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Google Maps tips and tricks: 22 things to try next time you drive

Google Maps is a fantastic tool, but there's an awful lot more to the service than just finding your way around. Whether you're looking for the best way to get home after work, finding a good restaurant to grab some grub, or working out when it's the best time to go to the supermarket, Google Maps has your back. 

But with so much on offer, it's easy to miss some of the really useful features. So here are 22 of the best Google Maps tips to try out.

Find the nearest COVID vaccination and testing site

If you still haven't managed to get a COVID vaccine, or you have symptoms and need a test, Google Maps can show you exactly where you need to go. Just search for "covid vaccine" or "covid test" plus your location, and Google Maps will highlight relevant spots in your vicinity. 

Results for both will show you whether you need an appointment or a referral, which patients are actually eligible to show up, and even if there's a drive-thru option. 

The pandemic means curbside pickup is now more prevalent than ever before, and Google Maps has added features to help you take advantage of that where it's available.

Curbside pickup information has been rolling out on Maps' business profiles, and includes all you need to know about minimum orders, delivery windows, and other fees that are involved. Maps can also tell you when it's time to leave, and forwards your ETA to the store so your order is ready as soon as you arrive.

This feature is still in beta, and won't be available everywhere, so keep your eyes peeled for when it rolls out at stores near you.

 Add music to your drive

If you’re using Google Maps while driving, you can sync it with YouTube Music, Spotify and (on iOS) Apple Music, so you can control your tunes from within the Maps app itself.

Just head to the settings menu and hit “navigation controls.” iOS users will then have to hit “Music playback controls” while Android users will see “Show Media playback controls.”

Switch that on and a pop-up menu will appear with a list of compatible apps you have installed. Follow the setup instructions to connect your accounts. Every time you go for a drive you'll see a balloon at the side of the screen that gives you access to those controls.

 Go incognito 

If you need to go off the grid, or at least don't want Google Maps remembering where you've been, make sure to put yourself in Incognito Mode before you set off. That way, no record of your journey will be kept in the Maps app.

Simply tap your profile picture in the top right corner of the screen, hit Incognito Mode, and you're good to go. Should you ever want Google Maps to start keeping tabs again, you can switch it off by doing the same steps and hitting "Turn off Incognito Mode."

Measure distance

Google Maps will always tell you how long a specific route is, but you can also plot out your own custom routes and see exactly how far you're going to go. It's pretty easy too, regardless of whether you use desktop or mobile.

On desktop, just right-click on a spot and click “Measure distance” to set your start point. Every time you click in subsequent locations, Google will plot a straight line and tell you how far that distance is. The total is displayed at the bottom of your screen.

Mobile works in a similar way, except starting off requires you to tap and hold to drop a pin on the screen. From there you swipe up to bring up the relevant menu, and extra spots can be added using the '+' button. Mobile users will also only be able to see the total distance, and not individual distances between two points.

Customize your vehicle

You don’t have to be stuck with the default blue arrow. Similar (but not as nice) as Waze, Google Maps will let you change it to one of three vehicles: a red car, green pickup truck, or a yellow SUV. Simply set yourself up with a route to navigate and tap the arrow (or dot) that represents you. Nice and easy.

Time travel

Desktop users don't have to live with the current, most up to date Street View imagery. They can 'time travel' so to speak, and check out what a particular location looked like at different points in time. Or for as long as Google has been collecting Street View data, anyway.

Simply drag the little yellow figure from the bottom right corner to enter Street View, and in the top left you’ll see a black box with a drop down menu next to a little clock. Clicking it brings up a scroll bar that lets you go back and see exactly how an area looked on previous Google Van visits.

Go hands-free with Google Assistant

Google maps obviously has pretty close ties with Google Assistant, which can be invaluable while you're driving. So don't forget almost anything Maps can do is available hands-free with a simple "Hey Google" command. At least it is on Android.

iOS users will have to go through an extra step, which involves tapping the microphone in the top right corner of the screen. This also works for Android users who don't have Assistant switched on. 

So whether it's asking Google to find you a gas station, tell you when your next turn is, or control your music playback, it can all be done without taking your attention off the road.

