Google Mapsworks offline
Best overall mapping app for travel
Google Maps is the king of maps and deservedly so. It's fast, constantly updated, accurate, and can be used across the vast majority of the world. They also have specific features that make traveling easier: offline maps, accurate public transportation for most cities, and a lot of content for finding interesting local attractions (see its sister app Google Trips).
Where it falls short: certain areas can't be downloaded offline (like Japan), for which we then recommend Maps.me (below). Furthermore, despite Google's ubiquity, there are specific countries where a local company's maps works better:
- Baidu Maps (China; Chinese only)
- Kakao Maps (South Korea; English available for Android only)
- Yandex Maps (Russia; English available)
- Did you know you can zoom in and out with just one hand? It's hard to use other maps once you've started using this gesture
- Star favorite places you like or find when researching a city so you can easily get your bearings when arriving and quickly find nearby places to go (we use this a lot)
Great backup you should have just in case
Maps.me was the go to mapping app for travelers until Google Maps added offline features. However, we still recommend having Maps.me on your phone for a few reasons:
- Walking and biking routes still work offline, they don't on Google Maps
- Offline maps can be downloaded for anywhere, including areas Google Maps won't let you
- It's well made, fast, and includes useful features like Uber integration
Basically, Maps.me can competently fill in where Google Maps is lacking.
Best for public transit in big cities
If you're traveling to a big city with a widespread but complex public transit system like Tokyo or NYC, you have to download Citymapper. Google Maps isn't bad for public transit, but Citymapper takes it to a new level with real-time updates on arrival times and disruptions with convenient features like notifying you when to get off, all wrapped in a pleasant and clear design.
They're in most big urban cities and are always adding more. They even launched a new bus route in London by using their data to find underserved areas.