Google Maps & Instagram Offer New Travel Tools

/ Source: TechNewsDaily

The closing ceremony at Olympic Stadium in London gave viewers a preview of Rio de Janeiro, the next city to host the Summer Games in 2016.  If you want to see more, this week's updates from Google Maps and photo-sharing app Instagram offer new travel planning sources.

Brazil was one of the first countries to be covered by  Google Maps' Street View . Today (Aug. 17) Google has added about 20 new cities, bringing the total to 71. Coverage for Rio de Janeiro has expanded well beyond the city limits to reach the interior capital city of Sao Paulo and north and south along the coastline. You can preview the area around your hotel as well as nearby shopping malls, historic monuments and restaurants.

To get started, type in Rio de Janeiro in the Google Maps search box. Once your map loads, zoom in so that you are close enough to see major roads. Click on the dropdown box under "Traffic" to select photos and videos. You may be interested in the area around the Maracanã, Rio's stadium that will be the centerpiece for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016  Summer Olympics . Currently closed for renovations, it is expected to reopen early next year. Drag the man icon to the map to access Street View to explore the area around the stadium. Use "Search Nearby" to find hotels, restaurants and other points of interest. You can save your favorites to "My Places" as you build your itinerary.

While Google Maps images are certainly practical, you'll find more interesting photos from people who have explored the area by using  Instagram . With this week's update to Instagram 3.0, each user's photos appear on a map if they've enabled the new feature. Start by tapping the new compass icon and use the tag #rio. While there were about 200,000 results, it was pretty easy to find captivating views of the city.

Scroll through the photos and tap to go to the photographer's page. Tap Photo Map to see their photos displayed in stacks on the map. Tap a stack to zoom in on a location. As you get closer, the stacks spread across the map like a blackjack dealer's cards.  One of our favorites was Antonio Lacerda, who posted 400 photos taken in the area. Find him at lacerda4. When you find work that you like, follow the photographer and future photos will appear in your Instagram stream.