If you want to be the best, you have to know how to play with the best.
Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm, with the U.K. as the latest country to join the fray. People everywhere are seemingly running around at random, looking at their phones for one express purpose: to catch ’em all.
I’ve been playing non-stop since Pokémon Go’s debut in the U.S., and I’ve collected a pretty good list of tips and tricks to help you excel in Pokémon Go.
Need to know how to start playing? Check out our beginner’s guide
Finding and catching Pokémon
1. Visit parks with multiple PokéStops
While you can find Pokémon just about anywhere, if you want to find lots of Pokémon, you want to go to a populated area. Cities are a pretty good starting point, but we prefer parks — especially parks with a good body of water, or saltwater beach parks — for the ultimate Pokémon catching experience. Different terrain will help you find different types of Pokémon, while parks with multiple PokéStops ensure that you won’t run out of Poké Balls while hunting. (In our testing, PokéStops also encourage the spawning of more Pokémon — especially if you attach a lure.
2. Hunt in pairs
When Pokémon appear, they appear for everyone and can be caught by every person in your area. As such, hunting in pairs (or even groups) is encouraged: Not only is it fun to banter with friends while wandering your neighborhood for Pokémon, but you can also cover more ground as you try to figure out just where that three-footstep Kadabra might be hiding.
3. Hunt (safely) at night
First of all: Don’t get stabbed or robbed. It’s clearly not safe to go by yourself to a Lure-enabled PokéStop in the middle of a city at night. That said, you can smartly hunt in pairs or small groups at night to find Pokémon you wouldn’t ordinarily find during the daytime — just stick to well-lit areas and have a car nearby. (I’ve been able to find quite a number of awesome Fairy-type Pokémon either by sitting in my house or wandering close by on nighttime walks with my dogs.)
4. Use your radar ring to discover Pokémon
As you wander the world, your avatar has a small pulsing ring that glows around them. This ring is your personal radar in the game: It’s what determines whether you’re close enough to a PokéStop or Gym to use it, and it’s also what pulls zero-footprint Pokémon out of hiding.
Once you’ve tracked a Pokémon to zero steps, that means it’s in your immediate vicinity: If you stand still for a few moments, your radar field should bring it out of hiding. So no, you don’t have to try and jump your neighbor’s fence or run through graveyards to find wandering Pokémon — your radar should reveal them without any extra work on your part.
5. For random Pokémon spawns, look for moving leaves
Those green fluttering leaves have frustrated Pokémon Go players from the beginning: Does it mean a Pokémon’s there? Nearby? Is it a red herring? From what we’ve been able to tell, those leaves indicate a Pokémon spawn point: If you hang out in that vicinity for long enough, you have a chance of seeing a creature not on your radar map appear. Note that I said “chance” — it’s far from a guarantee of a rare Pokémon appearing. Those leaves also don’t indicate the location of the current Pokémon you’re tracking on the Nearby list; don’t go chasing foliage in the hopes of catching that Drowzee.
6. Want to catch a lot of Pokémon quickly? Try parking lots
For whatever reason, Pokémon seem to love spawning in parking lots — especially if they’re near PokéStops. I’ve had luck seeing four, five, and even six common Pokémon show up in the lot by our local Trader Joe’s, as well as several gas stations.
7. When catching Pokémon, turn off AR
It’s pretty awesome to see that Pikachu spawn on your coffee machine, but AR (augmented reality) can often make it more difficult to catch your creatures — and drain your battery, too. To keep your device steady and ready for anything, flip AR off — you can always turn it back on if you find a Pokémon in a particularly hilarious location.
8. How to get bonuses when throwing Poké Balls
When you try to catch a Pokémon, the goal is to toss your ball inside the shrinking ring around them and have it land on the Pokémon’s head or nose. But there are special catch bonuses that can help improve (though not guarantee) your chances of keeping that Pokémon locked inside that Poké Ball rather than breaking free.
Whatever bonus you’re going for, remember to tap and hold on the Poké Ball to start the ring cycle so that you can wait to toss your ball until the ring is at the correct point. (Even if the Pokémon attempts to rear back or do some sort of movement to break the circle, keep holding your Poké Ball — they’ll eventually return, and you won’t lose your ball if you keep holding onto it.)
To get the Nice 10XP bonus, you want to catch the Pokémon at the moment the circle is at its widest. That usually means throwing while the circle is at its smallest, and attempting to land straight on the Pokémon’s head.
To get the Great 50XP bonus, you want to catch the Pokémon when the circle is exactly halfway: I’ve only gotten this bonus once or twice, because it requires crazy timing. Ideally, you want to toss the ball when the circle is two sizes away from its biggest size, and land square in the center of the circle.
To get the Excellent 100XP bonus, you need to catch the Pokémon in the direct middle of the circle when at its smallest. This move is easier to attempt on smaller Pokémon (like Eevee) instead of bigger creatures, because of where their heads are positioned relative to the circle. To score the bonus, wait until the circle is pretty small, then toss your ball straight on.
To get the Curveball 10XP bonus — which also comes with a near-guaranteed success rate at catching the Pokémon — you can spin the Poké Ball in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction until it starts vibrating, then toss it toward the Pokémon. I find this method pretty difficult to achieve regularly, so I often do an alternate method: Instead of curving, then tossing, I put the side of my thumb on the screen and throw — the contact patch makes the game think I’m spinning the ball before throwing.
9. Tap erroneously-thrown balls to try and recover them
This trick seems to work about 50 percent of the time, so take it with a grain of salt: If you accidentally toss a ball into the weeds, away from your Pokémon, you can tap the ball to try and recover it back into your collection. I’ve seen this trick work, but I’ve also been unable to replicate it every time, so tap at your own risk.
