How to Find Yourself Without an Internet Connection

Finding yourself in a foreign country is easier with an iPhone. iPhone apps for international travel are many and varied. But few are as important in a new place as figuring out where you are and where you want to be.
In your home country, this is generally a very easy proposition with a smart phone. You go to whatever your favorite map app is, press the little northeast-pointing arrow, and voila you are on a familiar map with a fairly precise representation of your location.

But when we go overseas the first thing you often do (I always do this, unless I have an emergency) is to turn off Data Roaming. On an iPhone, go to Settings -> General -> Cellular and turn Cellular Data OFF. The reason to do this, is because overseas your data plan that you rely on at home is no longer in effect. And likely charges in friendly countries for Data Roaming are $19.50/1 megabyte. This may not sound like a lot, but I am not a heavy data user, even at home, but my “normal” usage is 300-600 megabytes. At $19.50/megabyte that would come out at $6,000 even at the lower end of my normal usage.

shutterstock_106278554For AT&T go to http://www.wireless.att.com/learn/international/roaming/travel-guide.jsp to check out voice and data usage rates. So I do NOT use data roaming when overseas.

I rely on apps that:

  • DO make use of the GPS chip (free throughout the world), but…
  • DO NOT use data roaming
  • DO use WiFi at my hotel and other free spots, and sometimes I will pay for WiFi at a café or hotspot.

My most favorite iPhone app for international travel is CityMaps2Go. (http://www.ulmon.com ) Currently $1.99. Completely OFFLINE when using. You download FREE city/county/country maps when you have access to free WiFi, as many as you would like, and then when you are in that city you simply load it from a list of available maps. It will come up in a New York second, then touch the NE pointing arrow in the lower left hand corner, and voila, you find yourself without use of your data plan, nor of wifi.

But wait, there’s more! You press the 3 bulleted lines at the bottom, and are taken to a list of categories, Food, Nightlife, Accommodations, Entertainment & Arts, Travel, Architecture & Buildings, Shops & Services, Outdoor, Health & Medical, College & Education, and Orientation & Geography. And when you touch one of those, it takes you to more detailed lists. For example for Food: Restaurants, Fast Food, Coffee Shops, Ice Cream, etc. And touching one of them will take you to a list of that type, alphabetically OR by distance.

Then, in the lower left-hand corner is a symbol that looks like a map route with a marker. Pressing this takes you to map mode; showing where you are and where this type of shops are. In the US, this is NOT as good as Google Maps or even Apple Maps, as they don’t have every Starbucks. But it has been a life saver overseas for me.

You can also search the map. Locate what you are looking for, either as a Point of Interest (POI), or find the street name from some other reference you have used. When you find what you are looking for, you then have the option of pressing on the Right Arrow which will allow you to: Rate the POI, Add a Note, add to your Bookmarks, and/or Pin it.

What this allows me to do, is to sit in my hotel room, find each of the POI’s I am interested in visiting that day, Pin them on my CityMaps2Go map; and now when I take off on my daily trek, I have all of my personal Points Of Interest for the day on a map that I can zoom in or out, and show where they are relative to where I am, and plot my path, even if I am diverted by some sparkly thing along the way. When I get to the POI, I can either refer to a small amount of information in Notes, or what I usually do is to prepare a document in a word processor, then save it as a PDF, transfer it to my iPhone (using my second favorite iPhone app for international travel, Adobe Acrobat), and have it readily available to tell me all about each of my daily POI’s on my list to visit that day.

Now you have not only found yourself in an international city, but also found every other site, place and restaurant you wanted to find, and made a new favorite iPhone app for international travel to use WITHOUT an internet connection.

I have not yet tested Ulmon’s FREE individual City Maps (New York, Amsterdam, Paris, London, Rome, Barcelona, Chicago, Venice, Vienna, Berlin, Prague, Munich, Tokyo, Istanbul, Madrid, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Beijing, Bangkok, Dubai, Singapore, Rio de Janeiro, and Sydney) but I have down loaded New York Travel Guide and Offline Map to my iPhone, and plan to test it on my next trip to NYC.