(post also available in french)
If you are a tourist visiting Jordan by car, or if you are an expat exploring the secrets of Jordan, you might want to have a reliable navigation app on your smartphone. And if it’s free and if it also works offline, that’s even better ! 🙂
Driving in Jordan can be challenging, and using unknown roads could hinder the enthusiasm of many. Obviously, nobody wants to get lost. Although sometimes, the most beautiful discoveries are made by actually getting lost on purpose, one normally doesn’t want to get stuck in the dunes of Wadi Rum, and crossing the border to Saudi Arabia, or, ahem, Irak, without noticing it.
Meanwhile, and especially if you haven’t purchased a mobile phone access in Jordan, you do not really want to spend all your 4G package by connecting your phone to your favorite navigation app in your home country, whatever it is …
A efficient solution exists: its name is OsmAnd. It is a free app, it works offline, it’s open source,it has layers …. In this post, we will try to convince you that this navigation experience worths at least being tested.
Do not be afraid to get off the beaten tracks
We are regularly questionned from travellers or expats on “how to go further alone” in Jordan, preferrably with its own car, without a guide.
Jordan is big and small at the same time. Some deserts like Wadi Rum are majestic and impressive, but are also permanently criss-crossed by the Bedouin pick ups, the 4X4 of some expats, hikers on foot, horseback riders, travel agencies, etc.
On the other hand, some other places are just as beautiful, but remain mostly unknown, and are therefore much less frequented (for example,, Wadi Dahek, one of our secret spots, or Wadi Araba …).
In either case, we can only encourage you to “dare to go there”, provided you (1) master the basics of 4WD- driving, (2) have some safety and mobility equipment in your car, (3) know your limits – and anticipate them;-) , and (4), most important, to know WHERE you are and subsequently, to know HOW to get help from other people.
We will soon issue another post in which we will describe how we equip our own 4WD when driving in the desert. By now, our aim is just to show you which navigation app you should adopt .
Much better than Waze, googlemap or Maps.me : OsmAnd
Most of us use Waze or Google Maps for everyday trips. Those apps are perfect in the city and on the main roads, but much less so when it comes to finding alone this beautiful rock arch that you had spotted, last time, in the north of Wadi Rum, 20 kms away from the nearest village.
The name of this application is OsmAnd. It’s free, so we have absolutely nothing to gain by advertising it on our blog, if not your eternal gratitude, when you finally reach the Saint Graal, i.e.: to know how to find the great Arch of the Burdha at night, all by itself ( e), and eyes closed.
The advantages of this application are:
- it works offline
- it is free (there is a premium version, but the free version is good enough for what has to do here)
- it is an open source app(ie without license)
- As for her big sisters, this app also includes vocal guidance and traffic warnings
- You can add layers: gpx plots, Points of interest (yours, and/or shared ones…)
In other words, you can install this app before your trip here, and then use it once you’re on the road. You can also navigate by following a pre-planned itinerary, provided you have activated the location on your smartphone. But even if you keep your phone offline, you can still have access the map offline, so you just don’t bother to bring paper maps anymore.
Examples : Download it, try it !
Let’s do a short test, assuming that you want to venture into Wadi Rum with your car (a 4WD, huh, not a sedan! I don’t want to be sued for “incitement to get stuck in the sand”) .
One of two villages to enter the desert is called Rum: less than 10 kilometers from this village, you can find dozens of nice points of interest. It is therefore an excellent environment to get accustomed to navigation. Most of the expats know this village.
Here are the results of the test, using respectively Waze, OsmAnd and Googlemaps:
As a result:
Waze does not even let you know if you’re riding on asphalt or sand. Therefore, forget it offroad.
Googlemaps is more suitable, you can find some tracks and indications of elevation … But if you lose the 4G network, you would get no more than… a blank screen!
OsmAnd enables you to view all known tracks on openstreetview. It’s really impressive. Even in the middle of the desert, you know if you are on the right track with a 5-meters accuracy. The overlay layers enable you to get access:
- to your own points of interest to the database,
- to the tracks (open street view – those are remarquably RELIABLE – even in the desert)
- to the type of relief (here, green = mountain, yellow = sand),
- least but not least, to the PoIs implemented by other users, including names and locations, see other examples below.
OsmAnd is a light app (around 20 Mo). There is no need to enter a login to use it. Make sure you activate the different types of overlay layers (“points of interest”, and so on) when you configurate the settings menu. When it’s done, you’ll get permanent access to the PoI, the names and locations, etc…
The middle and right pictures show you what the interface looks like. Even in the middle of Wadi Rum, the accuracy of the app is quite impressive, as I set the scale at 200 meters (picture below, on the right side).
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