Google maps and navigation offline

For many, Google maps is a go to application if we need directions somewhere or even for navigation in their vehicle. It makes sense to use it, since it’s available on most Android phones by default, it’s free and up to date.

What happens though if you’re out in the middle of nowhere, with no mobile data signal and you need directions? These things are great while the signal is good but it can’t be used to help navigate if you’re offline, right?

Well, actually it can. Google maps offers the ability to download maps for specific regions that will allow navigation and map visibility even when offline. It’s great if you’re going for a long hike in the wilderness as a backup in case you get lost, or just if you know you’ll be out of signal while driving somewhere.

So how is it done? Easy.

Step 1 : Open the Google Maps application and search for the location you’re interested in. Here I’ve searched for a forest park I might like to go for a hike through.

Step 2 : Expand the summary of the location at the bottom of the screen by dragging it up so that the map is replaced with the overview of the location.

You should notice a 3 dots menu appears near the top right. Tap it.

Step 3 : Having tapped the menu icon, a menu will drop down and in that list of options should be Download offline map. This will then allow you to select the region of the map you want to download, starting centered on the location you have selected.

It should look something like this.

You can resize and move the highlighted area that you want to download to your device for offline use and it will also indicate how much space downloading the selected region will take on your device.

There is a limit to the size you can select in one go, but you can download more than one region. So if you can’t fit everything in one, then follow the steps above to download another region and select a different area.

You should get a message or indication that the maps will download in the background, and another when it’s completed downloading.

Having downloaded the map area you want, you should then be okay to navigate that area even with data turned off.

As a test, why not download your local area, switch to airplane mode and see if you can still navigate. You obviously won’t have live traffic and other such features but directions and turn by turn navigation should all work even without data.

It’s also a great way to save battery life by not having to be downloading map data while navigating.

Self taught software developer, photographer and fiction writer.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store