How to use Google Maps

Find your way around Google Maps with these handy tips and tricks

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How to find where to eat and when

If you zoom in on an area in Google Maps, say New York’s Central Park, then you’ll see an option at the bottom of the screen that says Explore. You can tap it to get categorized recommendations for nearby places to visit where you can get food and drinks. Even better, you can scroll through the options and tap More to see what the hot spots are at different times throughout the day, and to find the best place for breakfast, dinner, or drinks. It’s great for planning ahead.

How to change your view

Tap the icon at the top right, that looks like two layers stacked, and you’ll find view options for Satellite and Terrain. You can always tilt your map and get an isometric view in Google Maps. Tap and hold on the map with two fingers slightly apart and then swipe up. Moving your fingers in a circular motion will rotate the map. The Terrain option will show some hills, but it also sometimes shows the interior plan of certain locations.

How to use voice commands in Navigation

There are various voice commands that you can use while you’re in Navigation mode in Google Maps. You just have to tap the microphone icon at the top right and then speak your command. You can also now say “OK, Google” or “Hey, Google” if you have Google Assistant set up. You can turn off the voice by saying “Mute,” or “Be quiet.” You can also “Show traffic,” ask it to “Show alternate routes,” or say “Next turn” to find out what your next turn is. Many options have multiple triggers and there are lots of possibilities, but you can browse Google’s full list of voice commands for a detailed summary of the various commands.

How to get directions for multiple locations

You can plot a route in Google Maps that goes through multiple locations. To do so, set up directions for your first location like you normally would, then tap the three vertical dots in the top right and choose Add stop. Add as many stops as you need and then tap Finished. Google Maps will now guide you to each location in turn.

If you prefer, you can also set this up using your browser. Make sure you’re signed in with your Google account and search for the directions via Google Maps. There’s a small plus icon in the top left, under your destinations, which allows you to add a destination. You can plot a whole itinerary this way. When you’re done, simply tap Send directions to your phone. To enable this feature in iOS, launch the Google Maps app, tap Settings > Notifications, and make sure that Notifications are enabled and Sent from desktop maps is checked.

How to create your own maps

Google Maps

Whether you want to share your knowledge with friends, or help guide your kids or elderly parents, the ability to create custom maps can prove very useful. Google actually offers a comprehensive set of tools for creating your own maps, marking routes, points of interest, directions, and more. To get started, make sure you’re signed into your Google account and go to My Maps in your browser.

You should get a short tutorial with tips if this is the first time you’ve tried it. It’s easy to set a location and mark your POIs and routes, but you can also import layers and data, color different areas and routes, and a lot more. Your creations are automatically saved to your Google Drive, and you can find them in the Google Maps app on your phone via the menu > Your places.

How to save parking location

If you’re anything like us, then you sometimes forget precisely where you parked. Google Maps is pretty good at tracking this automatically, although it does depend on your location settings. You can also choose to save a parking location manually. Tap on the blue dot that marks your current location once you’ve parked up, then choose Save your parking and it will be marked on your map. If you have an Android device it will also pop up as a notification and you can simply tap it to find your way back.

Is this a frequent problem for you? If so, you may want to check out the best “Find My Car” apps.

How to check traffic

You’ll find that traffic analysis is built-in to Google Maps now and it can help you find the best route and avoid jams. If you tap the three vertical dots at the top right on your directions screen and tick the box next to All traffic, then you’ll see traffic overlaid in color on the map. Red spots are to be avoided, orange is a bit congested, and green is for go. You can also check traffic when you’re just browsing around. If you jump back to our change your view tip above, you’ll see Traffic listed as an option that you can overlay all the time.

How to check parking

It’s one thing getting to a place, but if you’re driving, what do you do with the car when you arrive? Some spots in the city can be positively nightmarish for parking. Thankfully, Google Maps does offer parking advice for some locations. If you plug in your location and check the Directions screen then you might see a P icon next to the time and distance at the bottom. Tap on it and you’ll get an indication of how tough it might be to find parking at your location. For some locations, you’ll also see a Find parking option that will list possible parking locations nearby.

How to get a ride

If you can’t find parking, or you’re without a car, and public transport isn’t going to get you there in time, then you can always check out services like Uber and Lyft. On the Directions page there’s an icon of someone hailing a cab at the top; tap on that you’ll see your options. You obviously need an Uber or Lyft account to use those services, but once you have an account you can link it with Google Maps to make it easy to book a ride.

Check out the best ridesharing apps for alternatives.

How to ask questions

When you tap on a place of interest in Google Maps, you can access the page about it, which includes directions, a link to call, basic information, a website link, and often some reviews. For popular places, you’ll also find a Questions & answers section if you scroll down. It can be a goldmine of useful information, though you will sometimes find silly comments in there too. You have the option of posting your own questions for the community, which is particularly handy if it’s closed and you can’t call up.

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