How to download Google Maps to use offline, without WiFi or data

By David Flynn, November 8 2016

Fact: travellers love Google Maps. The smartphone and tablet app comes to the rescue time and time again when you're in a city other than your home turf.

You want proof? Just look at how few people you see standing on the street studying those ungainly bedsheet-sized folding maps (and for good measure shout "Hey, look at me, I'm a tourist!").

The downside is that Google Maps requires a data connection – and unless you're cool with roaming fees or have a local prepaid SIM card that means looking for free wireless hotspots at cafes and hotels before you can find exactly where you are, pinpoint where you want to go and work out how to get.

But there's a little-known solution to the hotspot hunt: downloading Google Maps for a particular city, to use offline once you're out and about.

This can be done from the comfort of your hotel room or even at the airport lounge before your flight.

(It's also a gem in areas where there's scratchy mobile phone coverage, or none at all for that matter.)

Here's how to download Google Maps for offline use.

Open Google Maps on your smartphone or tablet and tap the thee-line menu icon at the upper-left of the screen...

... and from the menu, tap Offline areas.

There'll be an option to download what Google maps recognises as your 'Home' area – the immediate vicinity around your home. To add another city, tap the + icon at the lower-right corner of the screen.

Google Maps will open at your current location, from which you can zoom out and then move around to find another location to be saved for offline browsing.

That's fine if your desired city is relatively close by – for example, adding a map of Canberra to that of Sydney – but less useful if you're headed far way.

To add an overseas city, tap the arrow at top-left of the screen to zip back to the main Google Maps screen and enter the name of a city into the search field.

Tap the menu icon once again and select Offline Areas, then tap the + icon.

Google Maps will bounce back to the main screen to ask if you want to download the maps for that area, as well as advising how large the download will be (it's typically around 500MB for a city).

You can reduce the size of the download by zooming into the city.

Tap Download, choose a name for your offline maps set, then tap the Save button.

When the maps are ready, they'll be added to your Offline areas screen.

The default setting will download maps only over a wifi connection, so as to avoid accidentally running up your roaming bill.

But if you're downloading a map at home or en route to the airport before hopping onto a flight, and you have a fast mobile service with plenty of data, you might want to temporarily change this to allow map downloading over a cellular connection.

Tap the settings cog in the top-right corner of the Offline areas screen and change the option for 'When to download offline areas' to 'Over Wi-Fi or mobile network'.

Note that not all cities are covered by downloadable maps: Hong Kong, where offline maps would be incredibly useful, is sadly among that set.

If you find offline Google Maps to be a useful feature but a little clumsy on the implementation, Google's new Trips travel app could be your next download.

Google Trips extracts bookings and other travel-related information from your Gmail account,  and if it sees you have an upcoming flight to a certain city, the option to download that city's maps will be put front and centre on the app's home screen.

Google Trips isn't a travel management app in the same league as the awesome TripIt, for example – although it extracts bookings and other travel-related information from your Gmail account, it's more about making the most of your destination.

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

eminere

eminere

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1131

Sadly Tokyo doesn't appear to be covered as well.

henrus

henrus

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 714

Google Trips just annoys me as you can't manually add details. Sometimes work books the flights and I just don't have them in my personal email (not with gmail anyway).

mitchimus

mitchimus

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Mar 2012

Total posts 209

I prefer to use Here Maps. Easy to download and use for most places.

moa999

moa999

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1376

No issue downloading HK or Tokyo on my Android device.

Latest version of Google Maps also allow you to save to your SD card (again something that Apple doesn't offer)

eminere

eminere

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1131

I wonder if the addition of Tokyo as an offline city is new.  I tried two weeks ago on my iPhone and the app said it was not an available city.

Mast

Mast

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Jan 2014

Total posts 1

CityMaps2Go is free iPhone/iPad app that allows downloadable maps for offline use, including for Japan and Hong Kong, both for countries, regions and selected cities. Have used several times and works well.

maktrust

maktrust

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Dec 2011

Total posts 6

the best offline map app is maps.me

download all the maps you need via wifi for free. has the same functionality as apple and google and is very accurate and up to date.

seems to covers every country in the world 

Looking

Looking

10 Aug 2015

Total posts 118

Thank you, very helpful

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