Advanced one-handed gestures 

You don't need two free hands to enjoy some of Google Maps' many gesture controls. In fact it's been designed to let you do it one-handed, while your other hand is kept on the wheel. Those gestures include:

Zooming in by double tapping and holding your finger against the screen. You can then zoom in and out by swiping up and down.

Change map orientation is another big one, which involves pressing your finger and thumb against the screen and spinning them in a circular motion.

Change perspective by swiping two fingers on the screen. Swiping up offers a bird's-eye view of the area, while swiping down takes you back to the traditional top-down perspective.

Avoid crowds

No one likes a crowd, and Google Maps can help you avoid them when you're out running errands. Find a location, any location, in Google Maps and it will tell you the best and worst times to visit. It even shows you roughly how busy it is at that exact point in time.

This feature applies to grocery stores, restaurants, parking lots, and even some parks and outdoor spaces. Google will even remember where your car is if you press the blue dot and hit Save your parking (Android) or Set as parking location (iOS).

See AR Live View walking directions

It's not easy navigating from a top-down perspective, especially in a strange place. Thankfully, Google Maps has an augmented reality feature that overlays direction arrows on top of the world around you. 

There are some caveats to this feature. The first is that your phone needs to support Apple ARKit or google ARCore, and the second is that there needs to be good Street View coverage. No Street View means no AR, unfortunately.

But to get AR navigation simply set up a route to your intended location, and hit the Live View button at the bottom of the screen. Hit Start on the pop-up message and then let Google Maps scan the area around you. Once it's figured out where you are, those directions will flash up on screen.

Google Maps indoor live view directions

Google Maps also recently launched Indoor Live View, designed to help you get around complicated buildings like shopping malls, train stations, airports, and so on. It's currently only available in select malls in parts of the U.S., and transit stations in parts of Japan, but Google is planning a wider rollout as time goes on.

Get real-time transit data

Google Maps isn't just for driving. It's invaluable for anyone relying on public transportation to get around. In fact it even offers real-time updates on trains and busses, visible once you opt for the Public transit option when getting directions.

You can even ask Google Assistant for that information, so you don't need to load up your phone to figure out if you should be running to the platform or stop.

Google Maps also features a bunch of information about transit stations, such as handicap accessibility, temperature of train cars, and whether there's any security on site.

Plan your commute

Checking your directions is only one part of planning a trip ahead of time. You also need to know what the traffic is likely to be like after you leave. So be sure to specify your departure and arrival windows.

First, search for your intended location and hit Get directions. Once the route preview comes up, hit the three dot menu in the top right corner and select Set depart or arrive time. Google will then use its vast swaths of data and knowledge of the road conditions to estimate what the road will be like when you want to leave.

Navigation isn't always about going from A to B. Sometimes you have to move onto point C and D as well. Luckily Google Maps can accommodate your needs, by letting you add up to nine extra stops to your journey.

Load up your navigation preview again and hit the three dotted menu in the top right corner. Then select Add stop, which flashes up an extra destination bar to find where you need to go. Those extra stops can also be rearranged by pressing and holding the two horizontal lines on the right side of each bar.

Share your location and trip progress

There's no need to text your friends giving them your ETA, because there's a better way — especially if you're the one behind the wheel. Google Maps lets you share your trip progress, so they can check in and see where you are. That also makes it a useful security tool in certain situations.

Simply open up maps and start your navigation, then swipe up from the bottom toolbar and select Share trip progress. Pick the contact or app you want to send your progress to and the recipient will get a link that lets them track you in real time. To stop sharing follow the same steps, but this time press Stop sharing. Google Maps will automatically end the sharing once you arrive at your destination as well.

Download maps for offline directions

Cell service isn't always consistent, and that can play havoc with your navigation if you haven't planned ahead. Fortunately Google has accounted for these eventualities, letting you download portions of the map for offline use.

Head into Google Maps and press your avatar on the right-hand side of the search bar to open up the menu. Select Offline Maps and move the blue bar to the area you want to save and hit Download. You can scroll the map around or zoom in and out, but remember that the larger the area you save, the more storage space it will take up.

