It’s been two years since I’ve had a data plan. One year since I’ve had an active phone number. And somehow I’ve managed to travel almost all of Europe and the Middle East. How?? Here are four tricks I follow in every country to help find my way.

And YOU CAN TOO!

In Prague, I found two backpackers wandering with a lightup globe. They said it helped them choose their next destination - by Anika Mikkelson - Miss Maps - www.MissMaps.com
In Prague, I found two backpackers wandering with a lightup globe. They said it helped them choose their next destination – by Anika Mikkelson – Miss Maps – www.MissMaps.com

Do your research ahead of time
Before you leave home find the addresses and location of the accommodations and transportation stations you’ll be using. Physically write them down (do not rely solely on email – you may not have access to it right when you arrive!) Also, take a look at a map before leaving and find where you’ll first be arriving to and where you’ll need to go from there. This will give you a general idea of your route and help lead you in the right direction once there.

Download HereMaps Application
My App of choice is HereMaps – it works WITHOUT A DATA PLAN OR WIFI!
I use a Windows phone and it works perfectly 99.9% of the time as long as I download the appropriate maps ahead of time. It also works with iPhones, and I’m sure other processors will have success as well.
What to do?
When connected to wifi or your data plan, first download the application: HereMaps

Then download a map of the region you’ll be visiting. In smaller European countries, the entire country can be downloaded as one unit. In larger countries with intricate road structures such as France and Italy, maps are downloaded by region. Make sure you get the region correct, and if you have space, download surrounding regions as well just in case you sneak past the boundaries.

Test the map: Turn off your data plan and wireless signal, and type in an address for where you’ll be going. If you can see a detailed street map for that location, your map has downloaded correctly. If not, reconnect to wifi and try downloading it again.

Pin” your important locations. Type the addresses of your first accommodation and other vital points of interest. Save these locations.

Using the HereMaps app: What does this do? It means that once you arrive, and any time during your trip, you simply tap on this ‘pinned location’ and you will be shown where it is in relation to your current location.

Find your location: On the bottom left of the screen, you’ll see a small green circle. Tap this circle and your map will find your exact location. Exact. Walk three meters west and the little green dot will follow you. Turn the corner and so will your green circle. The only time this doesn’t work is in areas of poor reception like the basement of a building or a city with seriously high, dense buildings.

Get directions: Remember how you saved the important locations? Tap one of them and a little arrow will pop up saying “Get Directions”. Once a route appears, you can choose whether you want to find the route for walking, driving, or public transportation.

Finding other places: Need gas? Search for “petrol”. A market? Search for that. Want to see what else is around you? Click on “places” and various nearby restaurants, shops and accommodations will appear.

Remember, this can all be done without wifi or a data plan. If you’re having difficulties using it for whatever reason, simply try connecting to wifi and all should be good.

Stop by the Tourism Office
Pop into the tourist office, ask for a map and for the attendant to give some recommendations. I used to be embarrassed, “Everyone will know I’m a tourist if they see me entering the ‘Information’ building.” As if the gigantic backpack wasn’t a great enough give-away. And as it turns out, it’s more embarrassing to be lost.

Ask for Directions
Unless you’re in London. Londoners are notorious for purposefully giving wrong directions. It happened to me and it happened to 4 others I’ve talked to in the month since then – all separate cases. So don’t use this tactic in London.

Anywhere else – just ask. Be smart about who you ask. Pop into a shop when the tenant is not overwhelmed with customers or ask at a stoplight while waiting to cross the street. “Excuse me, I’m looking for ___. It’s this way, is that correct?” 

In areas where you may not share a language with your helper, sticking to the street name will do. “Avenida de la Rena?” Having a map in hand will also be beneficial.

Asking multiple sources along the way can be a nice reassurance that you’re aimed where you need to go.

Call me cautious, but I would advise not to give the street number you’re looking for unless you really trust the person. Even changing it by a few digits will lead you to the right area and from there, you can find your way. If you’re headed to 55 Malone Avenue, ask instead for 35 Malone Avenue. You’ll still be able to find your destination and won’t have the world knowing exactly where you are.

 

So here we go, the top four ways to get around town without a data plan or wifi:
-Do your research ahead of time
-Pick up a real, physical map from a tourist information center
-Pre-download the HereMaps Application along with the region/country in which you’ll be traveling
-Ask for directions

Safe, happy travels!
xoxAnika – Miss Maps

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