It’s super handy to use your iPhone to navigate while visiting a new place – but most mapping apps require an Internet connection to function, and using mobile data overseas can be very expensive. There’s a simple solution: download a map for the area you’re visiting ahead of time, so you can access it even while offline. This is also handy if you’re visiting somewhere with poor signal and you may not be able to get Internet access at all.

Apple Maps has improved a lot since its launch, and many of you may use it without issue day-to-day. But it still lags behind Google Maps in terms of a few key features, and offline map support is one of them. That means if you want to follow this tip you’ll need to install Google’s app. Luckily, it’s free.

Google Maps

You’ll need to make sure you’re signed into a Google account in the app – this is necessary to get access to offline areas. You can check whether you’re signed in by tapping the circular icon in the top right of the screen. Once signed in, find the area you’d like to save by typing its name into the search box. Then press the menu icon in the top left, and choose Offline maps. Here, press Custom map and the app will show the map again. What you see in this preview is the exact chunk of map that will be saved.

You can adjust the scale of the area by pinching with two fingers to zoom in and out of the map. Hit Download when you’re ready. The larger area you want to cover, the more storage space it will use on your device, so be careful to only grab as much as you need. Downloads can take up anything from around 30 MB to over 1 GB depending on the scale and level of detail captured. For perspective, a large city like London with plenty of points of interest to map out will take up around 300 MB of space.

The app will now download the area you’ve chosen to your device. Make sure you’re connected to Wi-Fi for this part – it could take a few minutes depending on the speed of your Internet connection. When the download is finished you’ll be able to view, delete or edit it from the Offline maps section of Google Maps. Note that offline maps are automatically deleted after a year to help save storage space.

Now, when browsing this area, Google will automatically switch to the saved offline map if it detects a poor or non-existent internet connection. You don’t need to do anything to trigger it.

Bear in mind that while offline, quite a few features will be unavailable. There’s no support for public transport, walking, ride-sharing, or cycling directions. Driving direction will still work, but you won’t get traffic information, alternate routes or lane guidance. However, your iPhone’s GPS capabilities are separate from its internet and cellular connections, so you’ll still be able to pinpoint your own location on the map when offline!

That’s it! Never again get lost, and never pay insane roaming charges for data. Enjoy your travels!