When traveling, offline maps make our lives easier, but which app is better: MAPS.ME or Google Maps. I tested both apps intensively on my last trips and tell you how they performed. What are the advantages, but also disadvantages.
Click here for a detailed comparison of MAPS.ME with Google Maps.
last updated: November 2020
Table of contents
Download offline maps
For MAPS.ME you can infinite offline maps download, which you without time limit you can use. Here you can choose from a list if you want to download a whole country, only a state or a city. Depending on the country you have sometimes more and sometimes less choices, sometimes you have to download a whole country.
And this is how it worksTap on a country or a city, then a download symbol appears below with information about the data size. Alternatively, go to the menu under "Download Maps", there you can use the search and choose your map from the list. Here you also manage your downloaded maps.
Update maps: If you tap on the three lines at the bottom right and then on "Download maps", you will see a list of all maps you have already downloaded. To update individual maps, you click on them each time. Below you can use "update all" to update all maps at once.
Delete cardsIf you don’t have enough memory on your smartphone, you can of course delete the data of individual countries. You can also do that under "download maps", here you hold down the respective map for a short time and can select below that you want to delete it.
With Google Maps you can only individual map section download as offline map, but not whole regions or countries. What is sufficient for a city trip is the end for a road trip or a backpacking trip. In addition, the maps will be displayed according to 29 days automatically deleted.
TipYou can prevent the automatic deletion by updating the maps before the deadline. Then the counting starts again.
And this is how it worksIn the menu under "Offline maps" tap on "Choose your own maps". Now the map appears with a selection window, which you can move freely and in which you can zoom. When you are satisfied, click on "download" at the bottom of the page. Under "Offline maps" you can manage, rename and update all your maps.
Two more general tips
For both apps, select in the settings that the maps on the SD card are stored, to save the precious storage space on the smartphone. This way you can download an infinite number of maps without worrying about your storage space.
And secondly, enable that the maps are only updated when you are using a WIFI network connected to. So you don’t waste your mobile data volume unnecessarily.
MAPS.ME based on the OpenStreetMap (OSM), which can be edited by anyone, similar to Wikipedia. And this is also the problem, because so partly locations like restaurants or hotels are drawn in the wrong place, several times or under wrong name. Otherwise, the OpenStreetMap is very detailed, so most of the time even narrow footpaths and in Australia even public water fountains are drawn in.
I like the display of MAPS.ME and the map material gets better and better with time. As a little gimmick you can get 3D buildings let the map fade in, which is especially helpful for orientation in the big city. You can enable or disable the "follow and turn" mode by tapping on the compass.
Another hint: How big the symbols and fonts is related to your general Android settings. Go to the menu "Display" and "Font and Screen Zoom. Now you can test which sizes you prefer.
UpdateAdditionally you can select "Increase font size on the map" in the preferences.
On this point Google Maps still unbeatable, because their maps are always very up to date and everyone can register there. So you can usually find any museums, hotels, restaurants, banks, stores and so on in Google Maps, which is especially helpful for travelers. You can also view all bus, streetcar and subway lines.
Online you can choose between three map types (normal, satellite, terrain), switch to Streetview mode or view indoor maps, which are only available online.
If you tap on a museum on the map, for example, additional information such as opening hours, admission prices and ratings will be displayed. How detailed these are depends on MAPS.ME from the data in OpenStreetMap, which is sometimes more and sometimes less.
Since newest you can find in MAPS.ME for many sights in cities the most important background info with short text, photo and partly contact details, opening hours and so on. Wikipedia is used as source for this.
UpdateIn the menu you can select "Travel guide"Select. Now you will see green and purple rectangles on the map. These are so-called "travel guides", which can include city tours, hikes or bike tours. If you select one, you can see what it is exactly and if it is free or costs you something.
With Google Maps the offline available data is very limited. While online you get detailed information, opening hours, links to websites, photos and reviews, offline they are limited to a minimum.
TipOn Google Maps you can tap on any stop to see which lines leave here and when the next bus is coming. Unfortunately this data is only available online.
The offline search
A super important feature when you are looking for your hotel in a new city. And here disappointed MAPS.ME unfortunately more often. The offline search is by far not as good as with Google Maps. It has much less locations stored and streets are partly stored without house numbers. Also it depends on the exact spelling, otherwise MAPS can be.ME do not find it.
For both you can search by name, address, category and coordinates.
