There are dozens of mapping and navigation apps out there. Google Maps is perhaps the most popular of the lot of them, showing you not only thousands of locations but also letting you navigate to them, showing you the best route. But well, it can seem a little impersonal and too – for want of a better words, computer-y- at times. We have seen occasions when the maps application has shown a traffic jam or a clear road only for the reality to be the exact opposite. Which is why we use Waze – the app where travellers give each other traffic details.
Waze actually belongs to Google, which purchased it a few years ago. And yes, it also shows you the route to different locations and destinations. So how is it different from Google Maps itself, you may ask?
Well, the difference is that it is community-based. The information about traffic, obstructions, jams and even the presence of security personnel on many routes comes from people who are actually travelling on those routes. Google Maps might show an area of the road in red, indicating slow traffic, but Waze will actually show you a message from a traveller on the same route describing the state of the traffic and in many cases, even what is causing the jam.
When you join Waze, you join a massive community, one which runs into millions of drivers across the world. Unless you are travelling on a rather unknown rate, there is a fair chance that someone from Waze will have some report for you if things are not well. We have used the app extensively in the Indian capital of Delhi and well, we have not only been alerted to existing traffic jams but in many cases about also potential bottlenecks – say when there is VIP movement in a certain area, leading to some roads being closed for a short while (something that is never covered in regular navigation apps), or when an accident has just occurred and there is a possibility of a jam building up. Best of all, you know the information is coming from another traveller (and sometimes with pictures too). And of course, being a part of the community, you can contribute to this traffic information also, sending reports about traffic, about police presence (you can even specify if they are visible or hidden – a neat touch) and even if you encounter any problems with the maps themselves. The Waze community maintains the maps and keeps them updated regularly.
That apart, Waze is a very good navigation app too – the directions are good (and you can choose from a number of voices too), and you not only get to see alternative routes but you can also get the best time to travel on a particular route, within the next hour or so – great for planning. And you can get information about petrol pumps, restaurants and parking. You can also share your expected time of arrival with other contacts, provided they too are on Waze.
Yes, the interface is a little cluttered and takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, you will find yourself heading to Waze more often than Google Maps for most of your in-city commutes. Simply because Waze is perhaps the only navigation out there which will alert you to the fact that traffic has stopped on a route because a cow is sitting in the middle of the road (it does happen in India!). And well, while we are all for artificial intelligence and big data and the like, we just feel good about using directions that are based on real human reports.
Like the best apps, it is available for both Android and iOS.
And like the best things in life, it is totally free! No ads, nothing. Go ahead, make your Waze!
Traveller’s Tip: Waze uses a lot of data and GPS, so be sure to use it only when you have plenty of battery handy on your phone, else you might find yourself stuck without any directions!