More often than not I get lost. I have what is possibly THE WORST sense of direction out of anybody you’re ever going to meet, it’s so bad that I even get lost in shopping centres and in car parks when I’m looking for my car (although I think this is more related to my terrible short term memory). With the amount of time that I spend travelling around South Africa the thought of how long I would spend in petrol stations asking for directions in places like Polokwane absolutely terrified me. So, I decided that it was time to get myself a good quality GPS unit, one that I could get away with using because it was a “tool” that made me more awesome and sure of myself- or something.
I decided that it was best to go with a unit that was sort of middle of the range but with enough support that you wouldnt even get lost if you were in the depths of Bloemfontein in search of the Mystic Boer (a place & not a person). The TomTom Via110 retails for around R1800 (depending on where you get it, it might be a little more or less) and is a specialised Southern Africa version that really makes the leap between the old school chunky ugly gps units of old to the more design focussed useful gadgets we see everywhere around us.
It is designed for utmost convenience by incorporating clever searches and the use of your voice for performing many different tasks including searching for addresses. When I got my hands on the unit, I noticed that it had a fold in suction cup, meaning that I did not have to carry around the gps in 2 seperate parts, a real irration if there ever was one. It was also fairly slim and light with a nice classy black finish and massive 4.3-inch matte display with pretty clear picture even in full sunlight.
I started off by messing around with the voice options (as one does) and after growing irrated with an American who always thought they knew better, I decided to stick to a British woman who clearly knew the South Africans roads way better, having been a Colonialist and everything. Next step was to try and get the unit horribly lost in my home city of Cape Town, knowing that I could just use the mountain to direct me should I get lost for real. I took a spin around some of our most confusing junctions and highway cross overs and the TomTom Via Series 110, navigated them with ease, using this nifty advanced lane guidance feature as well as spoken road names (so you know what to look out for next without looking at the screen)- making sure you never miss a turnoff.
The fact that it was a Southern Africa focus GPS really shone through when I took the unit to Port Elizabeth, where there had been some serious construction and changes in the road layouts over the past couple of months. The updates from the TomTom website that I got as part of the package made sure I had the latest maps making sure I was never lost. The search feature was fairly impressive as well and it led me to the nearest casino with relative ease, regardless of the fact that this might have been a bit of an obscure thing to navigate to. The final thing that I thought was quite cool was the speed of the processor, which apparently is shared with the top of the range GPS from the TomTom Via section of offerings. Even if I took a wrong turn the unit re-calculated an effective way to get back onto the route or to the destination almost immediately.
There are plenty of different routing styles available including ones that avoid roads with known speed cameras or that give you better economy as well as access to entire network of constantly updated maps for the Southern African region. I definitely recommend having a look at the TomTom Via Series 110 for whatever region you are in (they do have Euro ones too) if you’re looking for a cost effective way to not get lost in style.