Ok, I admit it. I have zero sense of direction.. I’ve no idea how it happened, I even competed in orienteering when I was younger (competitive map based running through the bush in Australia). Anyways, today I’m an expert in getting lost.
Since I recently moved to Santo Domingo, I don’t know my way around. In addition, people drive like its their last day on the planet, so the traffic can be a challenge and its easy to get lost. I love driving in the US – I just install my GPS and I can find my way anywhere.
For years I’ve wanted GPS maps of the Dominican Republic. But no go. I’ve searched all over the net for commercial maps, I’ve checked out open source community maps, nothing. I was even going to pay someone to make them, but that turned out to be more complicated than we expected.
On the Dominican message boards, DR1, they mentioned the other day that someone had made maps for Santo Domingo, released just a week ago for Santo Domingo! Wow! So I dug out my Garmin GPS I use for trips in the US and went over there (in taxi naturally, since I couldn’t find it on my own!).
I was concerned my US maps wouldn’t fit with my dominican maps, but it turned out that wasn’t an issue. Once I got there, I was sent upstairs and there was a guy installing the GPS units. He was very friendly and just connected my unit via the USB cable and copied over the data. It took about 10 minutes. Then I paid him RD$1400 ($40US) and off I went.
So firstly, they’re not complete maps, its nothing like GPS service in the US. You can’t look up a street address like you can in the USA. All you get are maps of the city, working on your GPS. If you want to go to a specific address, you have to find that location on the GPS map, pinpointmark the position on the GPS and then it will take you there. It has a limited selection of restaurants and locations built in which you can preselect, but its nothing like a mapping unit in the USA which has virtually complete business data for the entire city.
On my first trip it took me about 25 minutes to figure out how to get it to work. But once I’d programmed in the place I was going to (which I had to find on the paper map first ironically), getting there was a breeze. And, once I was there, I marked the position as a favourite in the GPS, so I will be able to find out how to get back there again.
One night when I was coming home late, I got lost for almost 2 hours.. There are often limited sign markings in the DR and late at night there may be nobody around to ask directions.. With my GPS that won’t happen again. 🙂
One cool thing was that my GPS is running in english, but giving all the street names in Spanish. So it tells me to turn left in english. For a lazy spanish speaker like myself, I like it. 🙂
Without the ability to search for streets and towns, its not perfect, its about 60% of a US GPS map system. But its a great start and hopefully will be improved.
The only issue I found out is that my cigarette lighter electricity had been disconnected, presumably when my ipod system was installed.. So the GPS ran out of power.. Ah, DR mechanics.. but we’ll get that fixed. 🙂
Here’s the unit: http://www.ola.com.do/gps.php
Thanks Ola, and good job!