To ensure that you have a stress-free and enjoyable time while visiting a new city, it is essential to bring along or pick up a city map at the start of the trip. City maps can often be found for free and may contain all of the information you need when paired with a good guidebook. Bookstores sell city maps that are more detailed and comprehensive when compared to their free counterparts. Listed below are some options when looking for a city map.
How to find a free city map: In cities that see many tourists, maps to the city are often provided at no charge. I've found this to be especially true in many cities outside of the United States. There are a few places to keep an eye out for free city maps.
- Upon arrival into a city from either the airport or train station, it is a good idea to keep an eye out for stands or kiosks holding free maps. Many times free guides are also provided to tourists, and these may contain maps as well. Airports and train stations may also have a tourist authority or tourism counter, where these items are provided along with other useful information.
- Free city maps can also be found in tourist offices and visitor information centers inside the city. Usually such offices are located close to tourist sites for easy access. For example, San Francisco has a visitor information center close to downtown, along with a kiosk in Union Square. At these offices, free city maps and guides can be found along with discounted attraction tickets, etc.
- A quick search on the internet can also yield free city maps. Many cities provide maps on their official city website or their visitor center's website. Another example for San Francisco is www.sfvisitor.org, which contains a wealth of tourist information along with many free printable maps. The well known map company, Rand McNally, also offers free printable maps of many cities in the United States.
- The American Automobile Association is an excellent resource for free maps, especially if you are driving to and around your destination. If you are a member, it's a good idea to go to an AAA office or their website to see what is offered.
How to purchase a city map: If you're staying in a city for a bit longer or plan on driving within the city and its surroundings, it may be a good idea to purchase a city map. These maps can be found in bookstores and online, as well as in shops close to the major tourist attractions in a city.
- If you are driving within the city, you will probably need to purchase a street atlas or a map with detailed streets and indicies. Rand McNally has many options for street maps and road atlases.
- Many known travel guidebooks also publish laminated travel maps to go along with their books. For example, Lonely Planet sells city maps, as does Rough Guides. These maps include side boxes with public transportation routes and maps and point out key tourist attractions of each city. Berlitz sells City GuideMaps, which contain maps along with a short travel guide of the city. All of these can be purchased online at their company websites, in a local bookstore, or at at www.amazon.com. Rough Guides also sells interactive city maps that you can download to your PDA or laptop for a small fee.