Google Maps is more than just driving directions. 5 clever tricks to start using today

Wherever you are headed, Google Maps may give you a snapshot of what you will discover once you get there, from real-time crowd numbers to menus, costs and get in touch with data.

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I seldom use Google Maps to truly get instructions, however I open the app virtually daily for different causes that may not be so apparent. Fact is, Google Maps is helpful for lots extra than simply displaying you the best way to get from Level A to Level B. Beneath all these Christmas-colored site visitors patterns and high-res satellite tv for pc photographs hides a robust search instrument that gives crowdsourced real-time information on eating places, retail shops, skilled places of work, public parks and virtually anyplace else you’d wish to go.

A few of Google Maps’ current updates embody adding a coronavirus information layerpaying for parking, improved images and sidewalk maps, and improved location sharing. Flip-by-turn instructions are so final decade, comparatively talking. In case you’re already acquainted with this app as a navigation instrument, you are solely a faucet, press or swipe away from these and extra Google Maps superpowers.

To unleash the hidden potential of the Google Maps app in your cellphone or pill, check out the 5 methods I exploit Google Maps virtually daily that don’t have anything to do with getting instructions.

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See how lengthy the road is in all places from Walmart to the DMV


Within the Google Maps app, real-time data on strains, crowds and wait instances is in pink, however you possibly can faucet some other hour of day to see what you possibly can in all probability count on then.

Screenshot by Dale Smith/PJDM

Earlier than I stroll out the door, whether or not I am heading to Walmart, the grocery retailer, the physician’s workplace or to resume my driver’s license, I virtually all the time examine Google Maps to see precisely how busy I can count on my vacation spot to be. This is how one can search for that data too.

Within the Google Maps app, faucet on the enterprise or location you wish to go to and scroll down till you see a graph labeled Fashionable instances. Faucet the day of the week in case you’re planning a visit for later that week.

Faucet on the pink column to see present foot-traffic information, or one of many blue columns to get a abstract of how busy you possibly can count on it to be at one other time: Not busy, Not too busy, Slightly busy or As busy because it will get.

Subsequent, beneath the heading Plan your go to, you will discover normal data like peak wait instances (“as much as 5 min from 6 a.m. — 12 a.m.”) and size of common go to (“Folks sometimes spend 20 min right here”). Now whether or not you will be out and in in a flash or if it’s good to pack ebook or simply plan your go to for one more day when wait instances aren’t as lengthy.


Need to wait till the road on the cafe is shorter? Look beneath “Fashionable instances” to see when the crowds normally die down.

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Try menus, images and buyer evaluations

Along with its navigation instruments, Google Maps can also be a full-blown crowdsourced evaluation app, very like Yelp or TripAdvisor, so you may get a good suggestion of what kinds of choices your vacation spot presents, in addition to value, presentation and whether or not you will must take out a mortgage to afford it.

This function is as helpful for restaurant pickup and supply as it’s for previewing menu choices and costs — to not point out getting take a look at the dishes. It may make or break your resolution to strive someplace new. For individuals who belief the knowledge of crowds, it additionally exhibits the eating places’ five-star common in addition to particular person evaluations to weigh in your resolution.

On most restaurant listings you will see a navigation bar on the high with Overview, Menu, Critiques and Pictures listed as choices (you’ll have to side-scroll to see all of them). Faucet any of these or simply scroll down. The hyperlink labeled Menu is usually listed slightly below working hours, however preserve scrolling till you see the heading Fashionable dishes to see images of meals. Maintain going previous Fashionable instances till virtually the very backside to search out the restaurant’s five-star common and person evaluations.


Get a really feel for the kind of delicacies a restaurant presents by looking menus, images and evaluations within the Google Maps app.

James Martin/PJDM

Guide a desk or place an order for carryout or supply

As soon as you’ve got gotten a sneak peek at all of your restaurant choices, more often than not you do not even have to go away the Google Maps app to make a reservation. In case you’d moderately eat at residence, you can too normally order carryout or supply from throughout the app.

If the restaurant you’ve got selected makes use of a reserving service like OpenTable, you will see a tab beneath the Menu choice that claims both Discover a desk or Reserve a desk. You do not truly must log in to the reserving service to make the reservation (though in case you gather bonus factors or in any other case actively use the service you could wish to anyway).

For carryout or supply, search for an choice labeled Place an order. A popup provides you with an inventory of obtainable providers, like DoorDash or Postmates, however you’ll have to sign up to finish your order, so when you have an account with any of them you will in all probability wish to select that one.

Hey, Google Assistant, how’d you get on my iPhone?

I spend most of my digital life within the famously walled backyard of the Apple ecosystem, with one obvious exception: I exploit a Google Home ($99 at Walmart) with Google Assistant to regulate my smart home

Google Assistant would not come baked into iOS the best way Apple’s less capable voice assistant Siri does, however a setting in Google Maps helps you to shove Siri to the facet so you possibly can have always-on entry to Google Assistant whereas navigating. 

To set the Google Maps app in your iPhone to pay attention for “OK, Google” whereas navigating, open the Google Maps app and faucet on the menu icon (the three stacked horizontal strains to the left of the search bar), then faucet Settings. On the high of the web page, beneath the heading Getting Round, faucet Navigation, then scroll to the choice labeled Entry your Assistant with “OK Google” and switch the toggle on.


Google House units like this Nest Hub include Google Assistant baked in, however on iPhones it’s important to use a Google app like Google Maps to summon the digital sidekick.

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Admittedly, this workaround is a bit of wonky — it’s important to set Google Maps to navigate to a particular vacation spot for the “OK, Google” voice command to work, and you’ll’t summon Siri with “Hey, Siri” whereas this function is turned on. However till Android can woo me away from my iPhone, it is higher than nothing.

Discover working hours, cellphone numbers, ZIP codes and extra

Each time I must know when a retailer or enterprise opens or closes, or if I must name the place and I haven’t got the quantity, or on the uncommon event once I want the ZIP code for a enterprise for which the road identify and quantity are all I do know off the highest of my head (say, for a job utility), I am going straight to Google Maps to get these solutions and extra. 

This is the place to rapidly and simply discover primary information about areas listed in Google Maps:

Working hours: Companies’ hours of operation are displayed instantly beneath the deal with. You’ll be able to faucet the down arrow beside in the present day’s closing time to see hours for different days of the week. Most listings are up to date with any particular vacation hours, that are highlighted in a pink font.


Discover the ZIP code for nearly any enterprise in america by looking for its identify or avenue deal with on Google Maps.

Angela Lang/PJDM

Telephone numbers: Beneath hours of operation in most listings you will discover the cellphone quantity. To name it with out leaving Google Maps, faucet the quantity, then faucet the pop-up that shows the immediate to Name adopted by the quantity.

Web site: If the enterprise has an internet site, it is going to be listed under the cellphone quantity. Faucet it to open the web site in a Google Chrome-powered tab throughout the Google Maps app.

ZIP code: This one’s much less widespread, however once I’ve wanted it, Google Maps has saved me tons of time. Both enter the road identify and quantity or the enterprise identify and faucet search. On the high of the itemizing beside the road deal with, you will now see the ZIP code.

For extra Google ideas and tips, take a look at these six Google Maps tricks you probably don’t know about yet, these seven hidden Gmail features and how to use Google Maps’ revamped bike routes.

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Dale Smith