What Is It?
I just returned from Cuba—and without MAPS.ME, I’d probably still be there. With the recent lift in travel restrictions, now is the perfect time to hop in a time machine and visit this vibrant, one-of-a-kind country. Cuba is brimming with old-school charm, from 1950s Cadillacs to horse-drawn carriages to a complete lack of wi-fi.
While traveling without internet may sound ludicrous (and potentially dangerous), we couldn’t have been happier to disconnect from our cellular service and plug into a society where people actually make eye contact and say hello to passers-by. Better still: we were saved from any offline-related chaos by MAPS.ME, which uses GPS rather than data to keep travelers on track.
How Does It Work?
While there are a lot of navigation apps out there, MAPS.ME is the only one that boasts 100% functionality offline. Most “offline” maps at least require an internet connection for searching and saving spots and following step-by-step navigation directions.
But in Cuba, we only got internet once—getting access requires buying a Nauta card, and each $2 card will get you an hour of muy lento internet in a designated hot spot. MAPS.ME was a lifesaver! We could check out our guidebook anytime without internet access, leaving us free to explore places like Casa de la Música or Museo Histórico Guanabacoa without stopping to source directions.
Another Cuba travel tip: If you want to make the most your trip, we highly suggest renting a car. This will save you time and money and give you access to off-the-beaten-path beaches and hamlets. We drove from Havana to Viñales to Trinidad to Varadero in one week, but we wouldn’t have made it out of central Havana if it weren’t for this app.
The app routed us onto highways, then and rerouted us when we inevitably missed our turns. Its offline functionality was incredible; MAPS.ME even kind of shouts the directions, making us feel like real Cubanos! While the app brought a feeling of familiarity to our trip, it’s good to note that there are lots of horses and pedestrians on Cuban roads, but virtually no street lights—so drive cautiously, and consider limiting most of your travel to daylight hours.
Not going to Cuba? No problema. MAPS.ME works worldwide—I’m such a fan that now I’ve been using it in Los Angeles instead of Google Maps. MAPS.ME is ridiculously accurate, with super-detailed maps that include restaurants, bars, parks and other places of interest. Even when the city melts into the wilderness, MAPS.ME shows tiny walking paths and bike tracks. Bonus: the app’s reliance on GPS instead of data means I’m about to score some savings on my next Verizon bill.
Our Favorite Part
MAPS.ME makes life so much easier, no strings attached. That’s right: it’s free, and it doesn’t suck your battery life! Also: in Cuba, it’s common to stay in casa particulares rather than hotels, and our cab drivers always had problems getting us home. There are thousands of casas all over Cuba—and, while we never needed to book in advance, we did need to help guide our drivers in the right direction. MAPS.ME to the rescue…again.
From back roads to secret beaches, MAPS.ME always had our back. Which was lucky, considering we didn’t actually have a backup plan. Cuba is one of the few countries where foreigners can’t buy mobile phones or SIM cards, so without this app, we would have been seriously stranded.
The app eliminated all navigation worries so we could focus on soaking up Cuba’s good vibes and taking zillions of photographs. We love MAPS.ME almost as much as we love Cuba—and the two together are a serious match made in heaven.
Get It Now
Annie’s based in Los Angeles but hails from Portland, Oregon. Sort of. She moved to six states by the time she reached middle school, and continues to move around the US and abroad – call her a nomad, but she prefers “Location ADHD.” After studying abroad in New Zealand, Annie circled the globe, graduated from USC, and circled the world once again. For one year she lived out of a backpack everywhere from The Philippines to Nepal to Slovenia to Norway. She’s a curry connoisseur and passionate explorer, taking the road less traveled, the “trail” covered in vines and swarmed in exotic bugs. Foreign lands feel like home, and Annie loves encouraging more and more people to utilize their passports and experience a new culture.