Tech Guide

You'll never be lost again with these fun Google Maps tricks

Key Points
  • Google Maps can do more than just show you where you are.
  • You can use it to find nearby live events, curated lists of places to see and eat, indoor maps, share your location with people and more.
  • CNBC's Todd Haselton walks you through fun Google Maps tips and tricks you might not have known about.
Man with phone.
KleverLeveL | iStock | Getty Images

Google Maps can do so much more than show you where you are. It has features that let you see everywhere you've been, lists of live events that are nearby, a way to customize the food recommendations you see, public transit options and so much more.

It's the best map application for your phone, even though Apple Maps has done an admirable job trying to catch up. And, while I still prefer Waze for my daily drive, there's a lot more you can do when you're not in the car with Google Maps. I'll show you some of that in this guide.

Before we get started, download the latest version of Google Maps for iOS or Android.

Use the new Commute tab

Check your commute.
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Google recently added a new "Commute" tab to the home screen of the Google Maps app. It shows you the fastest route to work or home depending on where you are. It also provides an alternate route in case your main route isn't the best choice.

To use Commute:

  • Open Google Maps.
  • Tap the Commute tab on the bottom-right of the screen.
  • Tap the three dots at the top of the screen.
  • Tap Commute Settings.
  • Enter your home and work addresses.
  • Choose how you commute: by car, public transit, motorcycle, bike or walking.
  • Set your commute times.
  • Turn "Get commute notifications" on so you can learn about traffic or delays before you leave.

See live events that are happening nearby

Find nearby live events.
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Here's the scenario: You land in a new city on a work trip. You're bored and want to find something fun happening around town. Google Maps has a list of events that are happening nearby, such as live sports games, plays or fairs. In New York right now, I see that the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting happens on Wednesday night.

Here's how to find nearby live events:

  • Open Google Maps on your phone.
  • Tap the yellow "Events" icon under "Explore Nearby" at the bottom of the screen.
  • Scroll through the events to see what's going on.
  • Tap an event to learn more about it, such as where you can buy tickets, or to add the event to your calendar.

See where you've been with the Timeline feature

See your Timeline history of where you've been.
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This is both creepy and useful. Google keeps a history of pretty much everywhere you've been. The feature is called "Timeline" and you can access it right in Google Maps. To do so:

  • Open Google Maps on your phone.
  • Tap the menu button on the top left.
  • Tap "Your timeline."
  • Swipe right across the screen to move back in time.
  • Tap the calendar icon on the top right to see where you were on a specific date.

Want to delete your Timeline history?

  • From the timeline, tap the three buttons on the top right of the screen.
  • Tap Settings.
  • Choose "Delete all Location History."

Share your location with someone

Share your location with people.
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You can share your location with someone in Google Maps. This is useful if you're heading to meet someone and you want them to know where you are in case you get held up in traffic or by a delayed train. It's even useful if you're walking home at night and want someone to know when you've made it back safe. Here's how to share your location in Google Maps:

  • Open Google Maps on your phone.
  • Tap the menu button on the top left of the screen.
  • Choose "Location Sharing."
  • Tap "Get Started" at the bottom.
  • Choose how long you want to share your location for.
  • Choose who you want to share your location with.

Measure distance between two points

Measure the distance between two points.
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You can always see how long it will take you to drive somewhere, but maybe you want to specifically find out how far away one location is from another. You can measure the direct distance between two places by doing this:

  • Open Google Maps on your phone.
  • Tap and hold down on one part of the map that you want to measure from. It will drop a pin.
  • Now tap the bottom of the screen where it says "Dropped Pin."
  • Tap the "Measure distance" option.
  • Now slide one finger around on your screen to drag the cursor to the second point.
  • Tap "Add point" on the bottom right of the screen.
  • The distance between the two points is on the bottom left.
  • Add additional points by following the steps above.

Save maps so they still work when you're offline

Save Google Maps offline.
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Google Maps needs a data connection to provide you with information such as real-time traffic, but you can save a copy of your maps offline so that you still know where you need to go and what's nearby when you don't have Wi-Fi or cellular data available, like when you're in a subway. To do that:

  • Open Google Maps on your phone.
  • Tap the menu button on the top left.
  • Tap "Offline Maps."
  • Tap "Custom map."
  • Choose the area you'd like to save offline.
  • Select "Download."

