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Using GPS in Europe

How user friendly is the GPS if you cannot speak the language well. I have driven in Germany & Italy before but was intersested in trying a GPS to save time getting around. Also I am not familiar with using a GPS unit.

Posted by
357 posts

If you're thinking about getting a GPS for home that will also work in Europe, you may want to look into the TomTom GO920. Currently it's $399 (online only) for Costco members AND it includes the Europe maps. Most of the other 'American' GPS's don't include Europe - you have to pay extra.
The 920 is their top of the line unit and was just released. It has a lot of other features that may or may not interest you, but it's the 4.3" widescreen, has bluetooth (works as a hands-free device for your phone), and it has maps of Europe.
I'm actually returning the one I was going to give as a gift, because the benefits of the 920 aren't really what I'm looking for. I'm going with the Garmin 680 instead. But the Garmin unit does not come with the European maps.
If you're not leaving for Europe soon, and can wait the couple of weeks for delivery, you'll have a hard time beating the TomTom for the price and European maps for an 'English" speaking GPS.

Posted by
9363 posts

My TomTom One is great -- easy to use, very accurate, different voices you can use. Europe maps are about $100, but the unit itself was less than $200 when I bought it a few months ago. I'll be taking it with me on my next rrip to Europe.

Posted by
31818 posts

Lisa, I used a Garmin Nuvi 370 on my last trip to England. From what I recall of the manual, these can be set to operate in several languages. I suspect car rental firms would set them them according to the language preferences of the renter? The unit seemed to have some difficulty in correctly pronouncing local names, but that wasn't a problem. The N370 does come loaded with European maps.

There are larger wide screen units available, however I chose the 3xx series as it's easy to carry in a shirt pocket. It would have been nice to have slightly higher "speaking" volume, however it's possible to connect an earphone.

Based on my limited experience with Garmin and Magellan GPS units, they seem to be quite user friendly. If you're planning on packing one along, try to get some practise with it before the trip. Also, be sure to take the manual along!

Happy travels!

Posted by
850 posts

Like Kent, I used the tomtom 910 and drove in Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Italy and it performed just great. It has since been replaced by the 920 and the price of $399 mentioned by Steve is a great deal. The reason we went with the tomtom 910 was because it already had Europe maps on it. Would have probably gone with the Garmin if we just needed it for the U.S. The good thing about purchasing one rather than renting it with the car is you can always use it in the future. Also, as Kent mentioned you can practice with it before you go. You will not regret using the gps. One of the best, if not the best investment you can make for traveling if you plan on driving during your trip.

Posted by
12077 posts

I leased a car for a trip from Amsterdam, through Germany, Austria and Italy, to Rome.

I was fine through Germany and Austria because my German is pretty good and things are clearly marked.

I really regretted not getting the GPS when I got to Italy. My Italian isn't great and most roads/addresses are not marked at all. I would have saved hour upon hour of wasted driving by getting the GPS.

Posted by
15 posts

Thanks for all the input. I will definetly check into a gps before leaving.

Posted by
157 posts

Here's a second vote for the Garmin nuvi 370, very user friendly, compact enough to tote while walking, perhaps (raging debate to ensue) better mapping than TomTom, and very cool pricing (especially at Frys dot com).

The 370 also supports books, mp3 files, digital file storage and much more. You pick language and gender of your tour guide, text ahead of turn feature is very nice.

If you just save one fender-bender while not looking at the map while trying to drive you instantly recoup the purchase price!

Posted by
842 posts

I just used my new TomTom 920 for my XMass trip this Dec in Germany and Portugal. Picked it up at for $399, and took off with it. What a fantastic unit! Our TT took us everwhere; into the middle of cities and down country roads. The two best featues where its ability to INSTANTLY re-route you if you make a wrong turn (much faster than a Garmin!), and the little arrow on the top telling you which way to turn for your next matter how far away the turn was.

It even sounded an alarm when we got near radar units in Portugal, and would display the posted speed and my speed when I was driving down the road......and I could slip it in my pocket!

Buy one here and learn how to use it. I used mine for one day here, got on the plane to Europe, and was using it 1 minute after I got off the plane in Germany.

Posted by
850 posts

Thanks Kent. I have tried most of the voices on the unit and do change from time to time but usually go back to the default voice. Her name is Susan and we became attached to Susan while in Europe so we use her most of the time. Funny how these things become personal. I must admit I have even talked backed to Susan.

I thought about downloading other voices but seems like I read somewhere that they don't give text to voice. Only voice. I may be wrong about that.

Posted by
469 posts

Even if you have GPS, I suggest you also have a good map, such as Michelin, and a compass. On our last trip to Italy, our friends in another car had GPS and decided to take the lead on a daytrip. After two wrong turns, we took over the lead with our map and compass. We went straight to where we needed to go, maybe more by luck than by skill with the map and compass, but our friends didn't have to know that!

Posted by
711 posts

Hi Lisa... My husband and I were in Italy for the month of May and had a GPS; and in France in October and used a GPS. They were great, but there are a few things you need to know. Ours came on our rental car and were in the language of the country. Also. the manual was in French or Italian. We had someone help us change it to English and then we were fine . I would ask the rental car place to have it in English, but they may not do it. It does help to have a working knowledge of a GPS before hand.In France my husband fiddled with it and it worked out fine. We were able to go places we probably could not have gone without it. ( the Sibillini Mountains). Also, if you get a more expensive or somewhat bigger car the GPS should come with it for free. We rented a car at Orly Airport south of Paris from Hertz. It was very reasonable, but the man at the counter tried to tell us it would be 13 euros a day for it !!! We said no, and when we went for the car the guy said it was free.

Posted by
850 posts

I second the suggestion of taking a good map. We did take a map with us in addition to our tomtom 920 and it does have a compass built into it. We only used the map to view our location on a broad scale. The gps unit was much better and easier than using the map for getting from point A to point B and was right on the money. When we missed a turn it recalculated an alternative route if turning around was not possible. As Steve mentioned it sounds an alarm for radar and, in addition to other little features, it tells you how fast you are going in mph so it makes for easy comparison to km/h on the auto's speedometer and although that is not too hard to figure in ones head it is a nice little check system. My wife used it quite often to tell me to slow down. Gps was set to a womans voice and I had my wife also telling me things so I had two women to keep me straight. I will not give an opinion on whether that is a good or bad thing. After 40 yrs of marriage I have learned something. :)