How to Get Driving Directions and More From Google Maps

Maps includes driving, public transportation, walking, and cycling directions

The desktop version of Google Maps provides excellent directions with a lot of hidden features. Not only can you get driving directions, but you can also get walking and public transport directions, ratings and Zagat information for restaurants, the elevation you need to climb, and routes for cyclists or pedestrians. 

You can get directions from Google Maps on your mobile phone, but the interface is slightly different. 

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Get Started

Google Maps Screen Capture
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Go to Google Maps and click Search Google Maps in the upper left corner. Click on the blue directions symbol.  

You may Set your default location for Home and Work by clicking the bar menu icon at the top left corner of the navigation panel and then selecting Your Places. This is an optional step in your preferences where you can set the place you're most likely to need driving directions from. In most cases, that's your home or your workplace. If you click on the link and set your default location, that saves you a step the next time you get driving directions because Google automatically adds your default location to your starting location. 

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Enter Your Destination

Hotlips to VooDoo Doughnuts on Google Maps screenshot

Add the starting and ending destinations in the fields provided. If you set a default location, it is listed as your starting point. Don't worry if you want to start from somewhere else. You can erase it and type in a different origination point.

A few features worth mentioning at this point:

  • Google Maps lets you set multiple locations. After you enter one destination, click on the plus symbol to add multiple destinations. This is ideal for scenic road trips or dropping off deliveries.
  • You can get easy reverse directions by clicking on the arrows between the origin and destination locations. They switch positions and give you directions in the opposite order. 
  • You don't have to know the exact address of your destination. You can type in a restaurant name, and if it isn't precise enough, you are asked to clarify in the next step.
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Select Your Mode of Transportation

Bike directions screenshot

By default, Google Maps assumes you want driving directions. However, that's not your only choice. If you want walking directions, public transport directions, cycling or walking directions, you can get them by pressing the appropriate icon at the top of the navigation pane.

Not every choice is available in every area, but in most major cities, you can travel by any of these methods. Public transportation directions include the bus or train arrival time and the necessary transfers. 

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Choose a Route

Multiple routes screenshot

 Google

Sometimes, you see suggestions for multiple routes with the time estimates for each. The recommended route is represented in bright blue while any suggested alternate routes are colored gray.

Along the route, you may see yellow icons indicating construction zones or red icons indicating a crash. When a stretch of the route is colored red, this indicates heavy or stalled traffic.

Click on an alternative route if the recommended route indicates slowdowns. If there isn't an acceptable alternate route, you can drag a path anywhere you want to reroute by moving points on the route to avoid problem areas. Google Maps updates the directions on the fly.

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Use Google Street View

Click for street view screenshot

At this point, your driving directions are available by scrolling down on the navigation panel. One final step you can take before you start driving is to check out Street View.

Click on your destination on the map to display the preview image of your final destination in the navigation pane. Click the picture at the top of the navigation panel to see a larger version of your destination. It may be a still photo or a 3D image you can use to look around the area. This is the Street View mode that shows you how your destination looks. 

Select Send to your phone to transfer the driving instructions to your smartphone. Use the Share icon to send a link or embed a map on a web page or blog. If you're an Android user, you may want to save your directions to My Maps and use your phone to navigate.

Print Directions 

If you need printed directions, click on the menu button — the three lines in the upper left corner — and click Print

Share Your Location

Trying to find your friends? Show them where you are to save time and connect with them quickly.

Check out these other Google Maps tricks that make your driving experience that much easier.