One of the biggest inconveniences I experienced abroad was not being able to find my way through unfamiliar streets without being around a wifi hotspot or racking up an atrocious cell phone bill. Add to that a language barrier, and getting directions anywhere was impossible.
That’s the bad news. The good news is there’s an app for everything these days, including an app that provides downloadable maps from over 6,000 cities around the world that can be accessed while offline. Not only does CityMaps2Go by Ulmon provide offline maps, it is also equipped with GPS capabilities that work offline, so you can see the exact location you’re standing in, which will help guide you to your destination.
I’ve used this app while traveling abroad in 20+ European cities including Belgrade, Vienna, Zagreb, Salzburg, Munich, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Bruges, Barcelona, Copenhagen, and Stockholm. Overall, this app has been a lifesaver, but, as is true with most apps, has its flaws. Here are some of the main pros and cons I found.
PROS: While in the States, I use Google Maps to get just about anywhere. CityMaps2Go is the closest you’re going to get to Google Maps without cellular data or wifi. It is easy to use and will get you from point A to point B as long as you know how to follow a moving blue dot toward your destination. The app also provides city guides for the more popular travel spots in each city, which can be helpful, or at least interesting to read, and it allows you to save locations by placing a star on the map, so you won’t need to repeatedly search for your hostel/hotel or other frequently visited places.
CONS: The biggest difference between CityMaps2Go and Google Maps (which now also has a downloadable map feature – check out this excellent post from Bel Around the World to learn more about that) is that CityMaps2Go does not provide directions to getting from one location to the next. This is hardly an issue, however, since the map already provides your location, your destination, and a map of the subway/train lines in your city in case your destination is farther away and you’d rather take public transportation to get there. Perhaps a more fatal drawback, at least in some cities, is that the maps are translated into English while the street signs may not be. For instance, when I was in Belgrade, all of the street signs were in Cyrillic script while my maps had been translated to English letters. Thus, there was no way for me to match the street signs I was seeing in front of me with the corresponding location on my map. Again, however, this drawback can be reduced to a mere annoyance simply by turning on your current location and following the blue dot toward your destination.
Despite the drawbacks, this app is a great resource that I would recommend to anyone traveling abroad and even to those staying in your home city. Since it doesn’t use data or wifi, it’s a great way to conserve data for those of you worried about going over your monthly data limit. Not only has this app helped me find my way when I was lost (which is nearly all the time), it has also introduced me to many sites I otherwise would not have discovered by showing me popular sites nearby. Every traveler needs to add this to their toolbox.
How do you stay connected while traveling abroad? Have you used this app before? Are there other apps you’d recommend? Let us know in the comments below.
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