How to Get Driving Directions and More From Google Maps

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

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. You can find ratings and Zagat information for restaurants, and you can find the elevation you need to climb and route you need to pedal to bike there. 

This assumes you're using the desktop version of Google Maps. You can get directions from your mobile phone, but the interface is slightly different. 

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Getting Started

Google Maps Screen Capture


To get started, go to Google Maps and click on Search Google Maps in the upper right corner. Then click on the blue directions symbol to get directions. 

You may also Set your default location. 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 house 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


After you generate Google Maps driving directions, you see an area to add your starting and ending destinations. If you set a default location, it is 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. Click on the plus symbol to add multiple destinations. You move alphabetically, so your origin is always A, and your other points follow. 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, or bicycle directions, you can get them by pressing the appropriate button.

Not every choice is available in every area, but in most major cities, you can travel by any of those 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


Sometimes, you see suggestions for multiple routes with the time estimates for each. This might be a good time to compare your route to traffic conditions by pressing the Traffic button on the right (on top of the map view). This isn't available in all areas, but where it is, it helps you pick a route. 

If you know you want to use an alternative route that isn't offered, you can drag a path anywhere you want to reroute, and Google Maps updates the directions on the fly. This is handy if you know a road is under construction or traffic is congested along the standard route. 

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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 page. One final step you can take before you start driving is to check out Street View.

Click on the preview image of your final destination to switch into Street View mode and get a look and feel for your route. 

Use the Send button to send directions to someone by email and use the Link button to embed a map on a webpage 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 on the Print button. 

Share Your Location

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

There are other Google Maps tricks that will make your driving experience that much easier.