When I arrived in Rio de Janeiro for my vacation and volunteer program I found it interesting to discover that I wasn't immediately given a map of the city or even a map of my section of the city (since Rio is quite large). Since I had to traverse quite a few difference neighborhoods (favelas) of Rio during my three weeks in Rio I needed to figure out another way of getting around with only a little spoken Portuguese ability and a desire to not get lost after dark.
Then I remembered this little known trick of Google Maps - it will still provide navigation to the last set of places you looked up even without wifi or a data signal. Did you know about this awesome ability? It doesn't even need to be directions to a place near where you currently are. That is the best part!
It will also allow you to zoom in on the last map you searched directions for to the detail of where the bus will stop. If you are navigating to a place you can follow the bus stops to figure out where you need to get off. It makes it super easy to get places and to know what bus to take when you have no idea even what the bus routes are.
Now here is where the but comes in. I will admit some of the issues may be a result of user error but not all of them. ;). One of the problems I have with Google Maps is that when I am trying to figure out how to get from point A to B, generally using public transportation, it will leave out the metro unless you are right on top of it. Also, there may be more than one bus that can get you there but it may not be coming at that exact time. Rather than just list all the buses that come at the closest stop it only lists the bus that comes within the next 5 minutes for example. Because of this I have missed several just as qualified buses and taken double the amount of time to get somewhere because of it. Finally, if you get beyond a certain perimeter of where you last navigation, Google Maps will no longer even show you street names.
In the end because I had to be able to get from point A to B and a map of some sort was necessary I purchased a SIM card (they were extremely expensive) so I always had data access to turn on my Google Maps and navigate myself to where I needed to go. While Google Maps did lead me astray several times it would eventually get me where I needed to, sometimes while I sweared at it all the way.
If you didn't know about the Google Maps trick I highly recommend you always having your Smartphone device with you even if you only have one direction in it or can get it to zoom into the downtown area of your foreign city it will be well worth it.
Do you have any fun navigation stories to revel my time in Rio de Janeiro?
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