10. If your game crashes when catching a Pokémon, don’t fret
Game developer Niantic’s servers are frequently overloaded, and as such, sometimes your game can crash or severely hang after you catch a Pokémon, leaving it motionless in its Poké Ball. Don’t panic: Force quit the game and re-open it. In the crash, you’ll either have automatically caught the Pokémon (check your Pokédex), or it will still be spawned and waiting for you.
PokéStops and the world
11. Play during off-hours
As much fun as it is to play at lunchtime, the afternoon hours are often some of the busiest times for the game. If you can play later in the evening or early in the morning, you’ll have a much more enjoyable time exploring the world.
12. Use Ingress to find PokéStops
Niantic used many of the maps within its previous game, Ingress, to populate PokéStops and Gyms in the Pokémon Go world. As such, you can use Ingress’s map system to figure out where, exactly, you should target your hunting efforts. (If you see Portals on Ingress’s map, those translate to PokéStops.)
13. Drop lures at bars or shops if you don’t want to hunt
If it’s lazy Pokémon-catching tips you seek, you can find quite a few Pokémon by attaching Lures to your local coffee shop or bar and just sitting back and waiting. You’ll usually get a new Pokémon spawning inside the Lure every 3-5 minutes, with a chance of a rare Pokémon appearing.
14. Be picky with your Stardust and Candy
When you first start Pokémon Go, it’s tempting to want to boost and evolve your first Pokémon, but I’d encourage waiting: As you level up, you’ll find lots of higher-CP creatures — and those will often become much more powerful when evolved.
15. When evolving creatures, choose the higher-CP creatures
When power boosting your Pokémon, you’ll see a CP ring around their portrait: The amount filled in the ring indicates how much more powerful you can make them before you personally need to level up as a trainer. If they’re high-level to begin with, the result will be a much-higher evolved creature.
16. Use Lucky Eggs before an XP spree or evolving Pokémon
Lucky Eggs, which you can get as level rewards and buy from the Shop, will double your personal Trainer XP you collect for 30 minutes. You can use these pretty effectively to grind up your level while catching multiple Pokémon, but the best time to use these eggs is when you’re evolving Pokémon.
Normally, you get 500XP for evolving Pokémon; with a Lucky Egg enabled, that jumps to 1000XP every time. If you have a ton of Pidgeys, for example, you can evolve them into Pigeottos with just 12 Pidgey Candy — and net a ton of experience, in the meantime.
17. Trying to get your egg to hatch? Move it around your room
If you don’t have time to take a walk to get your 9.8km/10km egg to hatch, try moving your phone back and forth on your desk or around your office — if your trainer moves, you’re in a place where the GPS signal is unsteady enough that you can trick the game into thinking you’re walking. Keep moving your phone back and forth, and eventually your egg will hatch!
(Sure, you could also put your phone on a dog or a ceiling fan, but this is highly ill-advised unless you really want a broken phone.)
Gym battles and teams
18. Match up Pokémon with their opposing types before a battle
You might be woefully undermatched against an opposing Gym, but you can still do well and damage their Gym’s Prestige if you know one simple trick: How to match up an opposing Pokémon’s type and element. Each creature has a primary type, which usually matches up to some sort of element. And, as in the real world, some elements are more successful than others.
Here’s a quick list of each element type, and what opposing types of Pokémon are best-suited to take them down:
Normal: FightingFire: Water, Ground, RockWater: Electric, GrassElectric: GroundGrass: Fire, Ice, Poison, Flying, BugIce: Fire, Fighting, Rock, SteelFighting: Flying, Psychic, FairyPoison: Ground, PsychicGround: Water, Grass, IceFlying: Electric, Ice, RockPsychic: Bug, GhostBug: Fire, Flying, RockRock: Water, Grass, Fighting, Ground, SteelGhost: GhostDragon: Ice, Dragon, FairySteel: Fire, Fighting, GroundFairy: Poison, Steel
19. Dodge at the start of each battle
I picked up this tip from our Android Central pal Russell Holly, and it’s a good one: If you swipe left or right to dodge at the beginning of a battle, you’ll often give yourself an extra attack or two before your opponent can catch up. This is especially true for XS types like Eevees, whose quick burst attacks and dodges can take down a big creature before they can react.
20. Snipe a neutral gym
If you can’t personally fight a gym battle, or you’re traveling with a friend who’s exhausting all their powerful Pokémon to beat an opposing gym, you can wait until the gym gets taken over; once it’s a neutral white, anyone can drop their Pokémon in.
If you’re fast enough, you can re-capture a gym of yours that an opponent has been trying to take down, or you can add your most powerful Pokémon to the neutral gym after your buddy has fatigued all their high-level creatures in defeating the gym. And once you’ve taken it for your team, your buddy has time to heal their high-level Pokémon and can put in one of their own.
21. Add Pokémon of different types to a friendly gym
Adding a Pokémon to an already-friendly gym? Make sure you vary up which type of Pokémon you’re adding — an all-Fire gym of Flareons and Vulpixes might look cool, but it’s incredibly vulnerable to a trainer with Water and Ground-type Pokémon.
Your tips and tricks?
Any I’ve missed that you find invaluable to playing? Let us know below!
Pokemon Go beginner’s guidePokémon Go tips, tricks, and cheatsHow to track nearby PokémonWhere to find different types of PokémonHow to catch PokémonHow to evolve and level up PokémonHow to win gym battles and earn coinsHow to be lazy and play on the couchHow to fix crashes and server errorsHow to download Pokemon Go outside the U.S.Pokemon Go help and discussion forum