How to Use Google Maps

Discover what this powerful navigation tool has to offer

Google Maps is a completely free service that provides maps, public transport information, detailed directions, and listings of businesses to users all over the world. It’s one of the most-popular services for people to use when traveling to new locations both domestically and abroad and is also a powerful tool for finding out where a business is, what hours it’s open for, and what other people think about it.

Google Maps website.
Google

Where to Download the Google Maps App

The full Google Maps tool can be used in full from any web browser on any device from a Windows 10 or Mac computer to an iOS or Android tablet or smartphone simply by going to the Google Maps website. Those using a smart device, however, may want to download either the iOS Google Maps app from the App Store or the Android version of Google Maps from the Google Play Store.

Most Android smartphones and tablets are sold with the Google Maps app already installed.

Both Google Maps apps are completely free and feature all of the functionality found on the web version. They are, however, better optimized to take full advantage of modern smartphone and tablet hardware and also allow for the downloading of maps for offline viewing.

How to Get Google Maps Directions

The Google Maps website and apps can give you directions to and from a location detailing how long it will take to get there, what transport options are available, and suggested times for leaving with an estimated arrival time.

For this example we’ll be using the smartphone app though the instructions for using the web version are almost identical.

  1. Open the Google Maps app on your iOS or Android device.

    Google Maps app on iPhone.
     Google
  2. Tap Search here.

  3. Type in your destination.

    Google Maps provides directions from your current location by default in a search. To look for Google directions from a different starting point, tap Your location and search for a beginning place as you did the destination.

  4. Browse the suggested results and tap on the one that you’re looking for.

    Make sure to double-check the location’s street name, city, and state to make sure that you get directions to the correct place. You may even need to check the country.

  5. The map should load showing the location of the place you’re after with some basic information along the bottom of the screen.

    If you have a specific route you want to take that isn't shown, you can create a Google Maps custom route.

    If this is correct, tap Directions.

    Google Maps driving directions in iPhone app.
    Google

    If the location is incorrect, repeat your search to find the place you’re after.

  6. The Google Maps driving directions will display first by default. Tap Steps to read the directions. This can be useful if you’re a passenger assisting the driver or if you need to skip ahead to make sure you make the right turns.

    Tap Start to begin real-time Google Maps driving directions that will guide you each step of the way.

    Google Maps driving directions uses your device’s GPS to track your location which can drain your device’s battery. If possible, connect your smartphone or tablet to a power source during a long trip.

  7. Tap the train icon to view public transport options. Tap on a route to view more details of it or tap the default Depart time to refine your search based on public transport leaving now or to specify an exact departure or arrival time.

    Public transport guide in Google Maps.
     Google

    Tap Options to select specific public transport types and your preferred travel style.

    Customizing the arrival time can be very useful when you need to get to a place at a specific time such as when catching a flight or having a doctor’s appointment.

  8. Tap the person icon to view Google Maps walking directions. The three-lined icon will show you detailed directions while the Live View option activates an augmented reality (AR) mode that overlays directions on top of what the camera sees.

    Tap Start for voice navigation to guide your walk.

  9. Tap the hailing icon to view Google directions for car services such as Uber. Estimated costs and travel times should display down the bottom of the Google Maps app.

    Uber, DiDi, and Ola options in Google Maps iOS app.
     Google

    Tap each company logo to compare details. When you’re ready, tap Open App.

    Tapping Open App will open up the related car app on your smartphone or tablet. If you don’t have the appropriate app installed, you will be prompted to install it.

  10. Tap the bicycle icon to view Google bike directions for cyclists.

  11. Tap the airplane icon to Google directions that will likely involve flying. If no flights are available, you will be presented with a Can’t find a flight there message. If flights are available, you should see an estimated average cost and travel time.

    Google Flights in the Google Maps app.
    Google

Click on See Flights on Google to open a browser window and compare flights on the Google website.

How to Change Map Type and Details in Google Maps

The Google Maps apps and website offer several different visual styles that change the way the map looks while maintaining all of its functionality.

Google Maps style options in the iPhone Google Maps app.
Google

To change the map type in Google Maps, tap the diamond icon in the upper-right corner and then tap the option that you want to see.

How to Download Maps for Offline Viewing

If you think you might need to use Google Maps while with no cellular or internet connection, you can save data from specific areas by performing a long press on the map, swiping left on the menu, and tapping Download and then Download again.

Downloading offline maps in Google Maps on iPhone.
 Google

Saving Google Maps areas for offline viewing can be useful if you’re flying into a new country and where you’ll have no service and will need directions to your accommodation.

Discover New Cafes, Restaurants, and Places with Google Maps

In addition to giving directions, Google Maps is also a powerful business directory that can be used to find places near and far.

To use the business directory, simply tap on a category from the floating menu at the top of the screen after opening the Google Maps app. The map will then populate with all of the nearby businesses within that category and a listing with basic info and photos will render along the bottom half of the screen.

Google Maps restaurant and cafe directory.
Google

To get more information on each business, just tap on its map pin or name from the list. The address and contact information should be readily available and should photos and reviews posted by other users. You can also post your own review and photos of any business on Google Maps but you’ll need to use your Google account to do so.