5 Tips to Go Geocaching Internationally

We really enjoy Geocaching during our international travels because it gives us a unique adventure.  But there are a few things that you need to think about when you are planning to go geocaching while on vacation / holiday.  We learned these lessons the hard way on our first trip to Europe.  We didn’t plan ahead of time to go geocaching and we had a more difficult time finding our way.  Basically, you could say that we did it the hard way!  We made it work, but it kept us on the tourist path and we missed out on some caches that we have since looked back on and wish we could have found.  After that first geocaching experience in Europe, we realized that we needed to be a bit more prepared.  We’ve gotten a lot better at geocaching internationally since then, so as a result, here are our top 5 things that you need to know to go geocaching internationally.  

1.  Your GPS is Your Friend – Bring It

Garmin, Geocaching, Mexico, chichen itza, yuctan, driving, insurance, rental car, guiding, peanuts or pretzels, travel, safe, geocache, highway, Coba, mayan ruins,
Our Garmin pointing us to the site of the Virtual Cache in Tulum, Mexico

When we first went geocaching in Europe we were pretty new to the game and were still using our SmartPhones because we didn’t own a GPS.  During that trip, we realized that it is critical to have a GPS to be able to cache internationally, especially if we wanted to venture off into the countryside.  Looking back on that trip to Europe, we really wish that we would have had a GPS because it would have added a lot to our adventure.  Nowadays, our Garmin Oregon 650T come with us everywhere!

2.  Download Your Route to Your GPS & Do Your Research

Geocaching Internationally New Zealand
On the Trail to a Geocache on the South Island of New Zealand

Doing some advanced research for the trip and looking for great caches to go after has actually become part of our vacation planning!  While we don’t build the entire vacation around caching, it does help us to discover unique places that we hadn’t thought of visiting.  This also helps us to at least plan out a few caches that we want to go for in advance, especially if they are difficult and will take time to get to.  Lastly, be sure to download your route and the caches to your GPS in advance of your trip.  This will save you a lot of time during your trip and you won’t be as dependent on finding internet access.

3.  You Can Use a Smartphone to Borrow WiFi and Save for Offline

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A Nice view of Petronas Towers from a Geocache in the park.

Even though you should have a GPS with caches pre-loaded on to it, plans often change.  If you find yourself in a place that you didn’t expect to be, you may still be able to find out if there are caches nearby.  One way we do this is finding a local establishment with free WiFi and using our smartphones to search out caches.  In fact, we did this during a quick stopover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

We originally didn’t think that we would have enough time to do any caching in this city, so we didn’t download any caches to our GPS.  But as we were hanging out with time to spare around the Patronas Towers, we suddenly got the urge to find a cache.  Luckily, there was a Starbucks nearby.  So we popped in and accessed their WiFi on our phones. Sure enough, we saw that there was a highly favored cache in the nearby park.  We saved the cache for offline use, and set out to find it.  Check out our story about finding this cache at the Patronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur!

Geocaching with Free City wifi

We are also finding that more and more bigger cities around the world will have free city wifi or free city wifi hot spots.  One a recent trip to Hong Kong we used the free city wifi to go Geocaching in the famous Kowloon Park of Hong Kong.  Also using the free city wifi to cache along the famous Hollywood Walk on Victoria Harbour.

Also, pocket queries can be saved for “offline” use.  This is a great back up for your GPS.  Having a backup is important, because you don’t want to miss out on filling your geocaching world map due to a GPS error!  (We use this a lot when we travel as a back up for our GPS.)

** Note: If you don’t want outrageous data-roaming charges on your SmartPhone, be sure it is on airplane mode!  Then you can turn on WiFi and be sure that you are not using data when you search for caches online.

4.  You May Have to Translate Geocaches

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Since Geocaching was founded in the States and English is a “bridge” language for many cultures, you will find English often used in cache descriptions and logs.  However, there could be occasions when you go geocaching internationally that you need to do some translation.  If you do your research in advance and review the cache pages on Geocaching.com, you can easily do some translation on your computer with Google Translate.  But to be prepared when you are on the road, make sure to download translation apps to your smartphone, such as iTranslate.  Many of these apps will translate even when you are offline.  These are helpful even beyond geocaching, because you never know when you may need some language help when you travel!

