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GPS unit vs using an iPhone for navigation in northern Wales?

We will be driving from England to Wales this summer, staying near Snowdonia and I'm not sure what we should do for navigation. Is the reception good in the area if we were to rely on our phone or should we rent/buy a GPS unit? Auto Europe's rate was pretty high to rent the unit through them ($45 for 5 days) so I'd probably buy a UK map on a memory card to put into our Garmin ($44 on Amazon). I was planning on doing ATT's $40 plan that has only a small amount of data included so using the phone for nav would probably use that up quickly.

Thanks

Posted by
3148 posts

Renting a GPS is a waste of money. If you have a Garmin already , spend the money on the memory card. Rather than buy maps for an specific country we bought the maps for all of Europe for $100 since we go to Europe a couple times a year. It works fine.

Posted by
4834 posts

I did some research on GPS options because we are doing a drive tour of Wales and England.

I don't have a Garmin, but considered buying one with North American data, then adding the UK and/or Europe data.

I discovered that adding the UK data to one with the North American data is a problem. Apparently, too much data.
If you plan on just buying the memory card, make sure it works on the GPS that you have. There are so many models it can be confusing.

I considered purchasing a Garmin or Tom Tom in London after flying in from the US, but the price is about the same as rending a Navigation system with the rental car. The last time we visited Britain, we drove around for three days and the NAV system in the car was a lifesaver.

I am still taking a map as a backup as well as running some of our travel on a map quest as a backup.

Posted by
279 posts

Last summer when we were in Northern Wales we used the CoPilot app on my iPad. The app also works well with an iPhone. I downloaded the maps for the UK and we were good to go. The app worked very well. It would even guide us through the round abouts. Be sure to learn the interface before getting in your rental car!

Posted by
609 posts

Michael, was that the Copilot app for the UK and Ireland for $19.99? We'll be picking up a rental soon and heading to northern Wales, then on to northern England and Scotland.
Thanks

Posted by
1838 posts

You can’t beat having a map on paper. I would suggest you go into a supermarket and purchase a UK road atlas - which you can get for about £6. If you want detailed maps for hiking, get an Ordnance Survey map of the area concerned - which should be available in WH Smith’s.
Using satnavs can be useful for getting from A to B but sometimes they will take you down narrow roads or on lengthy detours. I like to plan the roads that I will take - whether for speed or for scenery. Click the following link and look at the map. You will see 2 roads that go from the English border - near Ruabon/Llangollen to Bangor. One route is the A483 going north and then the A55 going west. These roads are expressways. The other route is the A5 which goes via Betws-Y-Coed & then through the mountains to reach Bangor.
Pick up the yellow man and take a look at this road on street view. It is very scenic. So, it is important to look at proper maps, know the type of roads and come to an informed opinion about what is right for you. (You can add satellite view to the map if desired and zoom down for a closer look).https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@53.0507707,-3.8305118,10z/data=!5m1!1e1

PS> The road colours indicate traffic flow on the above map. This is live - when you click it. Red = jams.

Posted by
279 posts

That looks like a version of what I used. I previously bought the US version and downloaded the European maps. I would go with it!

Posted by
609 posts

Thank you both. We have a pretty good map, but I'll check what's available when we pick up the car tomorrow. James, your advice has been invaluable!

Posted by
47 posts

Thank you all!!

@James that is a great tip about the google maps and clicking on the yellow man to see the scenery! We will be driving from Bibury to Dolgellau so this will be handy for us when planning out the route.

@michaeltipton if I get that app on my IPad will I be using data when we use it in Wales?

Posted by
279 posts

No. Once you download the map and app all you are using is the built in GPS. No cellular data.

