I thought for a long time about what I would use to guide our way on our mega 3.5 month trip to Australia and New Zealand.
Generally, I prefer the Google maps on my phone over our Garmin Nuvi GPS for many reasons:
1. Google Maps gives you multiple route options.
2. GPS only gives you one route and often the straightest line which involves small farm roads as opposed to major highways.
3. The GPS only allows an exact search. When I put in Phillips Track, it comes back with no matches because it spells the road “Trak”. So if you mistype one letter it won’t find your address.
Despite all of this, Google Maps requires the internet. This isn’t an issue most times in your home country, but once you take your iPad, iPhone or Android to another country you are “data roaming”. Data roaming can incur HUGE fees, depending on your carrier. We were fortunate that our carrier, T-Mobile, initiated free unlimited international roaming, a few months prior to our departure date.
When we were in Australia and New Zealand, we found that many of our apps on our Android phones did NOT work while we were roaming. This included Google Maps, Gmail app, Playstore and Facebook. I was finally able to solve the problem by downloading the Opera web browser, which has an “off-road” mode that works better with 3G and lower web speeds. I could access my Gmail and Facebook using Opera, where I was unable to access them from their installed apps. I was never successful with accessing Google Maps except when we were stationary and connected via a Wi-Fi connection.
It was a good thing that before we left home we opted to purchase Australia and New Zealand maps ($150 USD) on a micro USB card from Garmin for our Garmin Nuvi GPS. This was our SALVATION. Since Google Maps was simply searching and telling us it was unable to locate us, the GPS was our best friend. In two instances the GPS couldn’t find the places we were staying, but we had the owners send us the GPS location and then we were good to go.
Based on this experience, if you are planning an international road trip, I recommend having a GPS option, this can be your own GPS or rental of one from the rental car company. Since we were going to be in a rental car for over three months, the cost of renting a GPS would have been prohibitive, so buying the maps for our GPS was our best option.
That said, I also suggest paper maps to check the GPS routes. In New Zealand we found Jason’s Maps, which were free at any Visitor Information Center. The Jason’s maps also suggest things to see along the way. On several occasions, we turned off the GPS as it kept sending us down farm roads, instead of the main highway. The paper maps kept us on track.
In New Zealand, there is a rental GPS called Kruse. http://www.krusenz.com/. I have no direct experience but heard very good reviews from a fellow traveler. This is both a GPS and a travel guide, as it will suggest things to do in the area. They will deliver the GPS to your rental car location. Cost is $10 NZD per day. Had we been on a shorter trip, I think this would have been our best option.