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Selecting the Best GPS Unit for Europe

We will be spending 45 days traveling Italy, France and Spain by car in the Fall. Have been looking at the Garmin NUVI 770 and 775T, that are already programed for Europe. Has anyone used them, have any suggestions or opinions? Want the real truth, no sugar coating.

Posted by
12040 posts

I'd recommend an easier option- just request a GPS with your rental car.

Posted by
9363 posts

I think you're wise to look into buying one before your trip. It will give you a chance to make sure you understand how to work it, and to find out what all it can do. And depending on the length of your rental, you might come out money ahead to buy one instead of having it included. You'll probably find varying opinions here, but I love my TomTom. I haven't had occasion yet to use it in Europe, but I will definitely take it when I go again.

Posted by
14 posts

Thank to Nancy and James,

All this information has been fantastic. I've just heard about the Navigon from a reader on Virtual Tourist where I also posted this query. What scares me is there is direct correclation between these higher series numbers in the Tom Tom, Garmin and Navigon and price point. These models are in the $700-1000 price range. Why do we always want what we can't afford? Seriouly thanks for all the input.

Posted by
1157 posts

I bought a nuvi 270 with the European map for just that purpose. If you go to tripadvisor.com and search for GPS on the Paris or Normandy forums, there will be many threads, all swearing by, not at, a GPS. I'd advise getting your own now to practice with and to preprogram into the favorites menu all the sites, addresses, towns, and even latitiude and longitude coordinates if need be. To find a specific site with no real address, go to google-earth and zoom in on, for example, the Eiffel Tower. In the lower left hand margin of the screen is the lattitude and longitude and the GPS has that option to program in the exact degrees, minutes, and seconds of the location. I've been using mine since last summer here in the states and it will make your 45 day trip across Europe one of great joy and no hassles. We leave for 14 days across France in late April and have programmed in our very rural B&B in the Normandy countryside using the lattitude etc. I will never be without one ever again on any road trip, stateside or in Europe. It saved us on a summer trip to CT and Cape Cod last summer where rural roads are tough. Not with the GPS!!

All drivers also need a road map, the experts say. I also bought a AA battery pack from a company named Gomadic, to use while on foot all day in the backstreets of Paris or other cities where I can't charge up the unit. I bought my GPS on amazon about a year ago.

Posted by
191 posts

Be cautious about renting a car with built in GPS. We rented a small Mercedes with that feature and it was nothing like the garmins that I am accustomed to. The GPS didn't have a map face, only an arrow that pointed the direction and of course the spoken instruction. It was very difficult to use and required the attention of driver and copilot to get where we wanted to go.

Posted by
14 posts

Hi George,

Thanks for the tip about trip advisor. I use them all the time for lodging ratings but did not know they had forums. I have posted on virutal tourist and have some great feedback too. Most travelers are very generous to share their experience and knowledge and it is all greatly appreaciated. You are exactly right about pre-programing the trip, getting the addresses correct, and backing things up with old fashion Michlian maps. I've seen the latitude/longitude markings on websites, and dah....now it's appparent why. The newest GPS units have some pretty sophisticated benfits, and we might as well enjoy the technology. We've had our share of ending up at dead ends, junk yards, and unnamed "white roads". Getting lost on occasion is fun, but not when you're hungry, tired, or the sun is setting to quickly on a dark rural road. Viva la GPS!!!!

Posted by
711 posts

Hi Pat... We used to rent a car with a GPS while in Europe, but now they charge alot for them.. although 2 years ago we turned down the daily fee for one at Orly and when we got out to pick it up the Hertz manager laughed and said it came free with it so it was a good thing we turned it down. Also, sometimes it is almost impossible to make it in English. We take our Garmin 350 now and it worked wonderfully. We opted not to get the ones preloaded with maps and buy a more recent chip just for France and the reason is that in Europe, France especially... the are in the process of adding roundabouts everywhere. and we wanted a very current updated map since we were going to be there for 6 weeks. The 350 is very reasonable, but you need to buy maps for it.

Posted by
31510 posts

Pat,

I've used a Garmin Nuvi 370 in several areas of Europe, and for the most part it's has worked really well so far. I chose a slightly smaller model, as it's "shirt pocket size" so I can use it while walking around cities too (it has a "pedestrian mode").

The volume of the speaker is one minor issue, but that's not a serious problem as I can connect an earphone if necessary. The other issue is battery life (not a problem when in the vehicle as it's supplied with a cigarette lighter plug and well as a suction cup mount for the windscreen).

However, there are a few "quirks" that I've found as well. To begin with the unit sometimes choose "goofy" routing and sometimes a completely incorrect route. It's necessary to "double check" what they're suggesting. They don't do a good job of pronouncing some local names, especially in Europe. However, that's a minor annoyance.

I've found that it's a good idea to pack a Map along for "backup" (I usually use Michelin Maps).

Garmin released an update for the North American Maps last year, and I downloaded those. There is also an update available for the Europe maps now, but I haven't obtained those yet. There is of course a charge for the updates.

Even with the minor shortcomings, I will ALWAYS be travelling with a GPS on future trips.

Happy travels!

Posted by
9363 posts

Pat, there's no reason to have to have one of the high end models. Many times they have features that you won't use anyway. You can get a perfectly serviceable one for around $350 with Europe maps included.

