How to navigate for free [avoid the hassle of paper maps & expensive roaming charges!]

While preparing our 6-week trip through Japan from South to North via remote areas and major cities, we were a little bit concerned about how to find our way once there: different alphabet, hardly any knowledge of the language, very expensive roaming charges, and various modes of transportation (driving, riding the train, walking and biking in cities, hiking…) seemed tough challenges to overcome to navigate easily.

Luckily enough, a fantastic free smartphone application solves all of these issues:!

Basically, MAPS.ME provides fast offline world maps for iOS, Android and BlackBerry devices. This app allows us to download maps of any region of the world, which are fully available offline: geo-locates us and shows the local map in all its details (points of interest, gas stations, post offices, even hiking trails…) with the ability to easily zoom in and out and even route.

  1. Download the free “” app on your smartphone.
  2. Start the app and simply download the required maps to get the relevant regions for your trip (about 5 maps to cover Japan from South to North in our case) on a wireless connection.
  3. Edit your map by adding pins on the go, or by downloading our free interactive maps to your device.
  4. Use it offline, on airplane mode to save up your battery life!

It sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it?

Since our trip to Japan, has been our best companion! Only 2 U-turns while driving about 3,000km on three islands, finding remote spots on country roads, navigating our way in and out several-million-inhabitant cities, and hiking – no challenge seems too big with!

Marcella & Claire

12 thoughts on “How to navigate for free [avoid the hassle of paper maps & expensive roaming charges!]

    • It is super easy NH:
      1. Log into your Googlemap you want to transfer.
      2. Export the map as a .kmz file (upper left corner, in the options on the map).
      3. We use on our phones, so email this .kmz file to yourself.
      4. On your phone (this is the procedure on iPhone), go to that email, and click for a while on the .kmz file: it will give you several options, including “open in”. Select it.
      5. will open saying “loading bookmarks” and explaining they were successfully loaded.
      6. In, click on the green search icon, go to bookmarks. You will see the list of maps you imported (you can delete them from there if needed).
      Hope this helps!
      Thanks for reading us and happy traveling!


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