IPAD as GPS in France ???

Has anyone used the ipad for GPS in France? We are bringing ours with us for our upcoming trip to France and Italy this May. In France, we plan to rent a car and drive Orly-Normandy-MSM-Chartres-Amboise. We know that we want a GPS and thought we could use the ipad. However, we are a little leery of being able to get wi-fi or 3G in that part of France, in which case any GPS we would load onto it would be useless. Any experiences, thoughts, ideas you might have on this subject would be appreciated - merci !

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

Not owning an ipad, I believe it is not a true gps (with satellites as the source of location positionin). If it depends on wifi, that won't be around very far from the source (measured in yards?). If it uses 3g, you'll have the same problem the smartphone folks have - - bills equal to the entire rest of your trip for using the data rate.

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
9242 posts

I don't own one either, but another question or issue, in addition to those mentioned by Ed, is whether the iPad would have, or could be loaded with, a driving map of Europe?

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
1495 posts

I do own an iPad, and have traveled with it overseas (across Southeast Asia, but not in Europe). I love my iPad and it makes a wondering travel tool for many, many things. But don't count on it as a GPS. Even domestically (on driving trips), I have found its ability to function as a primary navigation device very limited. Around major metropolitan areas, it generally works pretty well, but out in the hinterland, I found it often had no idea where we were. It does indeed access GPS signals, but it works best when that's augmented by cell tower triangulation. So if it's not getting good cell phone reception, fuggedaboudit. Driving around eastern Oregon, for example, it completely lost track of where we were, and never re-aquired a signal. It's a great device, incredibly useful for many things. But get a GPS in/for the car and use that as your primary navigation device. Use the iPad for other stuff. Hope that helps.

Posted by Susan
Huntington Beach, CA
88 posts

Yes, the ipads can be loaded with full driving maps and gps programs which are awesome and as good as any gps we could get with a rental car. But I think the problem is going to be the ability to access the information for a reasonable price. Thanks to all for your responses-and I would still love to hear from anyone who has actually taken an ipad to Europe.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8451 posts

"as good as any gps we could get with a rental car. But I think the problem is going to be the ability to access the information for a reasonable price. " That right there makes it NOT as good as any GPS you could get with a rental car, even a low-end one. And you won't have a signal everywhere, no matter what you might be willing to pay. Of course, the simplest solution would be to take a GPS with Europe maps installed, but that's not what you asked.

Posted by LL
78 posts

Not to mention that an iPad is a bit large for the car. It won't be on top of the dash which means it probably would be less safe than a GPS which is basically in your line of sight.

Posted by Michael 1
Phoenix, AZ, USA
1035 posts

Love and own iPad, but agree not a great in car GPS. However, if you are, say in your hotel, and trying to figure out the best way to walk from A to B, the walking directions are great.

Posted by Lee
1017 posts

I've read good things about the TomTom app for the iPhone which uses the GPS without requiring a data feed. I assume it's available for the iPad as well. The draw back to our iPhone's GPS function is that there are no spoken or written directions as on a full function GPS. Our Garmin also notifies of fixed speed camera locations. I think you'd be better served with a separate GPS unit.

Posted by Mike
Oshkosh, Wi, USA
68 posts

My wife has an Iphone and a MacBook which she uses in France, but NOT as a GPS. The data charges can be outrageous. On earlier trips we have used MicroSoft AutoRoute 2006 or 2010 with an external GPS sensor which worked very well, but almost requires a co-pilot to monitor the laptop. Also this program does not run on Apple products. We have since purchased a European GPS which does not require a co-pilot and was reasonably priced. If you plan on visiting Europe often you may wish to go to amazon.co.uk to shop for a GPS. Of course if you already own a newer GPS you can probably buy a card for Europe.

Posted by John
1 posts

Wow... I wish I'd seen this sooner. We're American and live part of the year in France. I have a US iPad that has an AT&T sim inside. For my money, I think this plus MotionX make for a terrific GPS alternative. However, we don't have service in France. Not paid service, anyway. But for some strange reason, we discovered that you can get a kind of free GPS with any U.S. 3G iPad. How? You load the driving directions on the "Maps" app when you're connected to WiFi and zoom out to have the whole route line on screen. Then leave it alone. Don't move around the map or anything when on the road, outside of the wifi zone. Not only will a satellite pinpoint your location, but you'll see a blipping blue pin follow your path. Stick to the blue route on your screen and you'll be fine. We just did this to navigate our way back from an remote spot in Normandy. Two key tips: Be sure to pre-load the maps while in a Wifi zone and be sure not to move around on the map, as the new panels will not downland and you'll only have a blue blip moving on a blank screen.