Posted by
324 posts

In the FWIW category, TomTom and Garmin seem to be the big names in GPS here, also (presumably) with some degree of correlation between feature set and price. Whatever option you get, make sure that the map is updated and includes fixed radar points on the highway. Europe has discovered the traffic camera, and it is a huge money maker. Just one avoided ticket will pay for your GPS.

On the other hand, when the GPS failed late at night, during a thunderstorm, on a mountain road on my trip to Portugal this weekend, I was sure glad to have a map and compass tucked into my briefcase. People laugh at me for carrying a compass, but I've yet to have it fail.

Posted by
11973 posts

Pat,

I too suggest getting a GPS before your trip. Learn to use it to find addresses, parking, gas, food and sites. The more you know how to use it, the more valuable it will be on your trip.

I have a TomTom 920. I bought it after driving in Italy with only my Michelin map. I had driven many times in Germany and didn't think it would be a big deal but Italy has poor to no signage so a GPS is invaluable.

The two brands that are normally praised are Garmin and TomTom. Mine came with both North American and European maps. It has car, bike or walk mode. You can ask it to avoid tolls or choose routes based on fastest, shortest, etc. Overall it has performed well. It seems to have a preference for highways but anytime I choose a different way it recalculates the route in about ten seconds.

Posted by
34 posts

I agree with Brad. Buy your GPS ahead of time and learn to use it. I have used my Garmin 670 in France, Germany, and Austria and I love, love, love it!!! Back it up with some Michelin maps and you are good to go. One thing I would recommend doing is to program in all of your accomodations ahead of time. This insures that you have the correct address and saves time as you are travelling.

Posted by
11973 posts

Steve,

You made me think of a good potential ad for GPS systems.

Man and wife in a car and the GPS is playing marriage counselor, then tells them to "turn right and you are at your destination," they hop out at their hotel all relaxed, smiling and holding hands. Close with some kind of slogan about "TomTom/Garvin means never having to say you're sorry."

Who of us travelers has never had a tense moment between spouses after missing a turn or not finding an address?

Posted by
842 posts

read this:

http://www.amazon.com/review/R1XBV9MSYZG7N1/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#R1XBV9MSYZG7N1

This is why I chose my TOMTOM 920 over the next highest rated; the Garmin products. Great re-calc times, etc.

We have used our 920 in Portugal and Germany, and loved it. Even on the most obscure roads, it functioned well. Rememeber, TOMTOM was developed in Europe.

We have also used all across the US whe we did a cross country trip last summer. I stick it in my pocket when I am not using it. The EU Maps are preloaded, and you can go to their website and update ALL maps, and the software, for free. That is awesome advantage!

Make sure that the unit you buy alerts you to the fixed radar units in the EU...the 920 does!

Buy it here and learn how to use it. Our own GPS unit contributed more to the enjoyment of our trips (and our marital bliss!) than any other thing we have ever done!

Don't leave home without it!

Posted by
342 posts

I'm with George. I have the Garmin 270 and used it last year in Germany and will never go without one again. I believe the 270 is now discontinued but is still obtainable. It's all you need for a decent price.

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks to all (of both sexes - thank God!!) who posted information on the GPS Units. After careful consideration, my husband, (no sexisim in this house)unilaterlly decided to go for the Garmin 775T. The old saying, " The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys" still holds true". We'll it is in our car for a test drive. "she" has a nice voice, does not get irratatied as (moi) the co-pilot generally does, and tends to give direcitonal information about 3 seconds before one needs to react. Still like "moi". Could it be the driver "speeds"?? I realize the units all have there idiosyncrasies. Dear hubbby will just learn to live with her as he did with "moi" for that last 42 years. Truly, he is a great guy, always gets us to our destination, but sometimes us girls just have to relent. All's well that ends well. Thanks again!

Posted by
842 posts

Pat...glad to hear that the "Navigator" is learning how to use his new toy. If he can learn most of the functions he will be doing a lot to enhance your trip.

And, you should learn the basics also.

And like Adynata has said. Make sure that you always carry a Michelin guidbook and compass. Great for an overview, and great when that new electronic gadget "Hiccups".

And Brad, I still get the occasional "Hey, weren't you listening? You missed our turn!" But I don't worry anymore. I can gawk at the girls, etc. When I miss my turn, the re-calc feature on my TOMTOM is so fast that in 5 seconds I have alternate plan "B".

The only problem is that I have to pay attention the second time...or I incur the rath of the Boss!

Pat, one more thing. A GPS unit is the most stolen auto item in the US currently. Take your GPS, and mount, with you when you leave the car; here, and in Europe.

Posted by
881 posts

Tom-Tom is actually a Dutch based company. All thier software and map design is done about 15 minutes outside of Amsterdam. The staff is from all over Europe, and they have loads of Europe maps. I think it helps that it's Europeans, doing Europe maps to be honest. (My ex used to work for them when it was a 20 person company, and our friends still do.).

Tom-Tom also gets consistently rated as top GPS, and I've found them easy to use (big enough to see, voice prompts). I'd definitely buy one before you go, and get the Europe maps package, for a 45 day rental, you'd more than pay for one!