If you’ve a smartphone with GPS such as an iPhone, here’s a nifty way to turn it into a sat nav abroad, with local maps, for free – without using up any pricey data overseas. It isn’t a fully-fledged system like paid sat navs, but it’s handy if it’s for a one-off trip.
Launched in 2010, Navfree is a free app for iPhone and Android. It turns a GPS smartphone into a sat nav, with pre-loaded maps, route planning and voice prompts.
The big boon here is that once you’ve downloaded it to your phone, it doesn’t need any internet data to find routes, search or access its maps via GPS (unlike similar apps, eg, Google Maps), as these are stored offline in your phone.
It also has optional paid premium content including voice prompts by Wallace and Gromit or Snoop Dogg, traffic updates and more.
By contrast, paid sat nav app TomTom Europe is over £60 on iTunes at the time of writing. Though it doesn’t have the same bells and whistles, it’s still a big saving.
Navfree has downloadable apps for about 30 countries, including Spain, France, Germany, India, Canada, and the USA, as well as the UK.
To get them, just search for ‘Navfree’ in your phone’s app store with the name of the country, eg, ‘Navfree France’. Navfree confirms all these are free and allow you to access map GPS without using any data.
Don’t forget to download it in the UK before you leave, as part of your standard data plan, or via wi-fi. Otherwise you’ll pay for data to download it abroad (see Cheap Data Roaming).
The size of the initial download varies depending on which country it’s for, but you can see this before you get it. As an example, the Navfree UK app is around 500MB.
It isn’t perfect, but it’s got good forum feedback, including “hasn’t let me down yet” and “it doesn’t always recognise house numbers but it will direct near perfectly to the bit of the road you need to be on”. If you try it, please add your feedback
- Forumites also recommend CoPilot GPS and Sygic, which both have free trial versions for iPhone and Android at the time of writing. Though again, do note functionality may be more limited than their paid versions – if you try any of these, please let us know how you’ve got on in the Sat Nav Apps forum discussion.