If you have Europe on your travel bucket list, you must be curious whether using GPS in Europe is possible. Well, it is.
You need a functional GPS in Europe. However, diversify your GPS options instead of relying on your smartphone’s GPS.
Car rentals might have GPS, but you must have an alternative GPS device with a comprehensive list of maps.
Additionally, pack a backup paper map with detailed terrain of the inner areas of the country you are in.
We’ll show you how using GPS in Europe will give you a premium experience.
Is GPS Used in Europe?
GPS is a global system widely used in Europe.
Although Europe has an independent navigation system, GPS is reliable in most European countries.
It works in any country as long as there is a clear sky view and satellite coverage. In some countries, GPS maps work best if you are local and not charged a roaming fee to access GPS on an internet-connected device.
Explore these reliable GPS options in Europe.
- Your phone
- Independent GPS devices
- Car navigation devices.
Can I Use My Phone GPS In Europe?
Your phone is your first functional GPS option in any European country. Google Maps, the Android-based map app, works in virtually every country. And while it is a reliable tool, phone GPS has limitations if you are not in your home country.
Using phone GPS in Europe sometimes requires an active and stable internet connection. It’s not a problem if you have planned the trip and gotten an affordable data plan.
However, using the phone’s GPS will get expensive and impractical if you factor in roaming charges.
There are ways to go around incurring data roaming charges, though.
Before you travel, download GPS apps that don’t need a data connection. Download them in advance to understand how they operate and provide accurate turn-by-turn directions.
Benefits of Using Your Phone GPS in Europe
Phone GPS app attached to a car
Your Phone is Available
You are familiar with how your phone works. You might have to tweak a few things, such as getting a new SIM card suitable for a specific European country.
That way, you save costs on data fees.
Your phone also lets you get a supplemental plan that provides quick access and fast internet.
You Can Update Phone GPS apps.
Unlike devices like Garmin GPS units, you can easily update GPS apps’ maps. You can even set the phone on auto-update whenever you have reliable wireless internet. You won’t have to connect the phone to a third-party device to get up-to-date maps.
Your Phone GPS Has Global Maps
Google Maps is one of the most popular GPS navigation systems in over 220 countries. That means your phone likely has detailed maps of any country in Europe.
Unlike a GPS hand-held device, you won’t incur the costs of having a new map in case your GPS device doesn’t have it.
Using a GPS Device in Europe
Since you shouldn’t limit your GPS options to just a smartphone, get a GPS device that works in a specific country. Get it beforehand to ensure it is the right fit for your time in a specific European destination.
The standout benefit of using a GPS device is that it uses satellite signals. Your GPS device will give you precise location data if it has satellite access.
Imagine this scenario.
You are in a new location in Europe, miles from home. Your phone doesn’t help you as you expect.
Your GPS device can help you navigate unchartered areas in foreign territory. Still, proper planning will help you avoid such mishaps.
Handheld GPS devices can be lifesavers, especially if you are on foot in unfamiliar terrain. Not only does it cover where your smartphone doesn’t, but it also lets you explore areas off the beaten path. It’s a win-win if you plan on seeing more than what’s on most phone and In-car navigation apps.
Afraid of losing your GPS device? Many GPS companies, such as Garmin, have invested in developing wearable GPS tech. The devices are made to be comfortable and functional for day-to-day activities.
Wearable GPS watch
You can use the wearable GPS unit as complementary to your phone GPS. You’d be surprised at how accurate it is when you use both.
Furthermore, there are no distractions when you use a GPS app.
It would help if you had your phone for essential communication. That means you could be disconnected periodically if you get calls and important texts as you use your phone’s GPS app. However, your GPS device stays connected all through.
However, note these things before getting a portable GPS unit for Europe.
You might incur charges between $50 and $100 to get updated European maps. Devices such as TomTom will give you great navigation results and cost less, about $50 for European maps.
Using In-Car GPS Navigation in Europe
In-car dashboard GPS device
There are high chances you will travel through Europe in a car, a rental. It might seem commonplace for vehicles to have in-car GPS navigation. And that would be helpful for you.
However, it is best to be cautious with rentals in a foreign land.
The advantage of using in-car GPS navigation systems is they are suited for the country. Therefore, you can input locations and let the system guide you using voice commands.
However, you must ensure the car company offers vehicles with navigation systems.
Some car companies reserve vehicles with in-car GPS for prime customers. Call ahead and ask about the available options. It’ll help you get alternatives, such as renting a GPS device.
Why You Need In-Car GPS
In-car GPS is best suited for road travel. It comes on the car’s dashboard to give you a clear view of the roads and sites as you drive.
Also, unlike phone GPS, in-car GPS is safer. You can always lose your phone in a new area. However, the car will likely sound an alarm during a break-in.
Furthermore, it’s free. The car rental service might charge you to upgrade to a car with premium features. But it might provide a vehicle with a top navigation system even if you don’t upgrade.
You stand a higher chance of getting a car with in-car GPS if you rent a premium model.
Another advantage of in-car GPS systems is that they give you voice commands in different languages as you drive.
Set the system to a language you understand. But you can also select a local language if you are familiar. You can get better turn-by-turn directions while looking at local signs.
Use Offline GPS apps in Europe.
Android and iPhone have a bunch of practical offline Google Maps alternatives that share the following features.
- Turn-by-turn navigation
- Multiple languages
- Regular updates
- Points of interest
We won’t include Apple Maps since its regional coverage is limited compared to the indicated ones.
Mapfactor has offline maps for 195 countries worldwide. It works with Android Auto if your vehicle has the feature.
It has route planning and navigation, and you also get speed limit warnings. It’ll help you stay on the right side of the law in different European countries.
Save all your favorite locations and search for them when you feel adventurous. Switch to the pro version and get features such as alternate routes.
Sygic GPS Navigation
Sygic GPS is great for avid travelers and drivers in over 200 countries. It offers recommendations, traffic information, offline voice directions, and route calculation.
The free version will give you most of these features. Still, upgrading to Sygic Premium gives you upgraded features such as an intersection view and smart cam.
Maps. Me is a user-supported app for offline use in over 340 territories, including islands. This app downloads offline maps when it detects a location. Alternatively, you can search for interesting locations and store them in categories on your Android or Apple smartphone.
It has regular updates and supports offline cycling, walking, and driving routes.
This popular app lets you download offline maps and plan routes without a connection. You can customize it for private and public vehicles, motorcycles, and bikes.
We would recommend this app based on features such as:
- Weather support
- Detailed topology views
- Trip reports
Safety driving features in the app include speed and distance information, driving time, and distance indicators to turn.
GPS is a globally available helper in Europe. Access it on your phone through wearable tech or car navigation systems. Also, you can avoid costly roaming charges when you use offline apps available for Android and iOS.