GPS Systems & Maps...

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Chances are, if you own a GPS or if you are planning on buying one, Garmin will be your brand of choice.  So, when we decided to move to Costa Rica, I began researching electronic map providers for my Garmin Nüvi 670.  I found two providers, EZFind by NavSat and SmartWays, a product licensed by Garmin. 

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After doing tons of research, both products received good reviews in the press, in fact, if you rent a GPS equipped car at the San Jose Airport, chances are it will come with the EZFind maps.  But in the end I'm glad I decided on the maps from SmartWays.

Months later, after moving to Costa Rica, I had the opportunity to do a comparison test between my SmartWays maps and those from EZFind.  With both units set to maximum resolution/detail, we took a road trip from San Ramon to Puntarenas.  Both units performed equally and provided near identical turn by turn routing instructions.  But the difference I found was in the low level detail of the actual maps themselves.  I found the SmartWays maps provided much greater detail to include smaller roads and rivers than the EZFind.  Now you may ask yourself why is this important?  For me, I like to know my options.  If I have a map that contains greater detail, then I have options to manually plan alternative routes.  But hey... I'm an anal retentive guy.

SmartWays Map Information

GPS Systems Are Not Perfect!

If you own a GPS, you already know you are at the mercy of the programmers.  That does not change in Costa Rica, in fact, it can be worse.  GPS units are not infallible and should only be used as one data point. 

Paper maps can be just as valuable if not more important to the success or failure on a road trip.  I can tell you (first hand) that my GPS lead me to routes that were flat out wrong.  It directed me to roads that were not there and sent me down streets going the wrong direction.  NO HAY PASO!  You need to use COMMON SENSE.  Just because the GPS says "Turn Left Now!" does not mean you must turn left now.  Use your brain!

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