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Navigating a New City? No Problem!

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It can be difficult to navigate around a new city, especially when the local language is not your own. Since we landed in Bangkok a week ago I've found a few tricks you can use with Google services to make this process a lot easier.

We prefer using the local public transport or walking rather than trying to drive or catching a taxi; there is minimal human interaction. You don't have to tell the driver where you want to go, just swipe on and swipe off, which reduces the chance of communication errors. How do you know the right place to get off though?

A train will stop at all stations so it's simply a matter of counting the stops to your destination. For longer trips this is a bit harder to keep track off though and it doesn't work for buses which don't necessarily stop at every available stop.

TODO: Location Reminder UI

A handy solution is to put a location reminder in Google Keep for the stop before the one you want - it should pop up just before or just after the location (depending on how fast you are going and how good a signal you have) which is enough time to get ready to get off. You can do this through the mobile app or through the web interface while you are planning your trip.

You still have to do some walking though, so how do you find your way from the bus stop to your destination and vice versa? If this is your first visit to a new location you would probably have found it via a Google Maps search. For this to work though you need to know (or remember) the name of the place you are going to - what about the places you randomly come across that you want to come back to later?

You can of course save the location in Google Maps but I've found the user interface for that functionality less than optimal. I also tend to save the location of places that I want to go to as well which clutters up the list of saved places.

TODO: Landmarks Album

One trick I've found is to set up an album in Google Photos for placemarks; simply take a photo while you are there, add it to the album and you can get the location information straight from the photo when you want to come back to it. If you are travelling in a group you can make this a shared album so you are all working from the same set of landmarks.

The Green Man

My wife and I have been doing this in Bangkok and it's been working really well. Not only do you get a nice visual cue of the location but you tend to adopt your own names for them as well - we send messages to each other like 'Meet you at the green man' or 'I am at the three elephants' and we each know exactly where that particular location is. Once again you can do this through both the mobile application and the web page, simply click on the 'info' icon for the photo to bring up the map.

Once you have the location it's a simple matter to bring up turn by turn navigation to get there. If you have an Android Wear device this is a lot easier - the watch will vibrate when you need to change direction so you don't have to juggle your phone in your hand while navigating a crowd and you can keep your attention on your surroundings.

So there it is - you can easily use existing apps and services to help you get around (and get back to places). I am using Google services as an example here because that is what I use, I imagine you could do similar things with Apple and other products.