5.  Pre-download Street Maps to GPS

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If you are planning to go geocaching in a major city abroad, then it is a good idea to pre-download Street Maps to you GPS. You will quickly learn that you need up-to-date maps on your device to be able to go geocaching internationally.  It can be unnerving to not have a map to guide you in the right direction.  There are several different methods in which you can load maps to your devices, a great tool to check out is OpenStreetMap.

*Bonus:  Help Trackables Get Around the World!

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Picked up some trackables that want to go to China! We are happy to help them on their journey during our upcoming trip to Thailand!

One of our favorite aspects of the game of geocaching is how people work together to move trackables around the world.  It’s such a cool concept!  So if you plan to go geocaching on an international trip, be sure to bring some trackables that you can drop off in caches you discover abroad.  Whenever we start counting down to an upcoming trip, we start collecting trackables to bring along with us.  Also, you may want to have a couple swag items with you just in case you find something really cool in a cache along the way.  You always want to be sure that you have a little something to trade.  We love discovering, picking up, and moving trackables all over the world.

Indulge Your Sense of Adventure by Geocaching Internationally

Josh and I posing outside our rental car in scottish highlands, such a beautiful road trip
Ever Changing Landscape – Scottish Highlands

While you will need more than just these 5 things to go geocaching internationally (pen and paper are a given), these are things that we have learned along the way that will help you fill in spots on your world geocaching map on your profile.  We love geocaching all around the U.S., but there is just something about discovering your first geocache internationally.  The rush that you get from finding that first international geocache will only make you thirst for more international discovery and adventure.  Geocaching is an awesome way to explore the entire world!

4 thoughts on “5 Tips to Go Geocaching Internationally”

  1. Good stuff! We’ve used my iPhone for a bunch of international caches. I never have cell data service so the borrowing wifi is key. As you mentioned the Geocaching app feature “Save for off-line use” is pretty freakin’ sweet. The only other smart phone trick I use is loading the map while using wifi. Often the phone will keep all the details of streets and such even after lose your connection. This can be handy for city navigating as well as Geocaching. Thanks for sharing guys!

    1. Thanks Donny! Yeah, good suggestion about loading the map too. We have done that before as well so that we can try to know where we are (and where we are going) after we lose the internet connection. It does add a whole new element of difficulty into the game that’s for sure! 🙂

      Hope all is well!
      – Liz & Josh

  2. I would load the cache data onto every device I bring with me. Phone, GPSr, tablets, laptops – whatever.

    I’d also keep a backup copy of the GPX files on any device you can use to load your GPSr, in case of issues. It also doesn’t hurt to keep a backup of the maps file on a USB stick in case you need to reload your GPSr in the field (it happens, especially with Garmins). Of course, also bring the proper USB cable.

    Don’t just grab maps of where you think you’ll be. Grab maps of as wide of an area as you can. Typically you need more help navigating a place you’ve never thought you’d be, as opposed to a place where you’ve likely been studying the maps for weeks ahead of time.

    For organizing caches, I tend to create two sets of GPXs. One is a list of the caches I must hit – these may be highly favourited caches, caches from my bucket list, or perhaps the closest cache near a place I want to visit. The other is all of the caches in the area I am going to visit. My smart phone app (Locus Pro for me, tho others have this ability) allow me to toggle between both lists. I normally keep my default view on the favourited list so I can see the places I want to go, but if I have some time, or find myself in an unexpected area, I switch to all caches to see if there is any random cache nearby I could find.

    The two cache lists technique serves me well on road trips, where I find myself randomly at the side of roads for toddler bathroom breaks, or gas stops. I can easily see where my next intended destination is, but often find bonus caches while fueling up.

  3. Gary from California

    If you use GSAK and have the time to prepare than GDAK on the Android is a fantastic aid because you can load as many caches as you have space for and have everything you need to find a cache with no need for any connection.

    Personally I shy away from Multi’s and Unknown caches if the cache isn’t published in English because even with a translation the changes of successfully completing the cache is slim. However if you can locate a local cacher that speaks you language they can be a big help.

    17 countries and counting…

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