May 15, 2008

Drive Europe with a GPS


As more people ask, and the summer travel season is right around the corner, I thought I would again offer some advice on driving around Europe with a GPS.... you bought here.

If you don't have a GPS and want to use one in Europe, I highly recommend that you get one now, before you go. If you do, you can drive here, and get used to it before taking it overseas where things will be a little different; better to be confident of what you are using and navigating with.

If you are thinking about renting a GPS in Europe, 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 930 and the older TomTom GO 920 - 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 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. Maps for countries/small regions can run about $80, while half of Europe can be up over $100.

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 $150 price of the TomTom ONE, makes you get to Europe for less than $250 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 under $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 $240+$130 UK maps = $370, which is more than the Nuvi 370 (~$328), 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 May 15, 2008 8:32 PM

Recent Comments


Most people who write me want to buy one in advance, make sure they can work it well and make sure they have navigation plans in place before stepping foot on a plane. The other nice thing is to be able to use it once you get back to the States.


Posted by: Scott Martin at May 26, 2008 3:39 PM

Why not buy one, once in Europe.
For example, Media Markt can be found all over Europe and sell PND's at atrractive prices.

Posted by: scott at May 19, 2008 6:06 AM
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