GPS use

How To Read GPS Coordinates

Alice T Breeze
By Alice T Breeze. Updated: January 16, 2017
How To Read GPS Coordinates

Whether your GPS navigator just broke down and need to use a map to get to a certain point, want to use these coordinates to know where they belong to or are simply curious to know how the GPS system works, at OneHowTo we want to tell you everything you need to know so you learn how to read GPS coordinates.

Steps to follow:


Usually, GPS systems use the intersection between latitude and longitude to determine the location of a certain point, taking into account that the prime meridians are Greenwich for Longitude and the Equator for Latitude. The distance from these points can be translated into degrees, minutes and second, but GPS systems convert these numbers into decimal degrees in order to locate an exact spot on the planet. Though it may be useful for these devices, they are a bit more difficult to decipher for us.

How To Read GPS Coordinates - Step 1

If you want to know how to read GPS coordinates manually, converting decimal degrees into degrees, minutes and seconds, follow the instructions below:

Imagine you have the following coordinates : 119.1507209256 Longitude

If the longitude is positive, this refers to North. South is indicated with a minus symbol (-), whilst when looking at latitude, West is also marked with a minus symbol.

The first three numbers indicate degrees = 119 degrees.

To find minutes you should multiply the decimals given by 60, which will give 9.04325736. = 9 minutes.


0.1507209256 x 60= 9.04325736

To find the seconds you should multiply the decimals left in the last operation by 60 once again. = 2.5954416 seconds.


0.04325736 x 60= 2.5954416

So, the final result will be 119 degrees, 9 minutes and 2.5954416 seconds North.

Do the same with the latitude, taking into account that if it is a negative number you are looking at a location in the West.


To read GPS coordinates on Google maps, there are several numeric options that Google maps already offers. You can find places in degrees, minutes and seconds, in degrees and decimal minutes or in decimal degrees (which is the option we have shown you how to convert above.

With this useful tool you'll be able to locate any place on Earth as long as you have the right coordinates.

Note that the first figure always indicates latitude and the second indicates longitude.

Say we have the coordinates in DD (decimal degrees, as shown above), for example: 52.9776593,-1.98365

  • Open Google Maps
  • Instead of writing the name of the place, write down the coordinates, separated with a comma.
  • This will take you straight away to the exact coordinates indicated above!
How To Read GPS Coordinates - Step 3

If you want to read similar articles to How To Read GPS Coordinates, we recommend you visit our Electronics category.

Write a comment
What did you think of this article?
Very good tutorial , easy to understand and use. Thank you.
Paul Long
Great info. Was in the Navy and always wondered how the hell we found Nam and all those great places.
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How To Read GPS Coordinates