People may often think that as long as they’re in the city, they’ll have abundant cell phone service for whatever they need. However, anyone who’s spent much time in a big city with underground transit lines and network-bogging crowds of other smartphone users knows that networks can be unreliable or completely unavailable when you need them most.
You might be right in the middle of making dinner plans or figuring out what train to catch next in Apple Maps or Yelp and your service cuts out, sometimes for minutes on end. Or maybe you’re approaching the turnstile to scan your pass, and there’s no cell service to pull up your transit app.
In cases like these, there are some workarounds to maintain the convenience and functionality of your phone. We’ve compiled this list of ways some of the built-in tools within iOS and apps can help you navigate without cell service, whether you’re in a major metro area or deep in the mountains.
1—Snag Screenshots Of Boarding Passes And Train Tickets
It’s important to know that if you can’t show your ticket to transit authorities, their rules state it’s the same as not having one at all. Not having cell service isn’t an excusable reason to not have your ticket, so being sure you always have it available is crucial when traveling in large cities with light rail and Metro lines.
To prevent issues with not having your ticket or pass available, take a screenshot of the ticket within your transit app or email confirmation, and take a photo if you have a paper ticket, as those can get lost too! In cases when your phone charge might run out before you reach your destination, many transit stations can print your pass for you.
2—Store Passes And Transit Tickets In Apple Wallet
When you’re traveling by subway or light rail, sometimes platforms underground lack cell service, making it impossible to load a transit authority app. One workaround is using Apple Wallet to store your subway or light rail ticket for when you don’t have cellphone service. The app works regardless of having a cell signal, just like a physical wallet.
You can still pay using any of your cards stored here as well, and some transit authorities are set up with an Express Transit Card feature that allows direct Apple Pay scanning at the turnstile.
For those looking to not only navigate without cell service but also track their route, the GuruMaps app has everything you need. You can export your route in popular GPX and KML formats, along with gaining real-time intel on distance, average speed, and travel time. You can also download maps for entire countries with one tap instead of having to do it one region at a time. You can also bookmark and search points of interest along the way.
The MAPS.ME app gives you walking, cycling, or driving directions with real-time public transport and traffic information available when you have a cell signal.
Maps are taken from OpenStreetMap’s database and include points of interest like restaurants, museums, and public transit stops, all included in offline mode. That said, the search functionality for restaurants isn’t quite as reliable as other apps, so this one is best used for essential navigation rather than social planning.
5—Here WeGo App
If you love creating detailed itineraries on a larger screen before you embark on your adventures, the Here WeGo app provides cross-platform syncing for devices ranging from Windows operating systems to desktop browsers to a mobile iPhone app. There’s also a handy “collections” feature that you can group bookmarked places on downloadable maps.
Maps are available for the United States plus over 100 countries, each with functionality for walking, cycling, and turn-by-turn driving navigation. There are public transit directions for over 1,300 cities, but unfortunately, you have to be online for this feature to work.
6—Google Maps App
With Google Maps offline download capabilities, you can search for specific addresses and points of interest and view your current location even without service, along with navigating within the downloaded map area. Before your trip, just type in your destination and zoom until your current location is in view, then click download. Now you can use Google Maps anywhere in this area regardless of cell service availability.
You can also tag destinations within your offline map, providing a visual guide as you navigate your route through the streets by foot or scooter. Research the sights you want to see or restaurants to check out in the area, tag them, and easily build an efficient route to navigate a new city like one of the locals. If you’re looking for one of the best all-around tools for not only navigating in offline mode but also planning your entire day out and not having to worry about connectivity, Google Maps is one of your best bets.
Navigating The City’s Hard Surfaces Demands Rugged Phone Protection
When you’re rushing across the platform and down the escalator to catch the next Metro, phone in hand, you want the best possible grip to prevent dropping it. And if your phone somehow gets bumped out of your hand, you want to know that platform concrete or metal staircase won’t damage your device.