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Google Maps tips and tricks: get the most from your travels

AndroidPIT google maps tips and tricks 5
© nextpit

With this list of our favorite tips and tricks, you'll be able to do more than just get from A to B with Google Maps. Get more from this essential app, and you'll improve everything from your daily commute to your globetrotting travel plans. Check out our tips below!

Google Maps tips and tricks

Find popular places in cities Become a local guide
Explore your timeline Creating and sharing location lists
Choose your mode of transport Set route preferences
Check public transit schedules Save data with Wi-Fi-only mode
Save offline areas Share your current location
Share a location or directions Save important addresses
Use stickers and labels See it in Street View
Use gestures See it in Google Earth
Know which routes to avoid Add detours
Use your voice Delete your location history

Find popular places in cities 

Maybe you've noticed the bright beige/orange highlighted areas in Google Maps - but do you know what they are actually for? Easy! They show popular areas in cities (areas which have a high concentration of people). In most cases these areas are populated with bars, restaurants, and shops. This helps you to easily filter for areas which might be interesting to check out. Don't forget to check restaurant wait times using Google Maps in these popular areas, too!

AndroidPIT google maps areas of interest 3
Beige areas in Google Maps mean that there's a lot going on there / © NextPit

Become a local guide

Google Maps shows you opening times, reviews and photos of many shops and restaurants. These aren't just the official entries from shop and restaurant owners, but entries from the myriad of Google Maps users. Google relies on the help of many volunteers and created the Local Guide program to encourage and reward contributing users. 

google maps local guides
Rate shops and restaurants in your area / © NextPit

Explore your timeline

If you have location services enabled and use Google Maps, Google will know about almost all of your recent movements.  If you'd like to trace your footsteps, check out the "Explore your timeline" feature which shows you where you've been and the photos you've taken at said location (if you've geotagged them and uploaded them into Google Photos). 

The data is accumulated from your movement profile (which needs to be activated - in most cases, this is done when setting up your phone) as well as the geotagged data from your photos. A slightly creepy feature from Google, but nevertheless quite useful. 

google maps timeline
Trace where you've been with Google Maps / © NextPit

Creating/Sharing/Importing location lists

Got a friend that's looking for some travel tips? If you're feeling helpful, you can easily create a list in Google Maps and share them directly into it. You can do this by going into My Places > Saved > New. You can then mark locations on the map one by one and add them into your list. When you're done, you can send the link to the list to your friend. 

google maps places
Share locations with other people / © NextPit

Choose your mode of transport

Google Maps has four different modes of transport, which you can access by tapping the icon at the bottom right of the screen. Its image depends on what’s currently selected: if it’s set to driving you’ll see an icon of a car, if it’s public transport you’ll see a train, if its private transport you'll see a taxi, if it’s walking you’ll see a person, and if it’s cycling you’ll see a cyclist. Once you’ve tapped the icon you can change the mode by tapping the appropriate icon at the top of the screen.

AndroidPIT google maps tips and tricks 2
Private transport is the latest mode of transport to appear in Google Maps. / © NextPit

Set route preferences

On the screen which shows the different types of transport (car, walking, etc.), tapping Options enables you to set additional criteria such as avoiding toll roads, your preferred kind of public transport (bus, train, etc.) and whether you’re okay with lots of different bus or train transfers.

Check public transit schedules

AndroidPIT google maps tips and tricks 6
Maps knows public transit schedules for a wide range of travel options. / © NextPit

Another favorite feature: if you’re travelling by public transit, Google Maps shows you arrival and departure times for the various forms of transport available as well as the times of any transfers.

Save data with Wi-Fi-only mode

Now that you can download maps for offline use, this new feature is very useful for those who travel a lot or beginning to run out of mobile data before the end of the month.

Press on the hamburger menu, open Settings and the second option (if you're on Google Maps version 9.32 or higher) will read Wi-Fi only. Toggle the switch to ensure that Google Maps only works when your on Wi-Fi, or otherwise relies on your downloaded offline areas.

AndroidPIT google maps tips and tricks 3
Using Wi-Fi only could save you a lot of data. / © NextPit

Save Offline areas

If you’re going to be away from a data signal - or roaming in a country where accessing it costs a fortune - you can save maps for offline use, be it a neighborhood, a city or a state. Just hit the hamburger menu at the top left, tap on Offline areasand hit the plus button at the bottom of the screen to add a new area.