Find new places and save them for later

Google Maps is also an invaluable tool to find things in your local area. That's exceptionally useful if you are in a strange place, or simple want to see what else is out there. 

You can search for what's around you, or you can use the dedicated hot keys Google has under the search bar. The most common requests like gas stations and restaurants are front and center, but if you scroll all the way to the end you can see a full list of businesses and amenities you can track down at the push of a button.

And if there are any you like, or want to check out again later, be sure to hit the Save option to bookmark that location to one of the custom lists Google Maps lets you create and share.

See where you’ve been

If you're terrible at remembering where you've been, you're in luck, because Google Maps will do that for you as part of the 'Your timeline' feature.

Hit your avatar in the top right, at the end of the search bar and tap the Your Timeline option about halfway down the menu. This will tell you where you've been throughout each day. It's all recorded automatically, but you can also add your own notes where necessary.

And, if you'd rather Google Maps didn't keep tabs on where you've been and when you were there, this feature can be turned off in the settings menu. Open the setting menu and pick Personal content. From there, select Location History and make sure it's switched off. You may also want to toggle off Timeline emails so Google doesn't fill your inbox with a list of places you've been.

Get indoor directions

Google Maps doesn't just offer outdoor directions; it's available for certain indoor locations too — including museums and sports arenas. Some of them even support maps for different floors, so you're far less likely to get lost.

The maps even highlight important indoor landmarks, like ARM machines, information desks, and bathrooms.

Book hotels, restaurant reservations, workout classes and more

You can find pretty much any business within Google Maps, and you don't have to leave to make a booking at one. Google partnered with a bunch of third-party services such as Experia,, and OpenTable, all to let you place a reservation there and then. Just find a business and load up the business profile to get it done.

Android users using Google Pay will also be able to pay from Google Map, and the app itself will also add your plans to Google Calendar if you use it.

Check weather and air quality

Google Maps has plenty if different layers for see real-time information in any given area. Two of the most useful ones cover weather and air quality. That way you'll be able to see current and forecasted weather for another location, as well as how good the local air is at any given time.

Air quality is currently restricted to the U.S., India, and Australia, but the weather layer is currently rolling out worldwide. Simply hit the button on the right side of the screen showing a square with a triangular line underneath to bring up the menu.

Choose more eco-friendly driving options

Whether you deeply care about the environment, or just want to make every ounce of gas last as long as possible, Google Maps can help you with more eco-friendly routes. 

The idea here is that google Maps will avoid the fastest or shortest routes, and instead send you down the one that uses the least fuel. Because all those stop signs, traffic lights, and other obstacles all work to reduce fuel economy. Drivers in some regions will also get alerts if they're heading to a low emission zone.

This feature is enabled by default, though users can opt out in the settings menu if they prefer.


How to download maps from Google Maps to get driving directions offline

  • To download maps from Google Maps, you just need to search for the location you want and tap "Download."
  • Once you've downloaded a Google map, you can see it even when you're offline.
  • Maps can only be downloaded using the Google Maps smartphone or tablet apps.
  • Visit Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.

Where would we be without Google Maps? If you're on the road and run into an area without internet, the answer might be: "I have no idea." 

If you know that you'll be heading somewhere without internet that you don't know well, consider downloading the maps you need from Google Maps beforehand. This will make sure that you never lose your way.

Here's how to download maps from Google Maps to use offline.

What to know before downloading from Google Maps

To access your offline map, just use Google Maps normally. When you scroll to the location you downloaded, you should see the street names and major landmarks.

But before you place all your hopes in a downloaded map, note that the downloads come with some limitations.

You won't be able to download transit, biking, or walking directions when using downloaded directions. The map will likely still be pretty blurry. You also won't have access to traffic information, alternate routes, or lane guidance. And if the routes change for whatever reason — maybe there's construction blocking a road — you won't be alerted.

Downloaded maps will also take up storage space on your phone (you'll be told how much before you attempt the download), so it's a good idea to double check that you have enough space to accommodate the new download.

google maps download 3.PNG
William Antonelli/Insider

And lastly, in some regions, offline downloading isn't an option due to contractual limitations and language support.

