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It’s time for the ultimate showdown…
Maps.me vs Google Maps.
Dun dun dun!
Experienced travelers know that the right map app is key. This is especially true with offline maps.
Offline maps are clutch if you:
- Don’t have a local SIM card, data plan, or hotspot for travelers
- Are traveling somewhere with a shoddy connection or no wifi
- Like to hike off-the-grid
So let’s put this argument to rest once and for all. Are there maps better than Google maps? What about Maps.me — could it really take the crown for the best map app for travelers?
To determine the winner, let’s compare their features side by side.
Table of Contents
- Maps.me vs Google Maps: Quick comparison
- The offline map debate: Are there maps better than Google Maps?
- Google Maps vs Maps.me features
- Maps.me and Google Maps alternatives
Maps.me vs Google Maps: Quick comparison
Google Maps and Maps.me offer similar features. It’s the user interface and the way you can interact with the navigation apps that set the two apart.
Here’s a quick view of the main differences:
|Download Maps for Offline Use||✅||✅|
|Multiple Transport Modes available in Offline Maps||❌||✅|
|Detailed Information on Points of Interest||✅||❌|
|Ability to Save Places & Access in Offline Maps||✅||✅|
|Web + Mobile Interface||✅||❌|
Every traveler is different. And the best offline map for you comes down to what you use it for.
To help you decide, here’s a deep dive into the two navigation apps to test their online and offline map powers.
The offline map debate: Are there maps better than Google Maps?
Google dominates in so many online areas these days with its far-reaching grasp, unlimited cash resources, and talented developers. It’s hard to imagine another humble maps app could outdo them. But you might be surprised. Maps.me uses a different type of platform, which many people prefer.
Google maps and Map.me are two of the best navigation apps for travelers. And while they offer similar features, the method which they use to gather their data is different.
And this difference is very important.
Google Maps uses data collected by Google and third-party partners. Map users can suggest edits, but they aren’t guaranteed to make it into the map. Maps.me, on the other hand, is built entirely on user-generated data. Anyone can add to and help improve maps, and millions of people have.
This is one of the major differences between Maps.me and Google Maps, and its implications may affect which you choose to use.
Google Maps vs Maps.me features
To appreciate the pros and cons of each app, it’s important to understand what the ideal map app should include.
You should be able to:
✅ See various route options, accurate time estimations (including traffic), and multiple modes of transportation (walking, biking, driving, and public transport)
✅ Save favorite places for offline use
✅ Feel confident that map data is up to date
✅ Discover new places of interest, including reviews, photos, and hours of operation
Let’s see how well Google Maps and Maps.me can do these things — especially when offline.
Downloading and using maps offline
Sometimes a video is worth a thousand words.
This video shows how to quickly download offline maps on both apps, plus one peculiar reason why you might want to avoid using maps at all.
Spoiler alert: To use maps offline, you’ll need to go online first — no matter which maps app you choose.
Whichever app you choose, you need to do some prep work before hitting the road. Having offline maps ready to go (and even with pre-planned routes and favorite places earmarked) can save a lot of headaches later.
It could mean the difference between enjoying a new city and fighting with your phone to figure out where to go and how best to get there.
When you hop on wifi, both apps automatically detect your location and let you quickly download the map for that area. You can also type in another location into the search bar to download your next destination.
How to download Google Maps offline
1. Open the app (make sure you’re online and signed into your Google account).
2. Tap your profile picture in the top right of the screen.
3. Tap Offline maps.
4. Tap Select your own map.
5. Adjust the download box by zooming in or out (the bigger the box, the more memory it uses).
6. Tap Download.
Alternatively, you can simply search for a city using the main search bar; look near the bottom of the screen where it says Directions, Start, Save, etc; scroll the menu to the right; and tap Download.
How to download Maps.me offline
When you zoom in to the location you’re interested in, the app will automatically ask you if you’d like to download the map.
There aren’t any storage limits and Maps.me maps seem to take up less memory. So if you’re visiting many cities (or countries) in a short period, feel free to go on a downloading spree to store all the maps safely on your phone.
Winner: Tie. Maps.me has a better interface, no download limit, and uses less memory. But Google Maps allows you to more finely tune the exact part of the map you want to download (instead of downloading an entire country or region).
Finding new places and saving them to offline maps
The best navigation apps don’t just tell you how to get from A to B. They also help you discover new places to go to.
Meticulous travel planners need an app that lets them save their must-visit sites to an offline map.
And more “wing it” type travelers need a map app that gives them fresh ideas of places to visit on the go.
Discovering places using Google Maps
With the vast network of businesses registered on Google My Business and other Google services, there is no shortage of suggestions within Google Maps.
Buttons are visible underneath the search bar for discovery, and scrolling down further gives you a large list of categories to choose from.
The Explore tab on the bottom left corner shows recent reviews and photos of places near you as well.
Google Maps provides you with all of the information you’d want to know about whatever point of interest you find — including the exact location, opening days and times, business levels, searchable reviews (don’t we all type ‘wifi’ into the search box before going to a place?!), and sometimes even photos of the exact dish you want to order.
Saving places with Google Maps is done via lists. You must be signed in to Google to do this, and your saved places will sync to your computer.
