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See the flowers bloom

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Chan Brothers Travel takes visitors to the best spots, from curiosities like the Vampire restaurant in Taipei to favourites like Sun Moon Lake in Nantou

Latest travel story
Save and find your way with Google’s Offline Maps

Using your smartphone to look up a museum address or get turn-by-turn directions on a street in a foreign city can end up costing a small fortune in data charges.

Those who download Google’s new Offline Maps will not have to pay a dime.

The tool allows users to be in a place without Internet access – whether on a sidewalk in New York City or a back road in Tuscany – and pull up a map that lets them get directions and use turn-by-turn voice navigation, as well as search for places (art galleries, restaurants, hotels, museums) and see details including hours, phone numbers and reviews.

Offline Maps, introduced this month, is one of a handful of free tools being rolled out by Google as the company further extends its reach in the travel realm.

And in July, the company announced that it was displaying bar charts in Google Search that show the most and least popular hours at places including monuments, bars and restaurants, so visitors can plan accordingly.


Google Maps users have previously been able to look at offline maps they downloaded over Wi-Fi.

But being able to use turn-by-turn voice directions or search within a map for galleries, coffee shops and other destinations along with their details while being offline is new. (Even the auto complete feature in the Maps search box now works offline.)

Using Google Maps offline requires minimal planning. When you are in a place that has Wi-Fi, simply download a map to your  smartphone by opening the app, then go to “offline areas” and tap the “+” button.

Alternatively, you can search for a city, county or country and then tap the “download” button.

There are limits to the size of the offline map you can download, but you can download multiple maps.

When you are back in a place with Wi-Fi, Google switches back online. Google certainly is not the only option. App stores are full of detailed offline maps that can be downloaded onto your smartphone, including, City Maps2Go and Pocket Earth Pro.

Many people are used to navigating with Google Maps, though. It, too, is free and, unlike some competitors, its new offline maps have turn-by-turn voice directions as well as museum and restaurant reviews (sourced from a larger audience than most apps) and information.

Currently, Offline Maps is available to Android users. iOS users will likely be able to get it by the end of the year.


Also this month, Google announced it was expanding its Local Guides program, whose members provide reviews for places including restaurants and hotels in Google Maps and Google search.

To encourage people to share information about places they visit, there is a rewards programme.

After signing up at, members can earn points by writing reviews, uploading photos, answering questions and updating information.

Points can be used for rewards including early access to new products and online data storage.

The programme has five levels. The lowest, Level 1 (0 to 4 points), allows users to enter contests for things such as the latest Google devices.

Level 2 users (5 to 49 points) can get early access to new Google products and features.

For those who want their expertise recognised, Level 3 users (50 to 199 points) appear in the Google Maps app with a Local Guides badge.

Level 4 users (200 to 499 points) receive one terabyte of free Google Drive storage.

And Level 5 users (500 or more points) can apply to attend what Google is calling an “inaugural summit” next year in a place yet to be announced “where you’ll be able to meet other top guides from around the world, explore the Google campus and get the latest info about Google Maps”. (The company said it will offer more details next year.)


Once you have found the places you want to go, there is the matter of when to get there.

Back in the old days, you hoped for the best. These days, when you search Google for Madame Tussauds or Shake Shack, you sometimes see in your search results a bar graph that shows how busy the place is at different hours during the course of a particular day of the week, based on historical visits. (The graphs show up for places and on days when there is adequate data.)

New Yorkers and tourists alike can discover, for instance, that on a Tuesday the Metropolitan Museum of Art is least crowded at the opening hour, 10am, while you may be vying for a spot in front of van Gogh’s Wheat Field With Cypresses if you show up between 1.30 and 3.30pm.


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Inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage List in 2005, Macau’s historic centre is a living reminder of its blended Asian and European heritage

Coping with flight delays at the airport

YOU are about to leave Singapore for your well-deserved holiday, when about 15 minutes before your plane is scheduled to take off, you hear the announcement that your flight has been delayed.

That is fine if it is for half an hour, but what if there is no announcement on how long the delay will be?

Having to keep your cool during a flight delay might be alright for those of us who are not on business trips, but anything longer than an hour starts to become a nightmare.

Here are three ways to help you deal with potential flight delays.


Some people may skip taking out a travel insurance to save money, or do not consider it necessary for a weekend trip.

But let’s look at it this way: do you know that some travel credit cards actually provide a free insurance if you use them to pay for your trip?

Getting it for free just for using your card really makes getting travel insurance a lot easier – not to mention cheaper.

Taking an insurance policy mitigates the risk of changes to your travel schedule and potential losses. At the very least, you can take comfort in getting some monetary compensation.

However, do note that there is usually a minimum delay limit in order for compensation to kick in. Some policies might also not cover delays and flight cancellations due to natural disasters and operational issues by airlines.


Many people go on a flight prepared with entertainment to keep themselves occupied during flight time.

If you have a book, magazine or your laptop on hand, why not get some reading done or use the time to learn some new phrases in the language of your holiday destination?

Since you cannot do anything about the plane, might as well do what you can within your power to make the situation more productive for you.


If you are travelling with friends or family members, you can use the delay to interact and catch up on lost time with them.

That is exactly why you are on a holiday together, right? Go for a coffee break somewhere nearby, play some card games together or simply talk about or plan your itinerary together if you have not already done so.

The delay could also make a good conversation starter with fellow passengers. Who knows who you might meet next?

This article first appeared on, a personal finance and lifestyle website.