AndroidPIT google maps tips and tricks 7
Going where the data signal don't shine? Save your map for offline viewing. / © NextPit

Share your current location

Google Maps has a very nifty little feature integrated which allows you to share your location with a friend or even with groups. If you're planning on meeting up somewhere, or if you're on a tour and want to let friends and family know where you are, this is a great little tool. To share your location all you have to do is go into the Google Maps menu > Share location, and then pick if you want to share it for a set period of time or until you deactivate the feature. You can then pick which contacts you want to share your location with.

google maps tips tricks
Share your current location with friends. / © NextPit

Share a location or directions

Sharing a location works by pressing on the place of interest on the map, then the three dots in the upper right corner, then Share, enabling you to share via Bluetooth, by email, to Google Drive…

You can also share directions. To do this, set your desired start point and destination, choose your mode of transport and then press the trio of dots in the upper-right corner before hitting Share directionsThe recipient of the shared directions will see a summary of the instructions as well as a link. When the link is clicked, they will be able  to open the directions in Google Maps so they can start their journey. It's also possible to open the directions in another map application such as Waze, or to view them online.

AndroidPIT google maps tips and tricks 1
You can share a specific location or directions easily. / © NextPit

Save important addresses

In the app tap on Menu > Your Places and press on Home or Work to store the addresses. This speeds up the process of getting directions, and it also helps feed the inquiring mind of Google Now and its transport cards.

AndroidPIT google maps tips and tricks 13
Adding your home and work addresses makes things much easier. / © NextPit

Use stickers and labels to help you find and remember

You can use stickers to make your home and workplace stand out on the map. Just press on the hamburger menu button, then Your placesTap on the trio of dots to the right of your home or work and then select Change iconHere you will see an array of stickers to choose from.

For places you have starred, you can add a label to more easily identify and remember what the place is. Open up the information screen for the location and press on the trio of dots at the top right of the screen then Add labelHere, you can enter anything you like, be it 'bar', 'interesting view', whatever.

AndroidPIT google maps tips and tricks 12
Stickers stand out on the map and make it all a little more personal. / © NextPit

See it in Street View

Street View hasn’t disappeared in the Google Maps app, it’s just moved a bit. To see the Street View, press on or search for a location. Above the bar with the location's name and rating, there will be a small rectangular window with an image and a circular arrow. Press on this to load up Street View.

AndroidPIT google maps tips and tricks 8
Street View is in the Maps app, and it's now easier to find than before. / © NextPit

Use gestures

You already know that you can zoom in and out of maps by pinching and zooming, but you can also do it with a single digit - which is handy if you’re holding onto a handlebar with your other hand or just can’t be bothered using both hands. Double-tap the screen but don’t lift off your finger or thumb after the second tap. Slide up to zoom out and slide down to zoom in.

You can also tilt the map by sliding with two fingers - up for more tilt, down for less - and rotate the map by turning two fingers in a circular motion. In many urban areas the flat map will become a 3D model when you tilt it.

AndroidPIT google maps tips and tricks 9
You can control the zoom and tilt using finger gestures. / © NextPit

See it in Google Earth

Tap on the Menu button and select Google Earth to see the world in glorious 3D. As with Maps, you can navigate by swiping, pinching and double-tapping. Note that you will need to download and install the Google Earth app for this to work.

Know which routes to avoid

One of our very favorite things in the Google Maps app is the way it can give us live traffic information. Color coding makes everything crystal clear with green for normal traffic, yellow when things are slowing and red when you really need to go a different way or allow extra time. If it isn’t displaying go to Menu > Traffic.

AndroidPIT google maps tips and tricks 10
Color-coded routes help you determine what areas to avoid. / © NextPit

Add detours

When you're in navigation mode, merrily en route to your destination, and you suddenly remember you need to eat a muffin, you can add a quick pit stop. Just press on the magnifying glass icon and you will see some useful options, such as Petrol stations and Coffee shopsYou can also search for something more specific by pressing on the magnifying glass again and entering in your search query.

The options for pit stops will appear along your route, along with how much time the detour will add to your journey, so you can choose the most convenient.

AndroidPIT google maps tips and tricks 4
Need to stop off for some gas? Google Maps has you covered. / © NextPit

Use your voice

When you’re navigating you can control Google Maps with your voice. Just tap the microphone icon and use commands such as:

  • Turn on voice
  • Turn off voice
  • Mute
  • Unmute
  • Be quiet
  • Mute Voice Guidance
  • Show / Turn On / Display Satellite
  • Hide / Turn Off / Clear Satellite
  • Show / Turn On / Display Traffic
  • Hide / Turn Off / Clear Traffic
  • Show alternate routes
  • Show other routes
  • How else can I get there?
  • Next turn
  • What’s my next turn?
  • How else can I get there?
  • What do I do next?
  • Where do I turn?
  • Where do I get off?
  • What exit am I taking?
  • How long until my next turn?
  • What’s my ETA?

