Stuck at home for the last six months by quarantines and travel restrictions, I think many of us have done at least some armchair traveling. This week I want to discuss what has become my absolute favorite mapping app for smartphones and tablets.
For years my favorite mapping app has been Guru Maps, previously Galileo, available for Android and iOS. The best feature of this app is its ability to choose among several kinds of maps, including vector maps, that may be used offline. This means that Guru Maps continues to work just fine in areas where you might not have any cellular signal or internet connection. On my last vacation trip, I put that to the test.
Starting out from the town of Goris, Armenia, our destination was the little-visited thirteenth-century Khndzoresk cave village only 20 kilometers away. My hired driver had brought along his teenage son who spoke some English and served as navigator. Neither of them had ever visited this part of their country before.
Our young translator used Google Maps to plot a route, and his phone dutifully drew a blue line on the map then started speaking directions in Armenian. Soon I had a feeling we were on the wrong road but Armand showed me his phone and said Google could be trusted.
Then Armand said he had lost his cellular signal, but with an unshakable faith in Google’s algorithm, he said we were still on track showing me his phone again. I was not so sure. Guru maps said straight ahead was through a cow pasture and off a cliff, plus the border with Iran was somewhere up ahead, and I did not want to cross that line carrying an American passport.
The gravel road gave way to a cow path then to that pasture I had seen on Guru Maps. Armand confidently said that Google maps showed a bridge ahead, and indeed when we drove to the edge of the precipice we could see it off in the distance… a narrow footbridge.
The point I am making here is that the navigation systems built into modern mapping apps are not 100 percent reliable. And, in little-traveled rural areas, you need to be prepared not to rely entirely on Apple’s or Google’s algorithm.
The Guru Maps app I favor can do voice navigation, but, more importantly, it can make use of different types of maps. Among these are OpenCycleMap, OpenBusMap, Lite Stamen Terrain, USGS National Satellite/Topo, and more. Those work online but for me, Guru Maps’ biggest selling point is its ability to download vector maps that can be accessed even in remote areas where you might not have access to the internet. I have found the Guru Maps app well worth the US$49 purchase price.
Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101-8528 or email FAQ8@SMAguru.com.