How to download maps in Google Maps on an iPhone or iPad

iPhone and iPad users who are familiar with the Google Maps app should find this process pretty painless. Here's how to get started:

1. Open your Google Maps app and make sure that you're logged into your Google account.

2. In the search bar, search for the location you want to save, like "Portland."

3. The map will scroll to show the location you searched, and a tab will appear at the bottom of the screen that repeats the address and offers a few options. Below the address, scroll to the right and tap "Download."

google maps download 2
William Antonelli/Insider

4. You'll be asked to confirm that you want the download, and told how much space it'll take up on your phone. Tap "Download" to start it.

google maps download 1
William Antonelli/Insider

How to download maps in Google Maps on an Android

Downloading maps on your Android device is just as easy.

1. Open your Google Maps app and make sure that you're logged into your Google account.

2. In the search bar, search for the location you want to save, like "Geneseo."

3. When it appears, tap on the name of the location at the bottom of the screen to pull up a tab with more details.

google maps download 5
William Antonelli/Insider

4. Select Download, and then confirm by pressing Download again. You'll be told how much space the offline map will take up before you confirm.

google maps download 4
William Antonelli/Insider

Important: To delete your downloaded maps, open Google Maps and tap your profile picture in the top-right corner, then tap Offline Maps. You'll be shown all your saved maps — to delete one, tap the three dots next to it and select Delete.

Devon Delfino contributed to a previous version of this article.

William Antonelli

Editor & Staff Writer for Tech Reference

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Google Maps

Navigate your world faster and easier with Google Maps. Over countries and territories mapped and hundreds of millions of businesses and places on the map. Get real-time GPS navigation, traffic, and transit info, and explore local neighborhoods by knowing where to eat, drink and go - no matter what part of the world you’re in.

Get there faster with real-time updates
• Beat traffic with real-time ETAs and traffic conditions
• Catch your bus, train, or ride-share with real-time transit info
• Save time with automatic rerouting based on live traffic, incidents, and road closures

Discover places and explore like a local
• Discover local restaurant, events, and activities that matter to you
• Know what’s trending and new places that are opening in the areas you care about
• Decide more confidently with “Your match,” a number on how likely you are to like a place
• Group planning made easy. Share a shortlist of options and vote in real-time
• Create lists of your favorite places and share with friends
• Follow must-try places recommended by local experts, Google, and publishers
• Review places you’ve visited. Add photos, missing roads and places.

More experiences on Google Maps
• Offline maps to search and navigate without an internet connection
• Street View and indoor imagery for restaurants, shops, museums and more
• Indoor maps to quickly find your way inside big places like airports, malls and stadiums

* Some features not available in all countries

* Navigation isn't intended to be used by oversized or emergency vehicles




Navigate your world faster and easier with Google Maps. Over countries and territories mapped and hundreds of millions of businesses and places on the map. Get real-time GPS navigation, traffic, and transit info, and find what you need by getting the latest information on businesses, including grocery stores, pharmacies and other important places.

Get where you need to go efficiently:
• Find the best route with automatic rerouting based on live traffic, incidents, and road closure

Find important businesses:
• Know what’s open in your area and their latest business hours
• Find local restaurants offering delivery and takeout
• Create lists of your important places

Get there faster with real-time updates
• Beat traffic with real-time ETAs and traffic conditions
• Catch your bus, train, or ride-share with real-time transit info
• Save time with automatic rerouting based on live traffic, incidents, and road closure
• With Live View in Google Maps, see the way you need to go with arrows and directions placed right on top of your world. There’s no second guessing or missing another turn.

More experiences on Google Maps
• Offline maps to search and navigate without an internet connection
• Street View and indoor imagery for restaurants, shops, museums and more
• Indoor maps to quickly find your way inside big places like airports, malls and stadiums

Some features not available in all countries

Navigation isn't intended to be used by oversized or emergency vehicles

Thanks for using Google Maps! This release brings bug fixes that improve our product to help you discover new places and navigate to them.

