I have said this before and I am saying it again, I can get lost in a telephone booth if it has two exits! Yet I love to travel. I grew up in the time of paper maps and they were like the toughest puzzle to me! Then came smart phones but I resisted them for long. Eventually I got on to smart phones and Google Maps. Life became a bit easier. But even with Google Maps I have often walked to the other direction realizing it only when my location moved away further from the dots!
So when I got an invite from Google Maps to travel with them from Chandigarh to Kasauli I was happy to go on the trip! And what a voyage it was, about discovering Google Maps.
But Where are We staying?
A few days before the trip I asked the Google PR team, “So where are we staying in Chandigarh?” I got a reply that I would have to discover the hotel via Google Maps! Now that left my family and me a little nervous but then fellow blogger Nidhi Joshi was also on the same trip! If we got lost, both of us would!
Thankfully once we landed at the Chandigarh Airport the Google Team greeted us! They gave us the location on the map which was JW Marriott Chandigarh! They gave us separate cars too, so that each one of us would interact with the map in our own way! That is how the fun and a very useful journey started!
Sanket Gupta, Program Manager at Google took us through the maps. I can follow that pattern here but I will go my own way. All of us know how to navigate from point A to Point B using Google Maps. But there is much more to the maps than it!
Click on the Left Top of your Map to Access Your Tabs
Before sitting with Sanket, I was not even aware there was such a tab available for me to explore. Just by looking at the tab you can see there is much more to Google Maps! I will not be able to discuss everything from here but I will pick up the things that I found extremely useful for me, i.e. someone who has no sense of direction. But even before that, we need to know something called Google Maps Offline!
Google Maps Offline
Select the offline tab from the drop down, that I have shown in the first screen shot. It will let you download a map and save it to your phone. Next time when you don’t have an internet access due to bad connectivity or any other reason you can still use the Google Maps to find your way! No longer I am going to suffer poor connections that I get as soon as I exit the Metro Station at Rajiv Chowk!
A word of caution here though. Only driving directions work in the offline mode. Walking and public transport directions will not work!
Use Google Maps to Find a Metro Route
I wonder why I never noticed it on my own! I always tweeted asking people for the nearest metro station next to a place! You can find that right on the Google Maps. Not only Metro Route but you can find a bus route, walking route or cycling route too! Do you feel the route showed above is not correct? Or that anything on the map is not correct? Suggest an edit to the team!
Suggest an Edit to Google Maps
You feel something is not up to the mark with the maps? Anyone with a logged in account can suggest an edit to the Google Maps! When you find a place on the map, you need to tap on the bottom screen to get an expanded menu like the one in the picture above. Then use the suggest an edit link to the team. Every edit is reviewed and then approved. And if your review is approved you earn a point and that leads me to the next concept- become a local guide with Google Maps!
Become a Local Guide with Google Maps
When I started the trip from Chandigarh I had 1 point on the contributions board, I am already at Level 3 now! However I am desperately aiming at Level 4 which is 200+ points as it gives me enormous space for free on Google drive. (Update- I reached level 4 on local guides and got 1TB free space for two years on Google Drive. Yes it is one terabyte. I can upload all I want for two years and keep it. Won’t be able to upload more after two years!) You can start contributing too. Check out the page for how one can accumulate points on Local guides and what are the associated benefits. You can accumulate points by reviewing a place, adding a photo etc. At the moment I am having a gala time with the contributions feature! They take some time to approve photos but the review go online instantly!
Add Pit Stops to Your Journey
Now in the navigation mode you can search along the route for petrol pumps, restaurants etc. You can search by tapping on the search icon on the top right hand corner. Then when you find something where you would like to add, tap on it and add it as a pit stop. You can navigate to your stop and then continue to your destination!
Book a Taxi
You can book a taxi right from your Google Maps. Instead of the car icon, choose the taxi icon to see the options. For this to work you should have taxi apps on your phone. I only have Ola on my phone hence it is showing Ola only. If you have both Ola and Uber it will show both the options!
To me Google Translate feels like magic. To make it work offline you would need to download the language packs you wish to use. For example if you are going to Germany and wish to translate to English download both the packs. You also need to download the Translate App. Now point your app in picture mode to anything written in German and you will see it in English on your screen! I am certainly going to put it to good use when I visit a non English speaking country next! When I showed this to my techie husband he did not agree to him it was not magic but to me it is!
There is much more to Google Maps. Depending on the language your phone supports you can get the maps in Hindi! The maps give you estimated time of your journey and live traffic in the online mode. You might have noticed taxi drivers rerouting themselves on the map! You might be doing it yourself!
Do give me your feedback, how did you find the tips? From my side I used Google maps in London a lot and I will review it in near future! But before that another trip is coming up!
If you look at the picture I will try to tell a story. This is Leeds City Center. I was trying to find a place around it! It is the story about me being capable of getting lost in a telephone booth if it has two exits!
Photo Credit Alastair Wallace / Shutterstock.com
When I reached Leeds in the evening, after finding the Park Plaza hotel (which I managed to do without too much trouble) my next task was to find the conference venue. It was called Cloths Hall Court. I had a paper map in my hand and after looking at it, of course proceeded in completely opposite direction. Then I asked a police personnel about Cloths Hall. He asked which street and I told him Quebec Street. So, he sent me back towards my hotel.
After meandering on one or two streets, I managed to see a building named Cloths Hall Court and I was happy again for this too was just two minutes walk from the Park Plaza. However, the door was locked and a notice said if you need assistance, call this number and there was a phone next to it too. I thought the place was closed in the evening and I would come there in the morning again.
Later I walked around a bit, picked up a pizza and walked back to my hotel room. It was nine at night by now. I tried to work with my paper. After an hour I realized that I was fast asleep holding it! I didn’t blame myself for this as I had reached London in the morning after spending a good part of the night at the Indra Gandhi International Airport in Delhi and the rest of it on the plane. And then I traveled from London to Leeds on a Megabus (super fares, 10.50 pounds as I had booked in advance via the internet and 5.50 for return on a Sunday morning when they changed the clock) with very small seats. So I didn’t blame myself at all if I fell asleep while trying to read my own paper!
Then I woke up early the next morning (spent some time with the paper) and ran down to the restaurant to have a breakfast. Thinking that I knew the venue, I gave myself just about 7-8 minutes to reach, after all it was just a two minuets walk.
So, I walked down the Quebec Street and found the building, only it was still locked. I was wondering what my institute would do to me if I failed to find the correct venue and missed my paper presentation after they had shelled out all that money! Whatever came to the mind, nothing was pleasant.
Then I decided to ask for help. I asked a young girl who was passing by if she knew where the entrance to the building was. To my horror she pushed back her hair and took out her earphones. I could not see she was listening to music and was quite embarrassed to disturb her. She had no clue about the entrance but gave me a million dollar suggestion. She said, “Why don’t you walk to the other side of the building and see if the entrance is from that side?”
I did exactly as she suggested and of course there was a sign announcing the conference. I still had two minuets till my session started and I was anyway the last speaker. The good folks at the conference registered me quickly, gave my name tag and I found my room without too much trouble. And to my relief there were just a few people inside the room. All the vistas of not being able to present my paper disappeared and some of the participants were even more nervous than me!
PS. If you are in Leeds, UK you would probably like to check out the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Saltaire, UK.
I started my India travel blog, Travel Tales from India in 2005. In 2016 I realized Travel Tales from India and Abroad better reflected my writings. I love to walk and ride in metros around the world. I have not been everywhere, I am not even close, but it is on my list. I also quit my job as a professor in 2015, it was a happening year! I did a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur ages ago!
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