Things We Learned the Hard Way: Turks and Caicos

Travelling to a new country for the first time means trying to limit the unknown while still enjoying the unusual and distinctive experiences that each country brings.  We’re exploring so that we can see exciting and unfamiliar things, but we still need to do all of the day-to-day work that life entails, and that’s where we don’t like surprises.

Thanks to the Captain’s exhaustive pre-planning, the invaluable information shared by other cruisers, and the wonder of the internet, there are very few things that catch us by surprise.  Sometimes, though, we get whapped upside the head with something we didn’t foresee. 

Thus, welcome to the inaugural entry in a new article type that I will be doing for each country:  Things We Learned the Hard Way.  In Provo, the lesson learned involves navigating while driving. 

Driving in Provo while simultaneously searching for your location takes two apps:  Google Maps and MAPS.ME.  MAPS.ME is great because it works offline as long as you have downloaded the maps ahead of time.  Both apps are free and work on both Android and Apple devices.

Google Maps is better for showing where smaller or unusual businesses are (such as, for example, the Turks and Caicos SPCA).  MAPS.ME is hit or miss for naming businesses, and its search function is not robust.

However, Google Maps does not show the roundabouts as actual roundabouts, just as intersections.  This is a critical lapse as the roundabouts are several lanes wide, go the “wrong” way for American drivers, and are generally a hair-raising experience.  This is where MAPS.ME shines.  It shows the actual roads, whether they are divided highways or roundabouts or whatever.  Major roads are highlighted in yellow and are made easier to find.

So after many false starts and “Oh my God we passed it, turn around in this parking lot!” moments, we hit upon a winning combination:  find the location in Google Maps and get the directions.  Then find the same location in MAPS.ME and use that for real time, turn-by-turn status.

Here are screenshots of the same general location. Google Maps is on the left, and MAPS.ME is on the right. As you can see, the roads are much more complicated than Google Maps would suggest. However, at a higher resolution, Google Maps will name most all of those grey boxes that MAPS.ME is ignoring.