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.
But today, 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.
There are other viable app alternatives for navigation. However 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 have become an integral part of the Google Maps ecosystem.
They allow users to actively contribute to the app by sharing their experiences, insights, and recommendations. This feature has been available for quite some time now.
It has proven over and over to be an effective tool for building a stronger community of travelers and explorers.
As a local guide, users have the opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise with other travelers by submitting pictures, recommendations, and reviews of the places they’ve visited. In return, local guides receive points and badges, as well as other perks.
This add to their sense of accomplishment and pride.
Becoming a local guide is a great way to not only share your experiences with others but also to discover new places and experiences that you may not have known about otherwise.
Whether you’re exploring your own city or venturing to new destinations, being a local guide can help you find the best places to visit, eat, and stay.
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 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 ones.
2. Great for when you’re in a new place
As a traveler in a new city, it can be overwhelming trying to decide where to go and what to see.
The local guides feature in Google Maps can be a game-changer in terms of saving time and making the most of your trip. Rather than spending hours sifting through online reviews and recommendations, local guides provide first-hand accounts of their experiences in a particular location.
What makes local guides so helpful is that their insights are akin to those of a friend or family member who knows the area well.
They can provide personalized recommendations based on your interests, budget, and preferences. This can be especially valuable when visiting a city for the first time and not knowing where to start.
In addition to the local guides feature, Google Maps also offers a useful tool for budget-conscious travelers.
The dollar (or euro) sign system is used to indicate the price range of restaurants and cafes. This makes it easy to choose places that fit your budget.
If you’re on a tight budget, looking for restaurants with one or two dollar signs can help you avoid overspending while still enjoying great food.
On the other hand, maybe you’re in the mood to splurge or celebrate a special occasion. You can check out restaurants with three or more dollar signs.
These establishments typically offer a more upscale dining experience and a wider selection of dishes and drinks.
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.
Look for the signs
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.
Indeed, companies have long recognized the value of being featured prominently on Google Maps.
It can translate to increased foot traffic, sales, and brand awareness. This has led some businesses to try and game the system by posting their own reviews or engaging in other shady practices to boost their ranking.
However, the local guides feature in Google Maps has helped level the playing field by providing a platform for honest, unbiased reviews from real people.
This makes it more difficult for companies to manipulate their ranking and increases the likelihood that businesses will be held accountable for their actions and the quality of their products or services.
The sheer volume of contributions from local guides also means that there is a wealth of information available on Google Maps. This helps us, the travelers to make informed decisions about where to go and what to see.
With thousands of reviews and recommendations available for any given location, it’s unlikely that any one business can completely control the narrative or sway public opinion in their favor.
Moreover, the community aspect of the local guides feature means that users can interact with one another, ask for advice, and share their own experiences. This fosters a sense of trust and camaraderie among users.
Thus it’s more likely that people will continue to use the platform and contribute to it over time.
Overall, the local guides feature in Google Maps has revolutionized the way people discover and explore new places.
By providing a platform for honest, unbiased reviews and recommendations from real people, Google Maps has helped to create a more level playing field for businesses and ensure that travelers have access to accurate, reliable information about the places they visit.
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.
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