Posted by Heidi
San Jose, CA, USA (Bath, UK for 2010)
74 posts

I love my ipad and my iphone, but I lose signal all the time, even in urban places in England. I just haven't been able to rely on it. We always get a GPS when we rent.

Posted by Dina
Fontainebleau, France
893 posts

I can attest that 3G reception is hit-or-miss on the autoroutes and lesser traveled roads outside of major cities. I've even occassionally been without service for my iPhone briefly while traveling in more rural areas. And this is with Orange, the larget provider of 3G in France. As for GPS and warnings of speed traps - please be aware that as of May 11th radar detectors are banned and it has been proposed that any device that alerts to the speed detection cameras be made illegal. (The law that took effect May 11th raises the fines and penalties for speeding and/or causing an accident.) There is a lot of debate and discussion on this matter right now, but in the future, that Garmin or TomTom GPS that beeps when you're approaching a fixed camera might be illegal. And the Gendarmes do have the authority to perform random checks for compliance with the law (ie checking for insurance, driver's license, etc.). So check before you go to France (or any country for that matter) to find out what the latest laws are.

Posted by Scott M.
Dallas, TX, USA
1166 posts

It would be cost prohibitive to use your iPad as a GPS. The prepaid data is extremely expensive and WiFi is spotty at best. If you want to use it to reference it as a map from time to time, that would be OK, but to let it run continuously would run you an astronomical bill. It would be better and cheaper to buy a GPS with European maps rather than use the iPad.

Posted by william
western, WI, USA
1 posts

As anyone with an iPad knows there are 2 variations: cheaper - WiFi only
costlier - WiFi, 3G & GPS The costlier one is a real GPS, gets the locations from satellites just like any other GPS. It's not fake, doesn't require 3G, WiFi or a blue moon. It works anywhere you have a clear view of the sky, just like a 'real' GPS. Why? because it is a real GPS. So the question is, do you have a map program that works off-line? There are a number of them but in the US I use X-Motion. You can use the builtin app but you'll need to set the memory (cache) high so it can save the maps that you 'then view while you have a network connection' you can then see then later as long as you've previewed them while you had a connection. Or you can get a 'real' GPS. Personally I use the real GPS that comes in the high end version of the iPad and then use an offline map application. It's up to you, but don't try and tell me it is not a 'real' GPS because it is.

Posted by Cynthia
Gig Harbor, Washington, USA
1274 posts

We drove your route in June, 2008, although in the opposite direction.. Our navigation tools were the AA road atlas for France and the Michelin maps for Normandy and the Loire. We had no problems navigating with these and had no need for GPS. (Just thought I would offer you an a-l-t-e-r-native viewpoint, if you are interested.)

Posted by Dale
Washington, DC, USA
1 posts

Just back from a road trip in France. Was so sure my Ipad was all we needed but an hour after being lost near Lyon and not being able to access a signal I admit I was wrong. It's just not always there when you need it. Also, read RS's advice on speed cameras and be diligent about not speeding even when everyone zooms past you. We are just back and are now receiving tickets for speeding. Seems they will get you multiple times in the same zone w/o any signs or warnings. Our road trip is becoming more expensive by the day.

Posted by Gary
Ramona, CA
63 posts

We didn't use an Ipad, instead we brought my wife's Garmin. In any case here's a tip. Be sure the "use shortest distance" preference is turned off!!! The shortest distance from Charles de Gaulle airport to the A10 feeway goes right through downtown Paris, a harrowing experience if you're not primed for it.

Posted by carol
dublin, nh, usa
2 posts

OH YES. They are great. You need to sign up to get international coverage. THen you'll be fine. We used the ipad in Italy. Yes it was not cheap but keep your roaming off when you don't need it. We also used our IPAD with Rick Steve's touring information. Great combination. Loved it in museums and touring around Venice. MacDonald's has wi-fi and many local bistros in big cities offer wifi. Even available in small towns but don't count on always finding FREE wi-fi. Enjoy. We actually just added a FRENCH chip to our iPad. But... traveling in two countries, you would be advised to kick in the price and get coverage in Europe for the trip. Be careful re: turning it on and off. You could also use your iphone to get instructions. I sometimes use MAP QUEST. Other choice is to lease a car with a GPS.