states have a different perspective because they have different needs. Tom sees no need for a GPS, and I agree that they are not really needed when you are on your home turf. But I do use mine on trips of 100 miles or more just for practice. But he also describes the very situation that convinced me to buy a GPS. Unless you carry detailed maps of every city you might pass through, you can get thoroughly lost when you are forced off the main road into city traffic. The GPS reroutes you to your destination when that happens; a route map does not.

Posted by
64 posts

One of the things I enjoy about this site are the vigorous discussions and sharing of personal experiences! As a former boy scout, I've spent four years (and as many trips) shunning GPS. As most of our trips were around the German, Belgian or Dutch countryside, no problem. We had fun and not a few wasted hours navigating cities in all three countries but I considered that part of the fun of travel. I finally gave in last summer because we were traveling as a larger group including grandma and a number of nieces and nephews as well as our own two toddlers. I was driving a 12 passenger van (MB Vito) and Paris was on the itinerary for part of the trip. While I've driven in Rome and Mexico City, Paris with a van full of people gave me pause. I gave in and in addition to the usual portfolio of maps brought a Garmen Nuvi with both Western Europe maps and traffic alert. I'm glad I did! Turn by turn directions from Amsterdam to Paris' Latin quarter was the easiest drive I've ever made in Europe in spite of the van load of screaming kids arguing over who spotted the Eiffel Tower first! All our destinations were as easy to navigate. The Traffic feature even worked in The Netherlands and saved us hours behind a car crash when retuning from De Efteling Park, easily guiding us around a traffic accident which closed the A2 on the return toward Amsterdam. One caveat:
UPDATE your device maps online before leaving to be sure you have the latest. This device included ONE free update for EITHER map (US or Europe) so I opted to use the free upgrade for the Europe map and will pay the lesser price if I ever update the US map. If your TomTom supports Europe maps, by all means, do it. You will spend more time enjoying the drive. Just remember to turn off the voice and let your navigator watch it for you. And don't forget to get lost once in a while, just for the fun of it! ;) Bon Voyage!

Posted by
12040 posts

"Tom sees no need for a GPS, and I agree that they are not really needed when you are on your home turf." The problems were that the TomTom failed me not on my "home turf"(perhaps because I didn't use it driving locally), but exploring areas far from where I live... like any other tourist. Example1: Driving from the A61 to Burg Eltz. I suspected something was amiss when the TomTom instructed me to turn in the opposite direction from the clearly marked road sign. It then insisted that I drive through a series of tractor paths. Only after I drove towards Mustermaifeld (against the device's directions) did it correctly recalculate. Example2: I ed a scenic option to drive to Colmar. First odd choice by the GPS was instructing me to drive off a loading dock into the Rhine (ignored, obviously). Next, although the route it directed me along did get me to Colmar, for some reason, the device consistently directed me off the priority roads. Finally, upon reaching Colmar, there was road construction that altered the flow of traffic through the inner streets. Everytime the device recalculated, it instructed me to turn on one way streets that were now flowing in the opposite direction or were blocked off. Because I didn't have a map, I finally gave up, parked the car, and found my hotel on foot. I now haven't used the TomTom in months, but I never leave my "home turf" without a road atlas.

Posted by
64 posts

Just by way if information, it is very important to keep GPS units updated. Firmware updates as well as map updates help tremendously at preventing faulty directions and sub-optimal routes. I update my smartphone periodically as well as my computers but GPS units must function without an Internet connection, whatever software/hardware code and data are loaded on the device are the limits of how well it will operate. And of course, always bring a map! :)

Posted by
1021 posts

"But the best thing about the GPS is its contribution to marital bliss." So true, Steve. They ought to print that on the packaging. I think I understand why people resist using them because I was the same way until my navigator bought a Garmin for us. Now I'm a convert. We've had easy drives similar to what Glenn relates which in years past would have required lots of attention and direction by the navigator. imo the benefits far outweigh the occasional inconvenience of a misdirection which in our experience has occurred twice in four years of driving in the States and Europe.

