My Google Map Blog

Tag: Google Lens

Let Google be your holiday travel tour guide

by Katie Malczyk on Dec.13, 2019, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

When it comes to travel, I’m a planner. I’m content to spend weeks preparing the perfect holiday getaway: deciding on the ideal destination, finding the cheapest flights and sniffing out the best accommodations. I’ve been dreaming about a trip to Greece next year, and—true story—I’ve already got a spreadsheet to compare potential destinations, organized by flight length and hotel perks.

But the thing I don’t like to do is plot out the nitty-gritty details. I want to visit the important museums and landmarks, but I don’t want to write up a daily itinerary ahead of time. I’m a vegetarian, so I need to find veggie-friendly restaurants, but I’d prefer to stumble upon a good local spot than plan in advance. And, since I don’t speak Greek, I want to be able to navigate transportation options without having to stop and ask people for help all the time.

So I’ve come to rely on some useful Google tools to make my trips work for the way I like to travel. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Let Maps do the talking

Getting dropped into a new city is disorienting, and all the more so when you need to ask for help but don’t know how to pronounce the name of the place you’re trying to get to. Google Maps now has a fix for this: When you’ve got a place name up in Maps, just press the new little speaker button next to it, and it will speak out a place's name and address in the local lingo. And if you want to continue the conversation, Google Maps will quickly link you to the Google Translate app.

gif of Google Translate feature in Google Maps

Let your phone be your guidebook

New cities are full of new buildings, new foods and even new foliage. But I don’t want to just see these things; I want to learn more about them. That’s where Google Lens comes in as my know-it-all tour guide and interpreter. It can translate a menu, tell me about the landmark I’m standing in front of or identify a tree I’ve never seen before. So whenever I think, “I wonder what that building is for,” I can just use my camera to get an answer in real time. 

using Google Lens to identify a flower

Photo credit: Joao Nogueira

Get translation help on the go

The Google Assistant’s real-time translation feature, interpreter mode, is now available on Android and iOS phones worldwide, enabling you to have a conversation with someone speaking a foreign language. So if I say, “Hey Google, be my Greek translator,” I can easily communicate with, say, a restaurant server who doesn’t speak English. Interpreter mode works across 44 languages, and it features different ways to communicate suited to your situation: you can type using a keyboard for quiet environments, or manually select what language to speak.

gif of Google Assistant interpreter mode

Use your voice to get things done

Typing is fine, but talking is easier, especially when I’m on vacation and want to make everything as simple as possible. The Google Assistant makes it faster to find what I’m looking for and plan what’s next, like weather forecasts, reminders and wake-up alarms. It can also help me with conversions, like “Hey Google, how much is 20 Euros in pounds?”

Using Google Assistant to answer questions

Photo credit: Joao Nogueira

Take pics, then chill

When I’m in a new place, my camera is always out. But sorting through all those pictures is the opposite of relaxing. So I offload that work onto Google Photos: It backs up my photos for free and lets me search for things in them . And when I want to see all the photos my partner has taken, I can create an album that we can both add photos to. And Photos will remind me of our vacation in the future, too, with story-style highlights at the top of the app.

photo of leafy old town street

Photo credit: Joao Nogueira

Look up

I live in a big city, which means I don’t get to see the stars much. Traveling somewhere a little less built up means I can hone my Pixel 4 astrophotography skills. It’s easy to use something stable, like a wall, as a makeshift tripod, and then just let the camera do its thing.

a stone tower at night with a starry sky in the background

Photo credit: DDay

Vacation unplugged

As useful as my phone is, I try to be mindful about putting it down and ignoring it as much as I can. And that goes double for when I’m on vacation. Android phones have a whole assortment of Digital Wellbeing features to help you disconnect. My favorite is definitely flip to shhh: Just place your phone screen-side down and it silences notifications until you pick it back up.

someone sitting on a boat at sunset watching the shoreline

Photo credit: Joao Nogueira

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Pixel 3a helped me see my vacation through a new Lens

by Briana Feigon on Aug.24, 2019, under 3D Models, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, California, Denmark, England, Germany, Google Earth News, Google Earth Tips, Google Sky, Google maps, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Natural Landmarks, Netherlands, Sightseeing, Street Views, USA

When I was a kid, my mom would tell me on every birthday she wanted me to have a big goal in life: Travel to as many countries as my years on Earth. And though I'm far from that ambitious target, my mom did instill a major travel bug in me. 

Briana Feigon in Oaxaca

Settling in at the Casa Oaxaca hotel. 


But no matter where I travel, I struggle with the same issues many people face: pricey phone bills, subpar photos, a language barrier and, well, getting extremely lost.

So when I traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico last month, I sought out ways to combat these typical tourist problems. And thanks to my Pixel 3a, I was able to make real progress for the next time I visit more countries on my bucket list. Here’s how I did it. 

Navigating on Maps without pricey data fees

Even when I’m traveling, I like to be able to use my phone the same way I would at home. (Meaning, a lot.) For this trip, I decided to set my phone up with Google Fi so I could have unlimited international usage and great coverage. At the end of my trip, my phone bill netted out to be a fraction of my typical charge when I travel internationally.

Thanks to my cheaper data plan, I was also able to navigate with help from Maps. I’d never admit it myself, but some people might say I’m bad at directions. (Okay, a lot of people might say that.) In any case, I really leaned into using Live View in Google Maps, a tool that literally has a big blue arrow staring at me on my screen, pointing me exactly in the direction I should go. Even when in rural areas, outside of cell service, I was grateful to be able to use Google Maps in offline mode—like when I visited the Monte Alban ruins.

Taking in the beauty of Monte Alban with friends.

Taking in the beauty of Monte Alban with friends.

Lens translate

When ordering a juice from a mercado stand, I was able to use Translate in Lens to decipher many of the blends, opting for a juice that promised benefits for my skin. 

A new way to break down the language barrier 

I’m ashamed to say my Spanish isn’t great, so I put the Pixel 3a to the test. Could it magically help me speak a new language? 

Within the camera app, there’s a nifty feature in Google Lens that allows you to hover over text in another language for real-time translations. This came in handy in bustling markets, local restaurants and juice stands that only had menus in Spanish. Even if you don’t have a Pixel phone, you can download the Google Lens app on other Android or iOS devices to try it out yourself.  

The Google Assistant also came in handy when I needed language help. It was easy to ask the Assistant questions like, “Hey Google, how do you say ‘where is the bathroom’ in Spanish?” and get help converting costs from pesos to dollars.

Taking my vacation photos to the next level

In a city as beautiful as Oaxaca, I knew I’d be leaning heavily on the camera quality of the Pixel 3a. I snapped photos throughout a cooking demo making tortillas from scratch, and used features like portrait mode and Night Sight to make the most out of my vacation pics. Here are just a few highlights: 

My Pixel 3a was the ultimate tour guide

I know, I know, it’s just a phone, but I have to say I feel indebted to my Pixel 3a for showing me such a special time in Oaxaca. I think I’ll take it to my next dream travel destination: Japan. 

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