Google Maps Directions

Say that a friend calls you up or sends you an email, and invites you to a social function being held by one of their friends.  They tell you the address of the person's house, and what time you have to be there.  Great, all set!  Except… you have no idea where the person's address is relative to any other places you know, because it's in an unfamiliar part of town.  How do you know what roads can get you there?  What are some landmarks that you can look for along the way?  What does the person's house even look like?  And most importantly… what are you going to do to solve all of these problems?

Leave the navigating to Google Maps!  By plugging in your start point and end point, you can get multiple sets of detailed directions between the two, based primarily on how you want to get there.  Plus, you can quickly get directions for the trip back by instantly switching your departure point and destination.  And there are even more options for tailoring your trip, so that you can travel the way that's right for you!

Getting directions with Google Maps

Choosing a start and end point

  1. Go to in your web browser.

  2. In the upper-left corner, under the search bar, click Directions.

  3. The search bar will now change to look like the screenshot below.  First, you're going to want to tell Google Maps where you're coming from and where you're going to.  For this example, let's say that we're a tourist visiting New York City, and we want to know how to get from the Empire State Building to the Apollo Theatre.

    Click inside the box that says "Choose a Starting Point" and type in the location that you want to start from.  As you type, Google Maps will try to guess the location that you're looking for; typically, locations already visible in the current map view will appear near the top.  If you see a location that matches your desired departure point, click it.

    Next, click inside the box that says "Choose Destination" and type in the location where you want to end up.  Again, Google Maps will try to guess the location that you're looking for as you type it, with locations visible in your current map view typically near the top of the list.  If you see your desired end point in the list that appears, click it.

    NOTE:  If you already know where both your departure point and destination are on the map, you can simply click one and then the other.

Choosing a transportation method and planning a route

  1. You will now see a list of sets of directions, starting with what Google Maps thinks is the most efficient way of getting from your departure point to your end point.  If you want to see the routes that favour a specific method of transportation, click on one of the vehicle icons highlighted in the screenshot below.  You can check routes for:

    – Personal Vehicles
    – Public Transportation
    – Walking
    – Bicycles
    – Airplanes

    NOTE: Some of these options may be initially hidden; you can reveal them by moving your mouse over the "more" button (•••).  Also, some options may not be available, depending on the distance between your departure and destination points.  For example, shorter distances may not have airplane routes, while longer distances may not have bus routes.

    If you don't have a preference, you can click the directions button () to go back to the list of what Google Maps thinks are the most efficient routes.

  2. Depending on the type of transportation you've selected, you will see different routes on the map.  The one highlighted in colour is the route you currently have selected.  The other routes will be greyed out.  Click on one of the greyed-out routes to select it.

    Also, if you move your mouse over one of the white circles on the currently selected route, you can see an action that you should take at that point, along with a picture of what the area looks like so you can orient yourself properly.

  3. If you want to make certain adjustments to the route you currently have selected, click Route Options.  This gives you options that you can check off to make sure that your route avoids highways, toll roads, and ferries, among other things.  You can also select whether your distances display in miles or kilometres.

    NOTE: depending on the type of transportation you're using for the route, you may have different route options.  For example, if you have a public transportation route selected, you can choose whether you prefer to travel on a bus, tram, subway, etc.  You can also select whether your route is the most efficient one, keeps you from having to transfer between vehicles too often, or keeps you from having to walk too much.

Adding additional destinations

  1. If you want, you can also add further destinations after your first one.  For example, say that after we go to the Apollo Theatre, we want to double back to the Rockefeller Centre.  In that case, click the "add destination" button (), start typing in the place you want to go, and then click on it when it appears in the list of suggestions.

Changing the order of destinations

  1. Okay, now let's say that you want to go to the Rockefeller Centre before you go to the Apollo Theatre.  In that case, move your mouse cursor over the marker of the location whose order you want to change (your cursor will change to a hand, and three vertical dots will appear along with the message "Drag to Reorder").  Now, click and hold the left mouse button, drag the location to its new position on the route, and let go of the mouse button.

Removing a destination

  1. On second thought, maybe you don't want to go to the Rockefeller Centre after all.  If you have three or more locations on your route, you can get rid of one of them by moving your mouse cursor to the right edge of the location until an "X" appears, along with the message "Remove this Location".  Click the "X" to delete this location from your route.

Selecting your route and getting directions for it

  1. Okay, so you've decided on where you're going.  Now you have to decide what route you're going to take to get there.

    In the menu in the top-left corner, your currently selected route will appear with expanded information.  Other routes will appear collapsed below it, showing you their primary method of transportation and approximate travel time.  Click one to select it.

    You can also select the route you want by clicking on it directly on the map, as outlined in step 5.

  2. Once you have the route that you want to take selected, click Details (or, if your route is via public transportation, click the blue text next to "Next Trip") to display detailed directions.

Choosing a route with public transportation

  1. If you have a public transportation route selected, you can click More Options and Times to open a new window that lets you fine-tune your travel options.  You can click on the menu options across the top to select, respectively:

    – Whether you want to leave your start point or arrive at your end point at a specific time
    – The time that you want to depart at or arrive by (depending on the above choice)
    – The date that you want to depart by or arrive by (depending on the first choice)
    – Any other options for the route, such as whether you prefer bus, tram, subway, etc.

    If you want to pick a different kind of route, click the "X" in the top-right corner.  Otherwise, click on a route in the main part of the window to immediately select it and display detailed directions.

Reading and printing your directions

  1. Once you have directions for a route displayed, you can see the distance and approximate amount of time taken, both for the complete trip and each major leg of it.  If you click on one of the small arrows next to a major leg of the trip ( or ), you can show or hide more specific directions for that leg, as well as how much distance they cover (in the example below, we've chosen to show them).  Clicking on one of these specific directions will cause the map to focus on the area where you are supposed to perform that action.

    If you want to print the directions for the current route, click the printer icon () and select from the drop-down menu whether you want to Print Including Maps (print the accompanying map images for the complete route and each major leg) or Print Text Only (to print the directions without any accompanying maps).

    If you want to go back and look at another route, click the "X" next to the printer icon.

Getting directions for the trip back

  1. Now that you know how to get from the Empire State Building to the Apollo Theatre, how do you get back the other way?  Fortunately, there's a very easy way to do this in Google Maps. 

    If you're only getting directions between two locations, you can click the reverse button () beside them, and presto!  Your starting point and destination will be switched, and Google Maps will give you new routes accordingly.  From there, you can pick your route and route options, and display and print directions like you normally would.

And that's pretty much everything you need to know about finding and printing directions with Google Maps!