How to Use Google Maps Offline

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How to Download Offline Maps

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Google Maps has made traveling in unfamiliar areas a breeze with its detailed maps, car, cycling, and walking navigation, and turn-by-turn directions. But what happens if you travel to an area with no cellular coverage or to a destination abroad where your smartphone can't connect? The solution: save the maps you'll need now so you can access them offline later. It's a bit like ripping pages out of an atlas for an old-school road trip, except you get turn-by-turn navigation too.

Once you've searched for, and found your destination, click on the place name at the bottom of your screen. (For example, San Francisco or Central Park.) Then tap the download button. From here, you can select the area you'd like to save by pinching, zooming, and scrolling. Once the download is finished, you can give the map a name. 

There are a few limitations, though. First, offline maps can only be saved for thirty days, after which they will be automatically deleted, unless you've updated them by connecting to Wi-Fi.

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How to Access Your Offline Maps

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So you've saved your maps, and now you're ready to use them. Tap the menu button at the top left of your Maps screen and select offline maps. This is separate from "your places," which is where you can see everything you've saved or navigated to or from, including your home and work address and restaurants and other points of interest.

When using Google Maps offline, you can still get driving directions and search for places within the areas you've downloaded. You can't get transit, bicycling, or walking directions, though, and when driving, you can't re-route to avoid tolls or ferries, or get traffic information. If you think you'll be doing a lot of walking or cycling at your destination and don't expect to have good Internet connectivity, get those directions before you leave and screenshot them. See if you can download a transit map as well.

Google Maps is not alone in offering offline access. Competing apps such as HERE Maps and CoPilot GPS beat them to it, though the latter requires a paid subscription.