A few weeks ago, my friends and I got lost while driving back to our cabin in Mariposa, near Yosemite National Park. A massive snowstorm had just hit the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and busy highways, roads and byways were closed. We wanted to save time on our drive, so we decided to take a shortcut (bad decision) — and of course we quickly realized we were going in the wrong direction. Additionally, neither of us had service, so we couldn’t even use Google Maps to find our way back.
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Finally, after hours of trying different roads, we managed to get to our house, but we could have avoided all that trouble by downloading Google Maps offline (and by not taking that “shortcut”). Even without internet service, Google Maps can still help you navigate where you need to go — you just have to download the right map.
If you’re planning a trip to an area where you may not have internet service, you should download a map (or several) offline from Google Maps. Here’s what you need to know.
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How to download Google Maps offline
First, you don’t need to download Google Maps completely. Instead, before your trip, you’ll want to download a specific location, be it a city, state or region where you’ll be spending time and may not have service on your phone.
To download a map from Google Maps offline, open the Google Maps app on iOS or Android and tap your profile picture in the top right (you must be signed in to your Google account for this to work). In the menu that appears, press Offline Maps > Choose Your Map.
Use your fingers to place the map you want to download within the border of the rectangle. Use one finger to navigate the map, and two-finger pinch to zoom in and out. As you move around the map, you will see how much space the download will take up on your phone. Once you’re happy with the location, tap Download.
Be careful: Alternatively, you can type a city or other location in Google Maps and hit Download A button appears in the drop-down window to download the map offline, but this only works on the iPhone.
You must be connected to Wi-Fi to download the map. If you want to download on mobile, go to Offline maps page, tap the gear icon at the top right, tap When to download offline maps and select Via Wi-Fi or mobile network. Once your map has been downloaded, you will be redirected to Offline maps page, where you can see all your offline maps.
Now you’ll be able to use Google Maps even when you’re offline in the location you’ve downloaded — and only in that location. You won’t get the most accurate travel times or other route options because traffic and other traffic issues aren’t accounted for, but you’ll get a general ballpark of how long your trip should take. Walking, biking and pedestrian directions are also not available offline — only driving directions.
If you’re looking for more tips on Google in general, be sure to read on which Google Home settings you need to change FAST and this dive deeper into Google’s Pixel 7 and the settings to customize.