I use offline maps in each of my travels. It has helped me multiple times in getting to places without getting lost, and without the help of the internet. There are also plenty of other reasons why I recommend using offline maps:
- You get a more detailed view than that of the printed maps. It even includes walking and hiking paths!
- You are able to plot your own points of interests, and include personal notes. My notes usually contain amount of fees (travel ticket or entrance fees), opening hours, which metro line or bus to take, or recommended dish (if a restaurant) or activity, etc.
- You can easily share and collaborate with those traveling with you.
When creating an offline map, I use two free applications:
- Google Maps
- maps.me – This needs to be downloaded and installed in the intended device before proceeding.
- With maps.me, I can download either a particular city map or even all city maps from the selected country. Google Maps only allows download of up to 120 square kilometers.
- Another reason is that, I’d like to keep a history of my maps in my devices. maps.me allows that, whereas Google Maps was said to delete offline maps after 30 days of not updating them.
- I’ve also experienced Google Maps taking a while to load in my offline maps, but never had that issue with maps.me.
If you are interested in creating an offline map, here are the steps that I follow:
- Visit Google Maps in your browser.
- If you haven’t done so, sign in to your account.
- Click on the “Menu” icon, found at the upper left corner, next to the search bar.
- Click “Your places” > “MAPS” > “CREATE MAP”.
- Click on “Untitled map” and rename your map as desired (example: San Francisco).
- Start plotting your points of interest:
- Search for the place in the search bar.
- Depending on the number of results, the location/s will be pinned onto your map. Select the desired pin then click “Add to map”. The plot is now added to your map! You can customize it by changing the icons, color, or adding notes as I mentioned earlier. The chosen color and icons will not be visible when you import this to maps.me, though. But your notes will be imported.
- Click on the “Menu” icon, then select “Export to KML”.
- Tick “Export to .KML file”, then click “Download”.
- Send the .KML file to your tablet or mobile device. You can do this by sending an email to the account that can be accessed by your devices, or you can copy it using a memory card, or using sharing applications such as “My Files“.
- Open the .KML file in your target device and choose “Import with maps.me”. Your plots should now be available in your device. As said, the notes from the KML file will also be visible in the maps.me application.
- In maps.me application, search for the target city and download the city map so that you get the detailed base map.
All the plots will be marked with the color red, by default. I like changing the colors of the plots so that I could distinguish them from each other (e.g. which ones are public transport stops, restaurants, tourist attractions, etc). If you wish to do the same, you would need to use text editor to edit the .KML file. Each plot will have an entry such as this:
<Placemark> <name>Alcatraz Cruises, LLC</name> <description><![CDATA[Price and schedule list: <br>http://www.alcatrazcruises.com/website/price-schedule-chart.aspx]]></description> <styleUrl>#icon-1899-0288D1</styleUrl> <Point> <coordinates> -122.404899,37.8065619,0 </coordinates> </Point> </Placemark>
Replace the value inside the <styleURL> tags to any of the 8 colors supported by the maps.me app using the format #placemark-<color>. The supported colors are: green, red, yellow, blue, purple, pink, orange, and brown. Here’s an example of changing it to green:
<Placemark> <name>Alcatraz Cruises, LLC</name> <description><![CDATA[Price and schedule list: <br>http://www.alcatrazcruises.com/website/price-schedule-chart.aspx]]></description> <styleUrl>#placemark-green</styleUrl> <Point> <coordinates> -122.404899,37.8065619,0 </coordinates> </Point> </Placemark>
More details can be found in here.
After saving the changes, you will need to re-import the .KML file to maps.me application.