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Navigating a city without data roaming and paper maps

July 5, 2013

Smooth navigation is one of the key components to any city visit. Since we’ve been living in Europe, we’ve taken a lot of long weekend trips to different cities, although this applies to longer trips as well. Generally for larger cities we like to do some research ahead of time, find recommended places to eat, choose a museum or gallery to visit and interesting neighborhoods to wander. In the past we’ve made a google map loaded up with all of our potential stops, but the problem has been how we access the map once we are on foot, away from wi-fi. We’ve tried navigating using paper maps and taking screen shots of the populated google maps… what a mess, I wanted to tear my hair out!

I knew there must be a way to navigate freely and easily in this age of smart phones and electronic maps, so I was ecstatic to discover CityMaps2Go, an app for downloading offline, searchable maps that can be used for navigating via GPS without a data connection. The maps allow you to pin points of interest, similar to the features of google maps we were previously using, and syncing between devices.

This solution:
1. Pinpoints our exact location
2. Helps us navigate to previously identified points of interest
3. Cost only a few dollars for unlimited map downloads

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Here’s the 4 step method.


Step 1 – Download and install CityMaps2Go

iphone or ipad

Step 2 – Download map/s onto your device

Depending on your itinerary, you might choose a city or a region. Each map comes embedded with different amounts of information about points of interest or business addresses, depending on information available in the OpenStreetMap.

Step 3 – Populate the map with your personal “pins”

You have several options:
1. Search for the name of the business within the map, tap the name in the map, tap blue arrow to view the details, and create a pin by touching the + by “Pin”
2. Search for the address within the map, then tap and hold near the location (best to zoom in) to create a new pin.
3. Search for the landmark using another program and zoom in to the same location on your map, create a new pin.

We color code our pins, separating restaurants, shops, hotel, etc. Each pin can be loaded up with details as a note. Think phone numbers, opening hours, special exhibitions.

Step 4 – Ready to roam!

Even with data turned off, you can use GPS to locate yourself on the map with a handy cone of vision, at any resolution. You can easily add pins to save locations on-the-go, or browse your personal selection of pins by tapping on them at any zoom level.

What we love about this method is that it gives us an overview of where we want to explore but we also have the specifics. We see our own destinations but don’t have to bother with tourist maps or city guides that have millions of museums or restaurants piled on. Usually we build up a selection of options to suit rain, sun, sweet cravings, designy shopping, or whatever the mood. And when we’ve wandered too long and need nourishment in a hurry, information already embedded in the map can be very helpful!

Enjoy CityMaps2Go! And if you have additional tips, we would love to hear about it. -Alison & Howie


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  1. Peggy says:

    Fantastic app! This is something my husband had wished for but never knew existed! Thank you for sharing this.

    Also, just a note about your website in general. It’s wonderful – the videos, the photos and descriptions of food, COLORS!! You two are a great team!!

    • roamer says:

      Glad you are enjoying the website! When we found out about the app and started using it, we also wondered why we never knew about it. It’s fantastic! Thanks for the nice comment Peggy =)