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Ten extremely useful things you didn’t know Google Maps does

Posted at 10:15 am, February 8, 2015 in Maps


Oh Google Maps, how we love you so. You’ve rescued us in all corners of London, brought us endless joy looking at the random people caught on Street View and just generally been there for us in times of need. And now you are ten years old. Happy birthday, pal. How did we live without you? We can’t remember. But even the most seasoned G-mapper can still discover untapped delights hidden within the app or desktop version. To make sure you’re getting the most from your maps, here are ten things that you might not know Google Maps does. If you know all of them, give yourself a big nerdy pat on the back. 

Traffic layer

Whether you’re driving or taking a taxi, checking out how clogged the roads are beforehand in London can make or break your day. The traffic layer (found on the drop down menu on your Maps app) gives realtime traffic information, so you can free-flow towards that important meeting.


Cycle lanes

Also on your drop-down menu, if you’re cycling in London, you are going to want to find the least busy roads and cycle lanes available to you. This layer will help you to map out a cycle-friendly route, whether you’re in the city or the suburbs. Boom.


Turn-by-turn navigation

If you’re driving or walking into a neighbourhood and don’t want to get lost, you can easily turn your maps app into a GPS navigation system. Simply key in your destination, click onto your preferred route and select navigation. You can use voice directions too.


Public transport

While most Londoners have the tube map etched into their heads, some visitors might not. The public transport layer gives an accurate to-scale depiction of all the public transport services in the immediate area. Useful for when travelling to other cities, too.


Street View

Ever stood on the right street, but battling to figure out whether you have the right house? Or, wandering whether your hotel really does have off-road parking and a sea view? Simply click onto the pinned location on your phone, scroll done the information page and select ‘Street View.’ Et voila! Now you can be doubly sure that what you see is what you get. Even if that is just some roadworks.


Voice Search 

Trying to type with fat fingers in the rain on a street corner while holding five bags can be challenging. So why not ask Google Maps for what you want with your voice?

‘Where is the nearest coffee shop?’ will show you all the coffee shops in your immediate area, and ‘get directions to the British Museum from Holborn station’ will ensure that you save time and get to where you want without the typing.


Location information page

Need to find out whether a shop is still open, or whether the restaurant you have selected for lunch has good reviews? Perhaps you just need a telephone number to make a reservation, or save the restaurant to your Maps app so that you can find it later. No problem – simply click onto the pin and a page will come up with all the information you need about your chosen destination. (Obviously Time Out is the BEST choice if you really want location info – ed.)


Transit information

While many commuters use Google Maps to find the quickest way across town, this is one of the useful aspects of the app, especially on the go. The app will give you a number of the quickest routes you can take, using real-time information and all public transport links. Advanced users can choose a ‘preferred mode’ (like a bus, if you prefer), by selecting this under ‘options.’


Offline maps

Not everyone can afford roaming charges when they are abroad, so the offline mode in Maps means you won’t get lost or use data. Search for ‘Lisbon’ or ‘New York’ before you head over, and pull up the place information sheet at the bottom of the screen, touch the menu and select ‘save offline map’ for happy travelling without the fees.


Drop a pin to share location

If you’re planning to meet a friend in a crowded area or even in a large park where there are no landmarks to identify a meeting spot, simply touch your screen to drop a pin to the map. Then select ‘share’ and send along the pin top your friend so that they know exactly where you are. Ta da!

Like maps? Check these out:

A map to show the personality types of each London borough 

A medieval tube map of London

An interactive map that shows where London’s second languages are spoken 

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