Road maps are a dime a dozen. You can practically buy a road map for the UK from convenience stores, bookstores and even refilling stations on major highways. The trick here is to find the good ones that meet your needs.
- Google Maps. One of the more popular mapping services today are two services from Google. One is Google Maps, which can be accessed from a Web browser. This service includes satellite shots of most places in the world. And in major cities, the map even includes detailed street information, up to secondary and private roads. With user-contributed content, even establishments like malls, filling stations, hotels, restaurants and the like are included. Google Earth, meanwhile, is a downloadable version of Maps, and is more powerful in terms of being able to list streets and establishments, and in searching for data. Google Maps can be accessed at maps.google.co.uk
- 192.com. 192 used to stand for the UK's telephone directory service. Now the website version at www.192.com is basically a directory listing for establishments. This service is pretty useful if you need movie schedules or you need to know where the nearest restaurants or hotels are. But 192.com also runs a map service, where you can find road maps online. The interface is similar to Google Maps, in that you can zoom in and out, and you can just drag the map to navigate. One good addition is that you can check a few boxes that will enable the map to show hotels, petrol stations, car parking, restaurants and banks within the vicinity of your current view.
- StreetMap. Another popular online mapping service for the UK is streetmap.co.uk. The service features a handy search engine, where you can input an exact address, and you will be shown a street map of that particular town, city or even street. You can then click on icons for various establishments, like hotels, filling stations or restaurants and you will be presented a list of possible places to go. It's not as elegant as Google Maps, which can list establishments like pins on an actual map. But it's still useful, because the site also features user ratings and reviews.
- The AA. theaa.com is more than just a service that shows road maps. It's actually a trip planner. The advantage of trip planners over simple maps is that you can define your points of origin and destination, and it will give you detailed instructions on how to get there, including where to turn, and landmarks to look for. Trip planners even give you the distance and estimated travel times, which would be helpful if you're running on a schedule. The AA's trip planner can be accessed from theaa.com/route-planner.
The convenience offered by these online road maps is that you don't have to go out and purchase a paper-based map, which, for all you know, might already be in need of updating. But to be sure you have a guide handy while you're on the road already, don't forget to print out your online map. Most online map services for the UK (or anywhere, for that matter) give users an option for printing out easy to use maps.
Another reminder: don't read your map while you're on the wheel. You can either stop at the shoulder or ask a companion to help with directions. Do have a safe trip.