Find parking near your destination before you leave

Find parking before you leave.
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If you're like me, you might often drive to your destination before you think about trying to find nearby parking. This can be really tough in a big city, when you might need to drive around looking for a parking garage. However, there's a way to find parking near your destination before you even leave. Here's how:

  • Open Google Maps on your phone.
  • Search for the destination you're heading to.
  • Tap "Directions."
  • Now tap the three dots on the top right of the screen.
  • Tap "Find parking."
  • Google will automatically find parking locations near your destination.
  • Pick one and add it to your route.

Avoid highways, tolls or ferries along your route

Avoid highways, tolls and ferries.
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If you're driving and forgot to pick up a toll pass or realize you didn't bring any cash along, you can force Google to take you on a route that avoids tolls. Or maybe you want a route that doesn't take you on a highway or require the use of a ferry. You can change your route options by doing this:

  • Open Google Maps on your phone.
  • Search for your destination.
  • Tap the three dots on the top right of the screen.
  • Select "Route options."
  • Toggle the buttons to turn off highways, tolls and/or ferries.

Note: If "Remember settings" is on, Google Maps will continue to avoid highways, tolls and/or ferries on future trips. Turn this off if you don't want Google to do it again on your next trip.

Book an Uber or Lyft from inside Google Maps

See how much an Uber or Lyft will cost.
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If you're going somewhere, sometimes you might want to know how much it will cost you to just take an Uber or Lyft versus driving yourself or relying on public transit. You can find the estimated price of your ride without even opening the Uber or Lyft app. Here's how:

  • Open Google Maps on your phone.
  • Search for your destination.
  • On the top of the screen, choose the icon of a person with their hand in the air.
  • On the bottom of the screen, you'll see the prices for Uber and Lyft.
  • Tap the type of ride you want, then tap "Open app."

See how busy a place is before you visit

See how busy a place is before you visit.
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If you're thinking about going to a restaurant that doesn't take reservations, or maybe considering getting a haircut at a barber on a weekend, you can see how busy that place is right in Google Maps. Using location and historical data, Google will show you if a particular spot is busy, and how long you can expect to wait. To find this:

  • Open Google Maps on your phone.
  • Search for the place you're planning to visit.
  • Tap and pull from the bottom of the screen to see more information about that spot.
  • Scroll down to an area that says "Popular times."
  • You'll see how busy it typically is at certain times of the day.
  • Tap the day to see how busy the location is on certain days of the week.

Change your food preferences so Google knows what to recommend

Choose cuisines you prefer.
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If you like to use Google Maps to find nearby restaurants, you can let Google know what sorts of cuisines you prefer so that it doesn't show you restaurants you might never visit anyway. Then, Google can learn to highlight restaurants in knows you're more likely to try, like barbecue spots over gluten free, for example. Here's how to configure that:

  • Open Google Maps on your phone.
  • Tap the menu button on the top-left.
  • Choose Settings.
  • Select "Food & drink preferences."
  • Tap review and add next to "interested" or "less interested" to choose cuisines for either category.

Check out Google Maps Lists for inspiration on where you should eat or visit

Use Google Lists to find interesting places to visit and eat.
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Here's another tip if you're visiting a new city on a business trip: use Google Maps lists. They show you popular places to eat and visit that have been curated by news outlets and other Google Maps users. Here's how to see them:

  • Open Google Maps on your phone.
  • Tap the Explore tab on the bottom left of the screen.
  • Scroll up with your finger and keep going until you see "Lists."
  • In New York City, it says "Best things to do," "Essential taco spots in NYC," "Rooftap bars with stunning views" and more.
  • Tap a list to see recommendations on where you should go.

Easily find an ATM

Find nearby ATMs.
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If you're looking for an ATM to take out cash, there's a better way to find one than simply searching "ATM" in Google Maps. Instead, use a filter that shows known locations of actual ATMs in banks and other places. Here's how to find an ATM:

  • Open Google Maps on your phone.
  • Tap the Explore tab on the bottom left of Google Maps.
  • Tap the green "more" icon.
  • Scroll down and choose "ATMs."
  • Google Maps will show you nearby ATMs.

See indoor maps

See indoor maps.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Google's indoor maps aren't new, but fresh ones are being added all the time and they're super useful, especially if you're in an airport or mall you've never been to. Here's how to see an indoor map:

  • Open Google Maps on your phone.
  • Search for a large public place that might have a map, like an airport or a mall.
  • Zoom in really close to that building.
  • As you get closer, you'll see stores and other points of interest begin to appear.
  • If there are multiple floors, tap the numbers on the left to switch between the floors.


There's a lot more to find in Google Maps on your phone. I recommend tapping the "Explore" tab at the bottom of the screen to dig deeper into a lot of the specific live events and places that might be around you. I hope you can use these tricks to find something fun the next time you land in a new city, whether for work or play.

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