September 13, 2007

GPS for a European Trip

Recently some friends asked me about taking a GPS along to Europe for a trip, and so I thought I would pass along some of the thoughts here too. Europe is more advanced in its adoption of GPS units, and therefore its not a surprise to see GPS units on the road and available for use. However, limited non-guaranteed availability and steep rental prices (up to $60/day) can cramp your style, so I thought I would review your options for getting a GPS for Europe. With rental prices that high, it can pay to either buy a GPS and keep it, or buy a GPS and then eBay it when you get back. I will say that the addition of Euro Map data isn’t always cheap. I especially recommend a thin GPS for travel as it will save space and hassle.

Pre-Loaded North American & European Maps
Garmin has several models of the nuvi line that have pre-loaded Euro maps. These also have some travel extras that can help like currency converters and world time zone maps.

Garmin Nuvi 270 – The entry-level unit comes with both map sets and a generally good price.

Garmin Nuvi 370 – Adds text-to-speech, which allows you to hear the road names.

Garmin Nuvi 670 – The widescreen version of the nuvi 370 has a super-bright screen as well as the Text to Speech feature. It also adds an integrated TMC traffic feature, which can help you here, and may help there, as the TMC traffic feed is free in some countries.

Garmin Nuvi 770 – Just announced, this unit also offers a full compliment of maps, and features similar to the Nuvi 670, only in a sleek new design. It does offer one feature that may help you in a jam; a “Help Button” that will offer key information on your location and the option to find police, medical help and gas stations that are close.

TomTom GO 920/TomTom GO 920T – These are announced, but at this writing, not available. These units also come with European maps pre-loaded. The TomTom brand was started in Europe, and they are pretty happy to offer navigators with both US and Euro maps. They include Text-to-speech and TMC traffic on the 920T model. They are also widescreen GPS units.

Buy a US GPS and Buy the Additional Euro Maps – Computer Work Required!
If you don’t mind poking around a computer, you can sometimes save a bit if you want a lower end unit and buy only one Euro country’s worth of maps. This can be a lower priced route to navigation bliss in Europe. TomTom makes it easy with TomTom HOME, a computer application that allows you to manage your GPS, and purchase Euro maps online.

TomTom ONE, TomTom ONE XL – Buy these at lower prices and then load maps. For instance France costs about $80 US, which on top of the cost of the $200 price of the TomTom ONE, makes you get to Europe for less than $300 with US and country specific maps available. Western European maps are about $150; so for about $350 you get US and Euro maps. The TomTom ONE XL adds widescreen luxury for an up-charge. No Text to Speech in either one. I would add the maps onto an SD card (No more than 2GB), which can cost <$30. TomTom has some specific advice about how to add maps to the SD card after downloading and then how to add voices to the card too. I talked to TomTom customer support recently, got a human right away and got great information about how to do this.

Garmin Nuvi 200 – The Garmin Nuvi 200 is the bargain priced unit in the Garmin line that can accept Euro maps via SD card. You can get a region from Garmin (like UK + Ireland) for about $130 on an SD card. Net; a little over $300 for the whole deal. If considering more advanced models, like the Nuvi 350 that has text-to-speech, and then want to add Euro maps, the cost exceeds the preloaded Nuvi 370 version above. So, Nuvi 350 at $365+$130 UK maps = $495, which is more than the Nuvi 370 (~$460), which is the same model but already has the North American and Euro maps pre-loaded.

Bon Voyage, Guten Fahrt, and have a great trip.

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Posted by Scott Martin at September 13, 2007 6:42 AM

Recent Comments

You probably can also get the TomTom 910 for a reduced, clearance price now. Which, of course, has all the maps you'll need.

Posted by: ryanbrancel at September 13, 2007 11:38 PM
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