Having a map on your phone can be extremely useful when you are in unfamiliar surroundings abroad, but many people are worried about racking up huge data roaming charges.
By planning ahead it is possible to have maps and GPS positioning without data charges says Craig Wareham, outdoor enthusiast and co-founder of ViewRanger, the GPS navigation app for adventure.
He adds: “The key is to download the maps – even free mapping – on to your phone before you go and then turn off your data roaming when abroad. You are then able to use your phones GPS technology without worrying about additional charges.”
Most smartphones data roam by default, and this allows you to get instant notifications from apps such as Facebook and Twitter. You need data roaming on to use apps like Google Maps but not for applications like ViewRanger, which use data stored on the handset.
ViewRanger provides a suite of free open source mapping and a sports computer which tells you how far you have gone and how long it took. Open source mapping is available globally, or you can download quality paid-for mapping for 22 countries, including most of Europe, as well as the USA and Canada.
By selecting recommended routes and guided trails, from a gazetteer compiled by both top publishers and individuals who want to share their holiday tips, you obtain invaluable knowledge about the local area.
Craig explains: “Once a route or map is downloaded to a phone it is saved and can be viewed without a mobile signal. To do this, in the app find the region you are visiting and then in the ViewRanger options menu you can create a saved map. Simply select the tiles you think you will require and then download the free mapping to your phone, ready for your holiday. Premium mapping is available to download from the ViewRanger store.
“For your routes - download a selection that you think you might enjoy. Many have descriptions and photographs of the walk or cycle ride so that you know how long it is and what you might see. Try to include variations in length and scenery in your choices so you aren’t limited when you arrive.”
ViewRanger is also able to use your smartphone’s GPS technology to show your location in relation to the route – meaning you are free to explore and don’t need to worry about getting lost on unfamiliar turf. Switching off data roaming will not affect this feature as GPS signal is independent of data roaming and is free to use abroad.
Craig says: “People are used to having their phones with them and using the camera function. ViewRanger is a next-generation travel guide that literally shows you where you are.”
Top tips for using your phone abroad:
- To switch off data roaming:
- iPhone – Settings > General > Cellular > Data Roaming – Off.
- Android – Uncheck data roaming at Settings>Wireless & Networks >Mobile Networks.
- If you have taken your phone abroad in case of an emergency, battery power is essential. Reducing the brightness of your screen and closing any apps running in the background will increase your battery life;
- Identify a café or restaurant offering free Wi-Fi and use this to do any data applications, such as checking your emails, or social media;
- Most apps don’t have the ability to save mapping, so they will not work unless data roaming is activated. However, apps such as ViewRanger do work without data roaming, as long as the map has already been downloaded to the device;
- If you want to use data roaming when abroad, contact your network provider to talk about data bundles available to purchase;
- If you are staying for a long period of time consider purchasing a local pay as you go sim card with a pre-installed data bundle.