Posted by
1838 posts

It sounds to me that some of you might find my earlier responses to a query posted in the Wales forum useful.https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/wales/north-wales-itinerary

Click the different regions on this map for more info on Wales.http://www.visitwales.com/explore

BIBURY > DOLGELLAU. I would go to Gloucester (loop around) then A417 to LEDBURY - stop and take a look - especially at the lane leading to the church. (Plenty of black & white beamed buildings). Then, continue on A417 going NW. Hampton Court - near Bodenham is worth a look if you have time. http://www.hamptoncourt.org.uk
Join A49 going N and drive into the middle of LUDLOW. (This is real Ye Olde England complete with a Castle). Next - A49 to about 1 mile N of Ludlow - be sure to stop at STOKESAY CASTLE.
Just after Craven Arms -turn L and take A489 into Wales. You can then head to Dolgellau via Newtown or divert slightly to the north to visit POWIS CASTLE near Welshpool before proceeding to Dolgellau.

Posted by
47 posts

Thanks Michael- that is great to know that we won't need to use up data when using that map app! Sounds like a good alternative to paying Auto Europe for the GPS rental if the app also provides guidance (or is it strictly a map without any commands given?)

James that is such great info for our route- thank you!! We had thought about stopping in Chipping Campden on the way. Does that also sound doable? We could go there and then on to Ludlow (skipping Ledbury) and then Stokesay Castle.

Posted by
1838 posts

Going from the Cotswolds to Dolgellau is quite a long trip - especially as it does not have any expressways. I don’t know how long you are in The Cotswolds but I would certainly want to try and do all the major Cotswold villages on a day when I am not going to embark on the long trip to Dolgellau. As Chipping Campden is further north than BIbury, this would affect which way you head over towards Wales with Leominster being the place where my suggested route coming up from Bibury v Chipping Campden (as start points) would merge. So, nothing wrong with that and from Chipping Campden you need to pick up the A44 going NW and follow it to Leominster. Using the A44 route - just east of Bromyard, you will pass the entrance to the Brockhampton Estate on your R. I think you may well like to visit Lower Brockhampton Hall - so another little detour to slow down the trip to Dolgellau.http://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=338
https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/brockhampton-estate

A word of warning about the A44 route in the Worcester area. Click the link for the map. You will be coming up the A44 from the SE and need to get to it on the west side of Worcester. It is quite complicated getting past Worcester!https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@52.1770387,-2.1967783,13z/data=!5m1!1e1

PS. If you click & drag the map to the W - you will see the Brockhampton location.

Posted by
609 posts

We are currently in Conwy in North Wales. We picked up ur rental car in Bath and drove north, stopping at Tintern Abbey. Although we hadn't ordered it, our car has navigation. I had brought my iPad and purchased a SIM card for it. For some reason, my iPad Google maps has been spot-on, while the car navigation has directed us to longer routes. There was only one brief section where Google maps didn't work, and a paper map filed in for the 10 minutes, or so. The SIM card cost £15 at an EE store.

Posted by
279 posts

Co-Pilot does provide real time navigation with all the features that that you would expect in a GPS nav system. A useful tip is that the postal code for a location will provide the GPS system enough info to pretty much get you right there. Much finer level of detail than the standard US zip code.

Posted by
395 posts

We just got back from a trip to Wales. We used Google Maps on our iphone in combination with the "Here WeGo" app. Here allowed us to download the entire map of Wales and England onto the phone. We used Here when we couldn't get internet, which happened a lot more frequently than it does in the U.S. Particularly in Anglesey there were places where the signal wasn't strong enough, but occasionally in other places in Wales like Snowdonia or the mid-country mountains we couldn't get a decent signal. We mostly used Here, but if there was a traffic issue or we didn't have the address where we were going, we used Google Maps. Google Maps allowed us to get real time information about traffic and routed us around slowdowns a couple of times; it was quite effortless and saved us several hours over our 2 1/2 week trip. Traffic jams were more an issue in England than in Wales, although we did run into one in Wales driving between IronBridge and Conway. Using Google Maps you can download your route while on wifi, but of course if your route changes in transit you'll need to use data to get updated route information. In summary I would say do not rely on just the internet in Wales but have backup maps in some form, either paper or digital (I prefer digital). The nice thing about any GPS (mechnical or software) is that it will tell you which lane to exit the traffic circle, which is a very helpful navigation aid. A great thing about software GPS is that they take up no additional room/weight when you're packing. I had paper maps on this trip as a backup but they were heavy, bulky and unused.