We’ve found that the voice control can be quite patchy, especially in noisy cars, so it’s probably a good idea to pause your music before you try this.

AndroidPIT google maps tips and tricks 11
...or forever hold your peace. / © NextPit

Delete your location history

If you’d rather not store details of everywhere you’ve ever been, you can delete your location history. On your device go to Settings > Location > Google Location History and use the toggle to decide whether you want it on or off, or look to the bottom of the screen and press Delete location history if you want to remove all the information Google has on your past movements.

Know any more great tips? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Brittany McGhee

Brittany McGhee

Brittany loves to keep up with the latest technology and innovation, so she is excited to have the opportunity to write about the wonderful world of Android. She thinks spreadsheets and numbers are fun, in addition to reading books and volunteering.

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  • 25
    Deactivated Account Jul 8, 2019 Link to comment

    My favorite Navigation app is Sygic which uses TomTom maps. I am a premium user of Sygic with all the features unlocked. App works offline and it works very well. Recommend for frequent travellers.

    MD.RASHED JAMAN Jan 6, 2018 Link to comment

    what is the benefits to Become a local guide? I am a local guide and working here since 2017 januery and earn level 5 but still not getting any offers from google. They are only get benefits from us but as a returns do not get anythings.

  • Steven Rhods 8
    Steven Rhods Jun 3, 2017 Link to comment

    This is pretty helpful. Thanks!

  • Brett Hermance 3
    Brett Hermance Jan 20, 2017 Link to comment

    Thanks for the tips! I really appreciate it!! I never knew!

  • Dennis Elmore 1
    Dennis Elmore Oct 22, 2016 Link to comment

    Using timeline in google maps looking at history tap calendar, you see days of month some with a grey circle around day some without? Thinking those days are i went no where, but many of mine show from one jont to 7-11 to a whole day of out and about? Anyone know their definition as to why they are there ? Why is some shaded others not

  • Aditi G 4
    Aditi G Aug 6, 2016 Link to comment

    These tips are great! Thank you.

    Brett Hermance

  • 11
    Thomas S Jul 28, 2016 Link to comment

    I have the version 9.33.0 of Google Maps and I don't have that option, "wifi only"

    • Brett Hermance 3
      Brett Hermance Jan 20, 2017 Link to comment

      update the app.

      • Brett Hermance 3
        Brett Hermance Jan 20, 2017 Link to comment

        do it through the play store app. Go to the Play store app on phone. click it. Click on the three lines icon(hamburger) and click on MY APPS. You will see what has to be updated. I have mine on automatic updates. You can set this here too.

      • Brett Hermance 3
        Brett Hermance Jan 20, 2017 Link to comment

        it may be that your phone does not have wi-fi?

  • 4
    Junaid Rauvzani Jul 27, 2016 Link to comment

    Thanks for the gesture tips. It was something new for me.

    Brett Hermance

  • 7
    Ram SIngh Jul 27, 2016 Link to comment

    Thanks for the tips.

    Brett HermanceAndrew Jones

    • 2
      Andrew Jones Jul 27, 2016 Link to comment

      I liked the check public transit module the best one.

      Brett Hermance

  • 2
    Big Ugly Apr 27, 2016 Link to comment

    There's a link in the article that leads to a column entitled, "How To Use Google Maps Offline"

    Brett Hermance

  • 1
    Juanita Southard Feb 6, 2016 Link to comment

    Im in just meet me k iw whT to do to protect my sites

  • 1
    Sue W Feb 1, 2016 Link to comment

    how do you download a route to offline?

    • 2
      Big Ugly Apr 27, 2016 Link to comment

      There's a link in this article that will go to a story entitled, "How To Use Google Maps Offline".

      Brett Hermance

    • Brett Hermance 3
      Brett Hermance Jan 20, 2017 Link to comment

      Move to the area you want to download, hit the three lines on the top left(hamburger they say??) you will see the option, download offline. You will see the highlight area of map to download and it will tell you how big the file will be and how much room you have left on your phone for the download.

    • Brett Hermance 3
      Brett Hermance Jan 20, 2017 Link to comment

      please read the article carefully.

  • 8
    Chris M. Feb 15, 2015 Link to comment

    Is there any way to save favorites in the Android app?

    Brett Hermance

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