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I read that Google recently made their Maps apps work in offline mode, where you can download an area, then use it (including navigation) while offline. I'll be driving a rental car from Bordeaux to Sarlat-la-Canéda, and exploring Dordogne for 10 days. I've read horror stories about nav systems in French rental cars only giving directions in French, and my French isn't that good. It seems a shame to buy or rent a GPS nav system in the US, and bring it with me, if I can accomplish the same thing with a smart phone.

Have any of you tried the Google Maps app (either for iPhone or Android), with downloaded maps, hopefully in Dordogne? I want to make sure I'll be able to download the whole area, and get good directions.

I'm not set on using this solution, it just seems like a good one.

Any feedback would be appreciated.

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    Why would you think that location would make a difference to offline function? Surely however well it works offline, it works that well everywhere? – DJClayworth Dec 31 '15 at 3:41
  • One can assume that what can be downloaded is the same as what one can see when browsing to maps.google.com, but software is, by its nature, often buggy. I was hoping to hear from someone with first-hand experience, to know, for example, if all of Dordogne can be downloaded. It would be a real drag if the separation between map sections only gets me half way across the region. – uncaged Dec 31 '15 at 3:54
  • look at this question : Reliable Android app for GPS without internet connection – Vince Dec 31 '15 at 11:04
  • Do yourself a favour and purchase a Michelin map. – JoErNanO Dec 31 '15 at 11:17
  • @JoErNanO: see the last point of my answer ;-) even when doing motorbike trips I got my classic map. Such a better way to get good scenic roads! – Nicolas R Dec 31 '15 at 11:20
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I will answer with a few points about using Google Maps in Dordogne in offline and also about classic maps. First I should add that I'm a French user of StackExchange, used to navigate with Google Maps or Waze.

Test - Download part

As this offline functionality is quite new on Google Maps, I have to admit that I never tested it before, so I ran a few tests on my own phone (iPhone 5c, you did not said if you were using Android or iOS).

Firstly I tried to download a zone around Dordogne to check the behaviour (how: using this link ): you have to be careful about the size it will take in your phone, as GMaps indicate that the download size may be up to 500Mb, 1Gb or 1,5Gb depending on the zone you define.

But this an estimate value, as before downloading the application said it could be up to 600Mb for my test zone and after download it was only 145Mb. I think I depends on the content, and Dordogne is mainly rural so there are less items.

One more thing: it seems that the data has a limited time validity: tested a few minutes ago, the downloaded map will expire in a month.

Test - Download part illustrations (in French, sorry)

Download screen: here you select the square zone you want to get

Zone selection

Name your selection before download (it's not a search screen, just a pop-up to set a name to the zone you previously selected)

enter name

Pending download

pending

Download complete

achieved

Test - Navigation part

Then I switched off the data communications on my phone to be like you will be when in France. I was then able to zoom in and out in the region I downloaded, keeping a good accuracy (street names, road numbers, even some restaurants and shops were displayed!).

I set a destination point inside the zone and tried to navigate: not working because my start point was outside the zone (I'm in Paris right now). Once I put a start point in the zone, Google Maps was able to provide navigation step-by-step and even an estimated travel time (with "no traffic information" displayed as it is fully offline).

I also used to travel abroad with other map application (not providing navigation) and the positioning on the maps was accurate even without data, so that should not be a problem on google maps.

As a conclusion, I would said that from my opinion it should work. But you should also read the latest part of my answer.

Test - Navigation part illustration (in French, sorry)

Navigation test

nav test


Alternative, or additional items

If you are able to read a classic map (that's a shame that many people don't know how to read a map and only rely on their GPS), I would highly suggest that you buy these "good old Michelin map".

For the location you are going to, the number of the map is 329, you can buy it online for example here: http://www.amazon.com/Michelin-FRANCE-Corr%C3%A8ze-Dordogne-Local/dp/2067210467/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1451557422&sr=8-5

You can also find them on some stores in France and on many fuel stops, but if you want the English version as shown below, you better buy it before to be sure to find it.

Image of the map:

enter image description here

Those maps are well detailed for travelling between cities (road numbers, distance in kilometers) and detailed, they only miss details of the cities (name of the streets, etc.). And you can also locate on those maps beautiful/interesting roads, highlighted by a green line like in this sample found on the web:

http://www.moulindutreuil.com/images/Moulin/auriac1.GIF

You will also found some points of interests (castles, churches...)

  • "I would highly suggest that you buy these "good old Michelin map"." What exactly does a "good old" map provide that an online one doesn't?.. – JonathanReez Jul 15 '16 at 20:18
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    @JonathanReez Ease of viewing large areas while retaining detail, and functionality without batteries. – CMaster Jul 15 '16 at 21:01
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    It is always good to have a back-up and you can use paper maps to have an overview of the area while the GPS is giving detailed instruction for driving, (works best when you have more people in the car, not as well when driving alone.) – Willeke Jul 16 '16 at 8:08
  • @JonathanReez I think they answered for me: better overview, more visible details that are not nearby the location / itinerary. And it is good for orientation and reflection! – Nicolas R Jul 16 '16 at 9:57
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I had the same question last year when planning a trip to Europe (based in England, but also travel to Denmark and with the possibility of others that didn't work out).

I did buy one of the major European atlases similar to the Michelin, as I'm a map guy. But for ease of use and detail, hoped to find something technological to aid me. After a lot of research, came upon HERE Maps. It worked out spectacularly. You can download files before the trip for entire countries (or US states) right from the app, and it was reasonable even in searching for specific items of interest [businesses, tourist sites, etc] (sometimes you'd have to try multiple ways of typing a search, but it wasn't so bad that it make useless). Google hadn't introduced the download offline data option back then, but appears it's still difficult to use for large regions. HERE worked perfectly for my navigation needs, and was quite good for location searching as well. Even use it some in the US still when trying to conserve data. The space the map files take up is well worth the flexibility and savings.

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    There are several good apps now for offline maps including details, I would also suggest maps.me app on iPhone, that we used in Australia, Cuba and Santorini (Greece) and was a perfect guide for navigation, especially when walking in the cities – Nicolas R Jul 16 '16 at 10:08

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