Ratings and Reviews

out of 5

M Ratings

The best out there

So I am a truck driver, I use this app to guide me in my travels. It’s a 21th century road atlas. A lot of old school truck driver always cry about this saying it will get you in a bind. I say, it’s a great tool to use and the misuses of it, like tool will get you in a bind. Would one use a hammer to insert a screw? A paper atlas won’t tell you traffic updates, speed traps, items in the road, places to park or eat. At any rate I use this app in Satellite view, I look in great detail the route it’s plotted out for me. I look at streets, roads, everything. You see I am making sure trucks can go down the route. If I see a truck on a street along my route, I know that there is a 80% chance I can. I look to make sure it’s not trying to send me down a ATV trailwhich how accurate Google maps isto even have such trails on a map is amazing. In the end it’s a great tool for drivers car or truck. For walkers or bicycles. Just use it SMART. It’s not design to fail you. Only you can do that. Plan your route, look at it, while driving, READ the road signs. Don’t just use this I.E: input destination, and gofollow it blindly. It’s that actionthat will get you in a bind.


It’s alright. Buggy sometimes even with good signal. When I search along the route it will sometimes not come up with any search results, only for me to pass the very thing I searched for prior in my drive. And no it wasn’t a new business, it had been around for years. Also when I search places, one will say it’s 10 minutes out of the way while the other says only a few. Only to realize that the faster one ended up not being as simple as they said, and that the slower one (+10 minutes) was only slow because for some reason it had me take side roads completely around it before arriving, when I could have simply turned directly into it from the road I was on, making it a quick trip. Not all gas stations show up in searches, it almost seems to favor the expensive gas stations. There’s doesn’t seem to be an algorithm that keeps track of the bad traffic times. It will re rout my whole trip to a significantly slower route if it senses traffic, even if that traffic is close to the end of my trip hours away and will be cleared well before I get to that point. If you’re a contractor that has to go in and out of many neighborhoods, it normally recognizes certain entrances while not recognizing others, so it will take you completely around the neighborhood 30 minutes away to the other entrance when you have just passed a perfectly good entrance that has been around forever. It’s still one of the better gps apps, but still way to buggy to trust it

Head north or south??!!

This app routinely gives directions by saying head north, south, east, or west on a certain road. Now, I’m not a moron and I know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west and whatnot and it is easy enough to figure out my cardinal directions if it is early morning or late afternoon but when there are fifteen people waiting for me to make a turn and it’s high noon, overcast, a moonless night or any of a half dozen other circumstances under which it is difficult to decipher cardinal directions on the fly I REALLY wish it would just say go left or right!!!! I cannot tell you how many times I have just picked a direction and turned the wrong way and then had to wait on the app to re-route me when it could have been easily avoided by simply saying turn left instead of head north. I use the app a lot since I drive for a popular delivery service and when I get lost because I head north instead of south I end up being late for my delivery which lowers my tip and my rating which reduces the number of deliveries I am offered and impacts my ability to make a living all because it expects me to figure out north from south when I’m already stressed, in a hurry, and trying to arrive somewhere I’ve never been before all while being timed. I’m certainly not the only person who can’t tell north from south when stressed. Please, do me a favor and reduce the mental arithmetic it takes me to drive when under pressure and just say left or right.

The developer, Google LLC, indicated that the app’s privacy practices may include handling of data as described below. For more information, see the developer’s privacy policy.

Data Linked to You

The following data may be collected and linked to your identity:

  • Financial Info
  • Location
  • Contact Info
  • Contacts
  • User Content
  • Search History
  • Browsing History
  • Identifiers
  • Usage Data
  • Diagnostics
  • Other Data

Privacy practices may vary, for example, based on the features you use or your age. Learn More


Google LLC



Requires iOS or later.
Requires iPadOS or later.
iPod touch
Requires iOS or later.

English, Albanian, Arabic, Burmese, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Georgian, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Norwegian Bokmål, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Simplified Chinese, Slovak, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Thai, Traditional Chinese, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese

Age Rating

This app may use your location even when it isn’t open, which can decrease battery life.

© Google Inc.



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