Google Maps and Google Translate make International Travel Do-able

Jim and I are currently in Ljubljana, Slovenia. We started in Florence, Italy 2 weeks ago and we have 2 more weeks planned, mostly in Croatia.
We talk about how we couldn’t have done this trip on our own 10 years ago. Why? Because smartphones and Google Maps didn’t exist 10 years ago.
We get off the bus in a foreign city where we don’t know a word of the language, but with our phones, it is easy to find out where our hotel is and how to get there. We click the icon for walking and start on our way.

Using Google Maps while walking is a little trickier than driving. The directions are good, but when you’re walking, Google Maps has a more difficult time of tracking exactly where you are and which way you’re going. And, if you happen to be on a street with tall buildings on either side, it has an even harder time of tracking you.

We have decided that, rather than turning on voice-directed turn-by-turn navigation, we just get the directions then check in with the app every so often. If we try to follow it exactly, there are times when you’re are turned around just enough to start heading in a wrong direction. What we do now is to look at the directions, start walking where it looks to be telling us, then check in a few minutes later to see if we’re still on track.

Even if we make a few wrong turns, we will always make it to our destination. This simply would not be possible without Google Maps on our phone.

Google Translate

Google Translate is a miracle. We have used it a few times. Generally we try English and find that most people speak enough English that we manage. However, there was a morning breakfast at a B&B where we wanted to converse with someone who did not speak English. Jim opened up Google Translate on his Android phone, asked for translation from Italian to English, tapped the microphone and held up his phone while she talked. We could read the translation and respond. The app then translated our English to Italian for her to read.

I see this as nothing short of a miracle, and it’s completely free!

Now we’re in Slovenia. Would you believe that Slovenian is a language listed in Google Translate? Just amazing. Here is a listing of the languages it can translate. And more are being added all the time.

In addition to speaking words to be translated, you can type them in, or even take a picture. For example, we saw this sign nearby and I wondered what it said. I opened the translate app, tapped the camera icon and snapped a photo. Then you highlight the part you want translated by rubbing your finger over it.

In the image below, it is translating from Slovenian into English. It found the Slovenian words based on my highlight in the photo: Stopnice Uporaba na lastno odgovornost. Translated into English is: Steps: Use at your own risk.

Good to know. We’ve used this a lot to translate restaurant menus.

Don’t you need an Internet Connection?

Yes, and No. Yes you do need an Internet connection to access both translation languages and map directions. However, both of these apps have provisions for downloading selections for use offline.

Both Jim’s and my phone have connectivity in most of Europe. Me because my iPhone is with T-Mobile and it has roaming agreements with many European providers and Jim’s Google Pixel phone is on the the Google Project Fi network which also has roaming agreements in Europe. Both of our phones are operating pretty slowly on the Internet, but slow is a LOT better than not at all!

Google Maps Offline: Open Google Maps, tap the 3-line menu and choose “Offline Areas”, then Custom area. Position the area you want within the highlighted box, you can pinch the screen to get more. Realize you can’t get all of Europe! It’s meant to get one city, maybe one country. Tap Download. Now your maps will continue to work in that area even though you have no connectivity.

Translate Offline: In the Google Translate app, when you tap on a language to traslate from or to, you will see the list of all possible languages. Languages that are downloadable will have a down arrow icon at the right. Tap that and download the language at a time when you are connected, and now the translation capabilities will be available always.

Let’s go travel! See our photo album from our current travels here. We are updating it all the time.

Note 6/26/17 We recorded this after we got back:


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