We all take our phones on holiday, but most of us have to pay for mobile data abroad. Phones are great for navigating thanks to their GPS, but map data can soon rack up large bills. But the good news is that you can download Google maps and use them to navigate with no Wi-Fi or 3G / 4G connection. Here's how to download Google maps. See all smartphone how tos.

Offline maps have been available from Google for a few years, but it's only recently that you were able to quickly and easily download multiple maps straight to your phone - both on iPhone and Android, and get driving directions while offline. You won't be able to search for restaurants or shops while offline, but you can use maps to navigate to an address or postcode. You can't select cycling or walking directions, only driving and - obviously - you won't get traffic information or be able to change the route like you normally can.

See also: 21 Strange sights in Google Street View

How to download Google Maps

You download the map for a locale directly onto your smartphone. Obviously you’ll want to do this before you set off, as a large map could eat into your data plan and of course the reason you’re downloading it is that you might not have a signal or mobile where you’re going. Google has limited the size of the map you can install on your device, but as this currently stands at 120,000 square kilometres, so you should be good for most trips.

To download a map, open the the Maps app on your smartphone or tablet (with GPS) and make sure you're signed in. To check, tap the three horizontal bars to the left of the search bar and see if your name or email address is shown. If not you should see a Sign in option.

In this same menu, you'll see Offline areas. Tap this and you'll probably see 'Recomended areas' and your Home location. Since downloads only persist for 29 days, it's only worth downloading this if you think you'll need it soon.

Depending on the road density, downloads can take up 500MB, but rural areas can use up ten times less than this. There's no limit to how many areas you can download, only the internal storage of your phone.

Now search for the place you intend to visit or simply scroll there on the map. When you find the place go back to the Offline areas menu and tap the big blue + button. You can zoom in or out - the app will tell you if the area is too large or not. Sometimes there's a limit to how much you can zoom in - don't worry if you can't see individual roads as they will still be downloaded. Just tap the Download button when you're ready.

Download Google maps

Some areas are unavailable to download because of restrictions, but on the whole you should find you can download what you need.

You must leave the Maps app open until the download is finished: check on its progress by going back to Offline areas.

Tap the cog icon at the top of the Offline areas screen and you can choose whether to have those offline areas updated automatically or not, and whether to download map data over Wi-Fi only or also with mobile data.

How to delete a downloaded Google map

Don't forget that downloaded areas expire after 29 days, so don't download too early. To delete a downloaded area, tap on it in Offline areas and you'll see the Delete button. Here you can also rename it.

Download Google maps

How to navigate a downloaded Google map

Navigating your offline maps is exactly the same as if you were online. Simply tap the turn arrow in the blue circle near the bottom of the map and search for your destination in the search bar. You can get driving directions from your current position - or you can choose a different starting address.

Download Google maps