This little-known Google Maps feature is ideal if you're walking alone

Google Maps is brilliant for unfamiliar places. Here's how to use it without anyone knowing you're new in town

Google Maps
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I absolutely love mapping apps. Google Maps and Apple Maps have been my constant companions pretty much since day one, and they've helped me find my way around all kinds of interesting places and some pretty dull ones too. But there is a very big problem with using your maps app in an unfamiliar place: they can make it look very obvious that you're not from round here, and that you don't know where you're going.

That's a worry for anybody, but it's particularly worrying for women and other marginalised people who have good reasons to be wary on unfamiliar streets. Yes, you can use headphones. But like many women I won't stick my wireless earbuds in when I'm walking solo at night and/or somewhere I don't know, because I want to be able to hear everything around me.

The good news is that both Apple Maps and Google Maps have features that tell you where to go without requiring you to look at your phone at all. The Apple option uses the Apple Watch, and the Google one works on your phone – not just Android phones but iPhones too.

Get silent notifications in Google Maps

Google Maps makes it easy to get vibrations instead of audible notifications. All you need to do is tap on the volume icon in the app in walking mode and then choose the Muted option. This will give you two different vibration patterns so you know exactly where to go. Imagine these as Morse Code messages:

dash-dot-dot: turn right

dot-dash-dash: turn left

Brilliant, isn't it? Just remember to put your phone somewhere you'll feel the vibration – a pocket rather than in your bag.

Get silent notifications in Apple Maps

If you have an Apple Watch, you don't need to do anything: you'll get vibrations through your watch automatically whether you're walking, driving or on public transport unless you've turned this feature off in the Watch app on your iPhone. Once again there are different vibrations depending on what you need to do:

dot-dot... dot-dot... dot-dot: turn left

dot-dot-dot-dot-dot-dot-dot-dot-dot-dot-dot-dot: turn right

If you don't want these vibrations when you're not walking – they drive me daft when I'm in the car – you can switch off vibrations in the Watch app: My Watch > Maps > Turn Alerts.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (