The days of having to carry paper maps with us and having to be skilled map readers akin to the likes of Indiana Jones, are now mostly a thing of the past. Apps like Google Maps and the likes have now became indispensable to day to day life.
With the widespread adoption of GPS, it has never been easier to get from A to B.
Visiting the most remote places on Earth from the comfort of your couch or finding new and exciting venues that you would probably never heard about has never been easier.
Previously finding the best coffee place in town or that cool new hip vegan restaurant, was done through word of mouth.
Sites such as Yelp or Tripadvisor are still used, but less intuitive to use. If you’re in a completely new city and don’t know or have anyone to give you recommendations or for even you’re feeling adventurous, then Google Maps has a nifty feature that has you covered.
Most people with a smartphone or a computer have already, at some point interacted with Google Maps.
Although there are other viable app alternatives for navigation, few can compare to the level of fidelity and functionality that this app offers. In reality it is so much more than just a navigation app.
For us travelers, Google Maps has some serious benefits.
I’m not going to go over all the goodies this app offers as it would take weeks of writing, but i would like to focus in this post on a specific feature that i haven’t seen implemented in other apps.
At least to this degree of fidelity.
1. The “Latest in the area” feature
This is great for those of us who happen to be traveling a lot and not having a plan in mind for going out.
Or just for when we feel like being spontaneous and going with the flow.
The intent is to give a human side to a maps app. A sense community, where people can share their favorite places, activities and adventures with others.
Without the need to be specifically connected like on other social platforms.
And it’s great, because this way you get the information directly from people who have recently gone through that experience.
It really allows you to make your choice in an informed way.
Be a local guide
Local guides has been a feature in Google Maps for a while now.
It lets users contribute to the app by submitting pictures, recommendations, reviews and in return you receive points and badges.
Becoming a “Local guide” you get a nice little badge of honour next to your username and other perks.
This section of the app encourages you to share reviews of places you’ve visited and especially pictures as to also have a visual guide for fellow explorers.
Sharing your experience is a fairly straight forward experience:
- Select the place
- Add the rating in stars
- Add a description – more the better
- Add pictures/video that showcases the venue/experience the best
The “Latest in this area” feature can be accessed by swiping up on the maps screen (on smartphones) in any location.
There we are presented with a curated selection of recommendations that you can scroll through to see what’s in the area.
The social aspect of this is enhanced by the fact that people like you and me can share their experience, good or bad.
2. Great for when you’re in a new place
As someone discovering a new city, this feature can help you save hours of googling for venues, reading reviews and spending your precious time.
Instead you see recommendations similar to that of what a friend would give.
Along side this feature, specifically for restaurants, Maps also employs the use of dollar(euro) signs. This is to let you know of the price category that place is in.
So, for example, if you want to keep your experience in a budget (check here to see how to travel with even the smallest budget), then you can look for one or two dollar signs.
However if you feel like treating yourself to something nice, then most restaurants over 3 signs is a good bet.
Because at the 1 and 2 ($) the restaurants themselves are in the budget category, and thus very dependant on individual preference.
The feature we talked about earlier is a great addition to allow you to make an informed choice.
Scroll down at the restaurant page and there you will see reviews, pictures, and tips from local guides.
For example we can assume that if a place has 2 signs ($) and has lots of good reviews then it probably offers a better experience than one with 3 ($) but no reviews.
Companies will usually fight to get featured by Google’s algorithms.
Sometimes they even “sweeten things up” a bit by posting their own reviews to try to increase their ranking.
But using this feature and the fact that so many people can contribute and share their experiences means that the likelihood of getting the short end of the stick, as the saying goes, is greatly reduced.
Adding a social feature to an app like Google Maps gives it a more interactive and humane nature.
It separates it from being “just a maps app” and transforming it into a multipurpose app that is essential to any traveller finding him or herself in a new city and in desperate need of the best coffee place in town, after a long flight.
So next time when you open up the app, give it a try, take a picture of that fabulous cappuccino and become a guide. Who knows you might even enjoy it.
See you soon!