TipThat’s why I usually take precautions and mark important places when I have WIFI available. If necessary, use the search function in Google Maps to find them in MAPS.ME to be entered. In this area must MAPS.ME still touch up.
At MAPS.ME you can bookmark every place you want to visit edit individually you can visit. Just tap on any location and then mark it by tapping on the star ("Bookmark") below. The same way you delete a marker again by the way.
Now you can swipe up and select "Edit bookmarks". Here you can edit the title text, choose a color for the pin and assign the location to a bookmark group.
Extra tips: Think about a color system for your pins to see at a glance what they are about. I use blue for restaurants, green for hotels, red for landmarks, purple for street art and so on. Furthermore I add additional information in the title, so I add opening hours and entrance fees for places of interest. So my map becomes a little mini-guide.
Your Save bookmarks you can do by clicking on MAPS.ME tap on the symbol with the two stars at the bottom and go to "Backup bookmarks" to log in. Now you can choose how your bookmarks should be saved.
As far as I know you can’t edit bookmarks individually on Google Maps. Here you can only organize your places in groups. By the way, the markers are automatically added to Google Maps with your Google account synchronized, so you can access them on your PC.
With both apps you can share your bookmarks with friends, just create one at MAPS.ME a new group or a new list at Google Maps. Your friends can import them afterwards.
Route guidance: The Navi
In this section MAPS.ME offline stronger. Here you can select the start and destination location by simply selecting a location on the map or using the search box. In addition, you can add up to three stopovers. After the route has been calculated, you can select another location on the map and choose "Add stopover" at the bottom of the page.
Finally, you can specify your mode of transportation, whether you want to go by car, public transportation, walking, biking or Uber/taxi.
hint: Information about public transport is available for these cities so far (over 235).
The route will be calculated and you will be shown how far it is and how long it will take. For walking and biking, you will also see the elevation gain and for Uber, you will see a price, so you can quickly decide on the best mode of transportation.
TipFor the car, you can specify in the "Detour settings" which roads it should avoid (toll road, highway, ferry, unpaved road).
Now you can start the routing by tapping on "Start" at the bottom of the page. You can pause the navi by tapping on the arrow at the bottom and going to "pause". The voice guidance is available for the car and bike, you can make settings for this under "Naviagtion" and "Voice Guidance. By the way, you can switch to "night mode" here.
The route guidance works 100% offline, only current traffic information is missing.
Meanwhile you can use the route calculation also with Google Maps offline, but only for the car and then of course only in the saved map area. But if you are online, the Google Maps navi is better than MAPS.ME, because it calculates faster/better routes.
With both apps you can add additional stops. If you are online you will receive the latest traffic information.
One more hint: The location with GPS may take a bit longer if you are in airplane mode. However, this depends on the device, plus it makes a difference if you are outside or inside a building. Especially in cities and bad weather, there can be additional delays as you move between tall buildings.
Reader question: "Can I save the route or share with others?" – No (as far as I know).
My conclusion: which offline maps are better for traveling?
If we were comparing online maps, Google Maps would be the clear winner.
But not so with offline maps, here is MAPS.ME just better for travelers. Finally, we are often traveling offline and then MAPS has.ME has much more to offer. Just the fact that you can download unlimited maps for offline use is a big minus for Google Maps.
Other than that, I especially like how detailed the maps are. Often even narrow footpaths are drawn in, so exploring a new place on foot is even more fun. In addition, I can edit my bookmarks much more and store a lot of additional info, so that I have the most important info in one place when I’m on the road.
Of course not everything is perfect, but as long as you can go online in between, you’re set.
Google Maps is a super powerful online tool, which combines an incredible amount of knowledge, so I use it regularly when traveling. In the evening in the hostel or when I have a local SIM card. It is virtually my backup and a very good complement to MAPS.ME, which I then use on the road during the day to find my way around locally.
In combination MAPS are.ME and Google Maps unbeatable.
Let’s see how both apps develop.
Another tip (warning) for Google Maps
If you watch "The Big Bang Theory", you might already know the following feature in Google Maps. Namely Location tracking, if this is enabled, Google will record all your movements with GPS turned on. This has the advantage that you can track afterwards where you have been and so find places again.
But now comes a big BUT, who wants Google to have all this info from you. So I strongly advise you to disable this feature, you can do this in the menu under "Settings" and "Personal Content".