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It's often cheaper to buy a GPS/satnav than renting them from a hirecar company, but unfortunately we'll be travelling from Paris through London to Swansea to pick up the car.

I'd imagine it'd be easier to pick up a cheap GPS/satnav in London than Swansea, so are there stores that I could buy one in near St Pancras or Paddington stations?

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    Surely you can get a prepay UK SIM card and pay less than that per MB. – Greg Hewgill Mar 24 '14 at 0:39
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    Have you considered an app with Open Street Maps? Eg I used NavDroyd (now defunct) for all of Russia/Kazakhstan/Kyrgyzstan etc with no data and no problems... – Mark Mayo Mar 24 '14 at 0:44
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    There are 100% offline mapping apps with navigation like OsmAnd (osmand.net). Also, unlocking your phone will almost certainly cost less than buying a new GPS, especially if you do it at a third-party shop instead of asking your operator. – lambshaanxy Mar 24 '14 at 2:30
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    You can buy a SIM card in the UK for about £10, and get unlimited data for £5 for 30 days. Sure that's cheaper than any GPS device. – Flimzy Mar 24 '14 at 5:12
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    @dlanod not at all, I downloaded all maps offline. I certainly had no working sim east of Europe, and it worked just fine - GPS is receive only, so no network reception is even needed. – Mark Mayo Mar 24 '14 at 12:00
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As others have said, give serious consideration to not buying one!

However, if you must...

Tottenham Court Road would be your best bet. It's almost half way between Paddington and St Pancras, and if you don't have too much luggage it's probably a 30-40 minute walk from either. Otherwise, plenty of buses there, or you can take the tube (from Paddington walk to Lancaster Gate for a direct tube)

Tottenham Court Road has loads of computer and electronics shops along it. If you want somewhere where you can see the various options, compare between shops, maybe haggle, or otherwise get a good deal on an old model they're trying to shift, then that'll be your best option. Just make sure you're clear on what you want, and don't go for the first shop, plan a bit of time to check out the options, and have a good idea of approximate prices first!

Otherwise, you could look at ordering one online to be delivered to your hotel, either new or second hand. Oh, and consider the age of the maps - depending on where you're going a map that is a few years old might be fine, or might be a big problem. As an example, the Scottish Highlands haven't changed in a long time, but the area around Stratford and the Olympic Park has altered a lot recently!

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I'm going to propose an alternative solution: install OsmAnd on your phone, then download the data for the countries you're visiting. It's completely free (although donations are welcome) and completely offline, so you don't need any mobile data at all.

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Some caveats:

  • Download the data before you leave, the files are huge (hundreds of megs).
  • OsmAnd's interface is kind of user-hostile, so try it out at home before you leave. Once you figure out how to do things, though, it works well.
  • OsmAnd uses free OpenStreetMap data, which isn't quite up to Google standards, but OSM's coverage of the UK is generally excellent.
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I would order one from Amazon and have it send to a Amazon Locker.

(Do not depend on using your phone unless you download all the maps you need, as phone signals are very poor on a lot of UK roads.)

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