Google Maps: Tips, Tricks, and Hidden Features

Check out these tricks, tips, and cool hidden features

Google Maps is handy for getting directions to just about any destination, but you can do a lot more interesting things as well, including walking, cycling, and public transit directions. You can also look at a street view of your destination, or embed maps on your blog or website.

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Get Walking, Cycling, and Public Transit Directions

Google Maps Returns To Apple's iPhone

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images 

Not only can you get driving directions to and from a location with Google Maps, but you can also view walking and biking directions. If you're in a major metropolitan area, public transportation information is also included. After you enter your starting address and destination, instead of choosing the car icon, tap the icon for Transit, Walking, or Cycling, and Google Maps will customize the directions for you.

When Google suggests cycling routes, the routes are listed in order of shortest to longest, some of which may lead you up a hill or into an area with traffic. Before you make your choice, preview the route with Google Street View so you can be aware of rough terrain, inclines, or traffic. 

When you choose a walking route, access Live View for an augmented reality experience. Right from your map, you'll see details about the restaurants and shops surrounding you, including photos, reviews, and how busy they are. Live View can also tell you are in relation to a place, such as your hotel, so you can get a handle on your whereabouts.

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Drag for Alternate Driving Directions

screenshot of google assistant showing alternate routes in google maps

You aren't limited to the routes that Google prepares for you. When you want to avoid a construction zone or toll area or stop somewhere along the way, you can change the route by clicking on the path to set a point and then dragging the point to a new location to modify the path. You don't want to use a heavy hand when you do this, but it is a useful feature. After you move the point, the alternate routes disappear and your driving instructions change to accommodate the new path.

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Embed Maps on Your Website or Blog

Share or embed map option in Google Maps menu

Select the menu icon at the top of the navigation panel of a Google Map, then select Share or embed map. Select the Embed a map tab for a URL you can use to embed a map in any webpage that accepts embedded tags. Just copy and paste the code, and you will have a professional-looking map on your page or blog that shows your viewers precisely where your business or event is located.

If you prefer to send a link to a person, choose the Send a link tab and copy the link to the map. Paste the link into a text field to send it via email or text message. This option works well when you are hosting a party, for example, and some of your guests have never been to your home.

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View Mashups

A Google Maps mashup with GTA IV

Google allows programmers to hook into Google Maps and combine it with other data sources, which means you may see some unusual maps. The Gawker website took advantage of this feature at one point to make the "Gawker Stalker." This map used real-time reports of celebrity sightings to show their location on Google Maps.

A science fiction twist to this idea is the Doctor Who Locations map that shows areas where the BBC television series is filmed. Other versions show where U.S. zip code boundaries are; you can even find out what the effects of a nuclear blast would be based on location.

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Create Your Own Maps


You can make your own map, and you don't need programming expertise to do so. Select Your Places in the side navigation panel, then select Maps > See all your maps. Select Create a New Map and pick a location. Add or draw flags, shapes, layers, or directions, and publish your map publicly or share it with a few friends. Are you planning a picnic in the park? Make sure your friends can find their way to the right picnic shelter with a customized map.

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Get a Map of Traffic Conditions

Google Map of Los Angeles

Depending on your city, you may be able to view traffic conditions when you look at Google Maps. Combine that with the ability to create an alternate route to skip the toughest traffic jams for the best driving experience. Just don't try this while driving. 

When you are driving, Google Navigation usually warns you of upcoming traffic delays. 

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See Your Location on a Map Without GPS

Google Location Tracking

Your position in a Google Map is indicated by a blue dot. The Google Maps mobile app can show you approximately where you are from your phone—even if you don't have GPS or your GPS is not working. It accomplishes this by using contacts with cell towers in the area. This method isn't as precise as GPS, so the blue dot indicating your position is surrounded by a light blue circle indicating an area you are in rather than a precise spot. Still, the information is useful when you are trying to find where you are on a map.

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Street View

Google Street View is a great way to check out an intersection.

Google Street View shows panoramic images of many streets and locations. You can follow a route down a street and look around the 360-degree panorama in 3D to see what's in the vicinity. Just select Browse Street View images at the bottom of any map.

Street View isn't available in all areas. To see which streets are available on the map you are using, select the Pegman icon in the bottom corner of the map to display the streets that have been mapped for Street View. They appear in blue on the map.

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Pay for Parking

Pay for Parking feature on Google Maps


In many places, it's possible to pay for parking from the Google Maps app. Look for Pay for Parking next to your destination on the map. As an added benefit, you can add more time to your meter without running back to your vehicle.

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Reduce Hard-Braking Incidents

Close-up of man and younger woman examining car after accident.

Guido Mieth / Getty Image

When Google offers you suggested routes for your trip, it takes into account many factors, including the fastest routes. In May 2021, Google Maps incorporated machine learning to identify on which route you have the least likelihood of having a "hard-braking" incident. Hard-braking moments, where you dramatically decelerate, are one of the biggest indicators of car-crash likelihood. When it won't greatly increase your commute time, Google Maps automatically recommends routes where you're not as likely to have a hard-braking incident, making your commute instantly safer.

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Spot Busy Areas at a Glance

Google's Live Busyness feature showing "Busier than usual" in Rome

The Google Maps Live Busyness feature can show you how long the wait is at certain locations and how busy an establishment can be on certain dates and times. But it can also show you the general busyness of an entire area so you can avoid the crowds and come back another time. Or, if you're looking for a lively area of town, open Google Maps and find out where everyone is headed so you can find something interesting to do on a weekend.

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Time-Sensitive Recommendations

Google Maps Time Sensitive Information feature showing afternoon and establishments

Are you on vacation, just waking up in a new city? Google Maps will show you where the nearest coffee shops are. Any time of day, open Google Maps to find time-sensitive information, with relevant locations highlighted based on the time of day, helping unfamiliar locations feel less overwhelming. You'll also see local landmarks and tourist attractions to help you plan your visit to a new city. If you're looking for more options, tap any location to find similar recommendations.

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Contribute to Google Maps

Contribute tab in Google Maps app

Notice a street or business that's not on Google Maps? Tap the Contribute tab to draw new roads and add new places. You can also upload photos and write reviews of locations to help other users. Google confirms user contributions before they get published for everyone to see, so you can rest assured that Google Maps is always accurate.

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