Using a printed road map vs. using a GPS

Which is more convenient and what should you pack – old school printed map or  GPS /Sat Nav?

With advances and widespread availability of smartphones, you may already own a GPS unit without knowing. Check your phone specs and verify that it can provide offline (non-3G reliant) location services. If so, it’s only a matter of choosing the correct offline navigation app to install (we do emphasise ‘offline’). Although mobile data-roaming charges are being standardised across Europe, they’re still an expense best avoided!

UPDATE: MEP’s have voted to scrap roaming charges accross europe! Good news for regular travellers 🙂

windscreen with attached smartphone showing route, Map or GPS?Using a Gps on our way across Georgia

Printed Map or GPS ? What do you pack?

2016 has been an exciting year for offline GPS apps, as many of the big brand names are now offering their product completely free of charge. Whilst apps like Sygic rely on the support of navigation giants TomTom to provide their base maps, other apps like use widely available opensource maps which rely on progressive user feedback for updates. Both apps offer their offline services for free, whilst Sygic offers some additional features at a (very affordable) premium. These may turn out to be handy if you are particularly interested in live traffic features and speed camera updates.example of a printed map - Map or GPS?A handy item whilst planning a roadtrip

Google Maps is also offering an option of saving some area maps for offline use, however this is yet to gain momentum in favour of the more specific app packages. Although its online capabilities are very valuable, we do not yet recommend it for offline navigation.

Versatility – Navigation within a City

When searching for a specific address, particularly in a town or village, there is no question that GPS software and voice guided navigation provide important assistance. I do however find that use of GPS to travel between cities through highways and main roads is somewhat impersonal and almost distracting. Printed maps give a better perception of the distances expected, help visualise travel routes and compose the driver’s sense of direction.view through car windscreen showing a herd of sheep on the motorway. was it a map or gps that got us in this?

That Adventurous feeling!

A message to people of my generation – let’s face it, printed maps also give that ‘Adventurous Four’ feel to the journey that the silicon units just fail to deliver! Back to this century. I do have to point out that all electronics come with an undeniable reality, they sometimes break down, and they somehow manage to do so at the worst possible moment! My experience of driving blindly and getting completely lost on my first trip to Bosnia, after my GPS failed was rather annoying (and mind you, I had a backup GPS too that day which also broke down!).Nikki looking out of a rental vehicle during a roadtrip with a map or gps?Some off-road fun in our trip to Armenia

Printed maps should not only be considered as backup, of course. Passengers are more likely to enjoy the journey if they can visualise the entire length of a road-trip on the map, without disturbing the driver who would otherwise be concentrating on his drive ahead.

Solving the Dilemma!

So back to our introductory question, what should it be? Printed map or GPS? Overall, Cheeky Passports verdict would be, get both – they do not take up too much space anyway!


  1. John Mallia

    Hello Cheeky Passports 🙂

    You’re more than right, here ! In my car in Germany I always have a set of road maps covering at least a radius of 200km. I also have a Tom Tom GPS but there have been occasions when you find a road closed due to works or an accident, and the “detour” or the “avoid motorways” options do not always give the best solution. If one knows – from the traffic news on the radio or from signage – that, say, the motorway is closed from Exit 23 till 27, you only need a detour for that stretch of road. Out comes the map – the paper one – a quick look in search of the village nearest to Exit 27, and, yes, input that village’s name on your GPS and exit the motorway when the works oblige you to.

    Maps also give a lot more first-hand information. If, say, one is travelling for a long distance and fancies a stop to rest, a quick look at the paper map will tell you whether there’s some little lake or coastal town where to stop and take in what the place has to offer, rather than stopping at some nondescript service station.

    …but I admit, I really do love maps. I must have been a cartographer in some past life !

    Cheers 🙂

    • Cheeky Passports

      Hey John,
      Looks like we share the same thoughts about maps. Although we believe GPS helps, we wouldn’t go on a roadtrip without the old printed map!
      Thanks for your comment,


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