You can save to three pre-made lists (Favorites, Want To Go, and Starred) or create your own. This is super duper handy. It was a useful van life hack for planning our route (we often had no service). But it’s an advanced travel tip for any type of traveler.
Finding and saving places has to be done while online before you download the map to your phone. To make sure you have all the info you need offline, save any place you are remotely interested in. To stay organized, you can even create a separate list for places that look kinda interesting.
Discovering places using Maps.me
Saved places in this navigation app are called Bookmarks, and they’re easy to make.
Tap the star button to generate a new bookmark, then name it and save it to a category.
Unfortunately, there’s no web interface for this navigation map like Google Maps, which means all pre-trip and on-the-go research will need to be done on your phone.
The good news is, since you downloaded entire city (or even country) maps offline ahead of time, you can search for places even while offline — even if you didn’t save them to your bookmarks beforehand.
The cool thing about Maps.me is it’s user-generated. That means if you find a cool outdoor gym or delicious street food, you can mark it on the map for other travelers to find. So you may find points of interest on Maps.me that aren’t on Google Maps. That said, in most cases, Google Maps data is more robust than Maps.me.
Winner: Google Maps is a clear winner here over other navigation apps.
It has the option of a dual interface (phone and web) for better planning, and their search results with the information available to each result outperform open-source maps of Maps.me. At least they do in most places. That said, in some countries, islands, and off-the-grid places, user-generated data is better — especially for hiking trails.
Setting up map directions while using offline
So you’ve saved the location of your guesthouse as well as a few must-sees. Which app has better offline navigation to actually get you there?
Navigating offline using Google Maps
This is where Google Maps tanks it as the best offline map app. Users can only get driving directions when in offline mode — no walking, biking, or public transport info. With all the tech Google has, you’d think this would be easy for them. Apparently not.
If you travel like me, you spend a lot of time hoofing it around by foot or public transport. This is one of the funnest ways to explore a city and discover hidden gems.
Sure, you can try to use the driving routes to guide your stroll, but they aren’t the most efficient (or safe). They may take you via busier roads or those with no sidewalks.
Google Maps is awesome for navigating public transport when you have internet. But if you’re using offline maps, you’re out of luck.
Navigating offline using Maps.me
Tap on the place you want to visit and click ‘Route To’ to quickly get directions. You can choose driving, cycling, or walking routes.
It’ll tell you the distance and how long you can expect the journey to take based on your type of transportation.
In many cities, Maps.me also lets you overlay metro routes so you can map out your route offline.
Winner: Maps.me is more helpful if you plan to do a lot of walking. Google Maps is better for driving. If you want to use Google Maps for walking, you can pop into a place with wifi, start your walking route navigation, then switch back to airplane mode. When you do this, Google temporarily saves all the information you need to get to your destination.
Maps.me and Google Maps alternatives
Tried both apps and still not happy? Have a look at the honorable mentions below.
The experts that brought you the awesome Windy weather app have started to dabble in the maps arena. The Windy Maps Navigation App features detailed world maps built for the everyday tourist with offline map downloads and search capabilities.
The standout for this map app is the incredibly accurate routes for hikers, bikers, and skiers — a weakness of both Google Maps and Maps.me (especially Google Maps).
Citymapper Public Transport App
Don’t expect this map app to do anything near what Google Maps or Maps.me can do.
But where it stands out, it stands out in spades. Citymapper navigation app is built for public transport, and if it were a college student, it would receive all A’s.
This navigation app is a must for digital nomads and travelers wanting to explore cities via public transport — with routes for bus, tram, subway, and train available for many of the world’s top cities.
Waze is the navigation app for all you drivers out there. If you’re the type of traveler that likes to rent a car and hit the road, this is the map app for you.
It’s a highly intuitive and interactive map that’s community-driven. It offers real-time adjustments to faster routes, accidents that may cause a delay, speed cameras, changes in traffic, and even the cheapest gas stations nearby.
Since any Waze user can submit road condition info at any time, it makes for the best navigation app for travelers who insist on self-driving. The only downside is that you need a data plan to take advantage of this real-time information.
Mitch is your typical nomadic backpacker. Or at least, he was. But after stopping in Colombia to take “one week” of salsa lessons, his life took a sharp left turn. He met a cute Colombian girl in dance class, fell in love, and got married. Over half a decade has passed since he left his career to travel the world as a digital nomad, and he’s never looked back.
Nowadays, he’s the blogger behind Project Untethered—where he runs an awesome email newsletter and Youtube channel teaching adventure-craved wanderlusters how to escape the rat race, earn money from anywhere, and build an “untethered life”.
Mitch's Travel Recommendations:
Travel Planning Resources - Everything you need to plan your trip on one convenient page.
Safetywing Insurance - This cheap travel insurance has saved me over $15,000 in medical bills.
Booking.com - Book accommodation without adding your credit card (in case you need to cancel).
Skyscanner - Find cheap flights.
Trusted House Sitters - Take care of pets in exchange for free (sometimes luxury) accommodation.
Flexjobs - Find remote jobs without having to sift through crappy ones.
Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Anytime Mailbox - Virtual mail service that can handle your mail while you’re away.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).