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Using a GPS in Kyrgyzstan (or anywhere)

Here is what I have figured out on my own. Likely there are better solutions, but here are a couple of alternatives that work, depending on what you want. If you have a better solution, please share it in the comments, or shoot me an email.

And for the record, my GPS is a Garmin etrex Vista HCx. What I describe below will probably work with your GPS, too, maybe with a few modifications, especially if it is a Garmin, but there is no guarantee, of course.

A Map for Your GPS

For starters, you need a map. Garmin does not sell any maps of this area (that I am aware of), so you have to find someone else. I am using Open Street Map (OSM). It’s a very cool wiki-map thing. Basically, anyone can register and then edit the map. I have added a fair amount to the map and obviously there are a number of people doing the same, as I see it getting better day by day. There is a lot missing still, but it’s definitely a worthwhile start.

Of course, you can’t use OSM directly in your GPS device. Luckily, some people, or some groups of people, are already preparing the maps for your use. There are several alternatives, depending on what you want. Alternative 1, below, gives you a routable map using Latinized names for places and things, so it is the easiest for me to use. Alternative 2 is similar, but with most of the names in Cyrillic, which my GPS shows as gibberish. Alternative 3 is intended for people mapping for OSM, and is not routable. I’ve used all three alternatives, and they all worked for me, but Alternative 1 was far easier and the results far better.

1. “Free routable maps for Garmin brand GPS devices” – Latin-Based Routable Maps

This page does a great job of generating the map you want directly from the OSM site, on order. It can have whatever coverage you want, and it is spectacularly easy to use. Even better, I hardly need explain how to use it, since the instructions are right there on the webpage for you to read. You select the tiles you want, and enter your email address. The site will then email you a link to a page from which you can download the map you generated. If you have MapSource installed under Windows, just download the ‘osm_routable_mapsource.exe’ file. You run that file and it will install your new map into MapSource. You can then use the map like any other, including uploading it onto your unit.  More complete instructions.

2. “gis-lab” – Cyrillic Based Routable Maps

This site comes up in Russian initially, but you can change that by using the “Select Language” menu on the right hand of the page. The initial page is a listing of maps of the regions of Russia. When you click on “Countries” though, you get the listing of countries, including Kyrgyzstan, that we want. Click on “Kyrgyzstan” to download the zip file. It’s in 7z format, so you will need something to unzip it. I use IZArc, which is free. Open the extracted folder and double-click on INSTALL.BAT. That will install the Kyrgyzstan map to your copy of MapSource, the Garmin software. You can install whatever maps you need. I have Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan installed, for example, and use them together in MapSource (though it will only show one at a time). From there, it is easy to upload the maps onto your GPS unit.

3. “Cloudmade” – Maps for OSM Mapping

At this site what you want is the first file, kyrgyzstan.img.zip. You then put your GPS unit into “USB mass storage” mode. You rename the .img file to ‘gmapsupp.img’ and put it in the ‘Garmin’ subfolder. Voila. When you turn your GPS on again you will have the OSM. These maps are prepared for people who want to do further mapping, so features which need further work (like names for the streets) are red. It takes a bit of getting used to, but not much.  Unfortunately, the maps will not route.

Comments

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Time March 2, 2013 at 10:55 pm

[…] on what you want. You can see some of the other possibilities on an older page in this blog, Using a GPS in Kyrgyzstan (or anywhere).  Right now, though, I will focus on the one option I use.  This gives you a routable map […]

Trackback from Vanessa Smith
Time March 6, 2015 at 4:18 am

I liked your blog very much.

I want to thank you for the contribution.

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