Posted by
28 posts

My "femme" and I want to thank all of you generous, time donating people for helping us with our question of GPS vs Maps. It has been real enjoyable to hear all
of your replies, especially the one where the GPS directed the driver into the Rhine. Thanks again... you've all been a big help with lots of food for thought! Bob&Linda

Posted by
1064 posts

Tom, I can see why you don't trust a GPS. I would not give up on GPS's entirely but I would definitely give up on that one.

Posted by
10245 posts

In addition to marital bliss, I like that I can program the GPS for the closest parking lots or garages to our destination. Furthermore, it shows if the entry will be from the right lane or the left lane. I also used it late one night in a medical emergency stop, alone in a strange town in France. I scrolled through the names of the hotels until I found one from a reputable chain, called and reserved, avoiding an unknown fleabag or the Ritz. The TomTom then took me there. We have two TomToms, one with the European maps and another with US maps. However, I still have the 200-page Michelin open on my lap, on the lookout for old stones. Unlike Tom, we've never had any big problems. I don't blame him for finding his TomTom ueless, but his experience may be the exception. IMHO, TomTom owes him a free download of the accurate software or a refund.

Posted by
165 posts

We're taking our gps to Ireland this summer but leaving it in the trunk, and only using the Ordnance Survey road atlas, our gps will only come out for emergencies and Dublin. They don't make one yet ( or do they ) that allows you to enter your exact route. I'm not talking way points, but roads and highways. Give me a screen I can draw on. Gps use without a map is too much a act of faith. When we went to France last summer, driving much of your route, I found cruse control my best friend in the fight against speed cameras. There is a warning sign about 1k before each one, but they may be missed. And don't forget about slowing down at the town's name sign.

Posted by
32935 posts

( or do they ) I can put in my route in much detail before I ever start a trip. Garmin 795T.

Posted by
629 posts

To Randy, "...But listen to a little voice telling me to turn left now? No thank you. No fun at all...". You do realize that a GPS can be set on the map mode and not strictly on "Go to..." mode. There is no voice when you are on this setting, just a map that you can zoom in & out on. We only use "Go to..." mode when we are getting close to our destination and want the quickest (hopefully) and easiest route for completion.

Posted by
165 posts

Nigel, just got off the phone to Garmin, to follow a detailed route , way points and junctions must be installed plus a finish point. This entails hauling around a computer. Other wise it's put in the start point the end point and be at the things mercy. If you go off of it's intended route, it will keep recalibratIng and scheming till you get back on it's desired route, or toss it out the window. Could not find a 795t, is it new?

Posted by
32935 posts

Sorry, Peter, my 6 got upside down. Its a 765T. The 765T has developed a good relationship with the very netbook I am writing on. The two do very well putting in photos and details from websites and truly the route planning is not hard. Well I won't try to convince you. Me, I always throw in this netbook, and the sat nav (and the usb to mini usb cable). Because it is so second nature I'm happy with it.

Posted by
165 posts

Nigel, that's the one we own. What I find most frustrating about it is that there is no warning when it's going to blurt out directions. And with it's poor French pronunciation , we were constantly asking each other what it said. And of course it doesn't have a repeat button. And we'd miss our turn, again and again. A little pre massage chime would be a great feature. Bing bong bing---------turn left 300 meters------- turn left 300 meters. That might draw me back to the electronic satan.

Posted by
32935 posts

All I can say is different strokes for different strokes. I often turn the voice off unless a particularly difficult area. I tend to use my satnav screen as much as my dashboard in Europe because my dashboard, being right hand drive for the UK, is in MPH but I set the display to KPH, and I look at the top of the screen which displays how far to the next turn so I'm not surprised. When I want the correct pronunciation I switch the voice to the Dutch, French, German, Italian, etc. The native pronunciation is far better. I even occasionally set it to Australian English for a laugh. I now don't use the suction cup on the window. Cleaning up the marks got to be a pain in the neck. I use the Garmin bean bag thing and never have to erase marks.