How To

How to play Pokémon Go with the best tips and tricks

Scott Arpajian

Scott Arpajian

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UpdatedNew FAQ About Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go is a wildly successful game from Niantic, which features the well-known universe of Pokémon characters superimposed upon the real world through augmented reality. It is the breakaway hit of the Summer, and rocketed to the top position on the App Store charts within hours of release. Chances are you’ve already installed the game yourself or at least seen throngs of people playing it outside.

This guide is written for the beginning player and will introduce you to the basic concepts of how to play Pokémon Go. If you’re new to the game, or even if you’ve installed it but have had trouble understanding how to play, read on to learn everything you need to know to find, capture and do battle with your Pokémon!

How to play Pokémon Go with the best tips and tricks

What Is Pokémon Go?

Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game that uses your phone’s GPS and clock to determine where you are and what time you’re playing. The game will generate ‘wild pokemon’ in your area, which you can battle and attempt to capture. There will also be pokeshops and clinics in the area where you can get more items such as pokeballs, and you can even battle bosses for big rewards.

The game’s goal was to get users up and moving while hunting for Pokémon and new gyms to battle. The game has become so popular that it outranks Twitter in the number of active daily users on Android.

The Pokémon Go platform gives users the chance to experience what the series is all about in a closest-to-real way. Throughout the series and Nintendo games, the objective was to collect Pokémon and train them to become stronger. You can do exactly this in Pokémon Go.

Download the Pokémon Go App

Pokémon Go is available for both iOS and Android.

Once you have the app loaded on your device, you need to create a Pokémon Go account. You can do this either with an existing Google account or by creating an account with the Pokémon Trainer Club. Due to the popularity of the game, the publishers are restricting the number of new Pokémon Trainer Club accounts that can be made — so you might have more success using a Google account.

The first thing you’ll do is customize your character. This is purely for personal aesthetics — the choices you make on how your character looks don’t have an impact on the game or your ability to catch the various Pokémon characters.

Selecting Your First Pokémon

After you log in for the first time and customize your avatar, you’ll get your first peek at the main map screen. This shows a stylized version of your actual real-world location (powered by Google Maps). You’ll see three Pokémon characters next to your avatar. They are the Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle.

The Starting Three in Pokémon Go
You three starting choices in Pokémon Go.

Tap on any one of the three to capture it. This will be your first Pokémon. Don’t fret too much about your choice here. There will be plenty more Pokémon to capture, as this is the main part of the game.

Note: there is a secret way to capture Pikachu as your starting Pokémon instead of one of the default three choices. To learn more, read our guide on How to get Pikachu as your starting Pokémon.

How to Catch Pokémon

After you tap on one of the Pokémon characters you see on the map screen, you’ll go to the main capture screen. If you’ve enabled AR (Augmented Reality) mode and given Pokémon Go access to your camera, you’ll see the character you chose appear in the real world in front of you. If not, it will appear against a simple cartoon backdrop.

Pokémon Go - Pikachu in the Wild
Pikachu in the Wild.

The main activity here is to tap on the Poké Ball at the bottom of your screen and to “flick” (drag) it up quickly towards the Pokémon. Try aiming for its head.

You need to give it enough power/speed for the ball to hit the Pokémon. You may need a lot of practice to get this right, but after a while it becomes second-nature.

As you venture out into the world to find and catch more Pokémon, you’ll discover that some are more difficult to catch than others. Here’s a few basic concepts around catching Pokémon that everyone should know.

Some Pokémon are More Difficult to Catch than Others

There are three colors of rings for Pokémon.

  • A green ring means that the Pokémon is easy to catch. Most of the time, it will only take a single Poké Ball to capture it.
  • A yellow ring means the Pokémon is more difficult to catch and about 50% of the time will escape, even if you score a direct hit.
  • A red ring means that the Pokémon is very difficult to catch. Expect to use a lot of Poké Balls to finally subdue and capture the creature. You can greatly increase your odds using more powerful Poké Balls or Razz Berries (see more on these below).
Pokémon Go - Eevee with Green Ring
A green ring means this Pokémon is relatively easy to capture.

The Size of the Ring Around the Pokémon Matters

The size of the ring changes, going from large to small and then repeating. Your odds of catching a Pokémon are much better if the ring is at its smallest size when you release your Poké Ball.

Use Items to Improve Your Chances

You can greatly increase your chances for capturing a Pokémon by using more powerful Poké Balls or Razz Berries. The latter are special food that makes the target Pokémon more complacent and easier to capture. You should save these for Pokémon with red circles (or for the yellow circled ones if you’re running low on your Poké Ball supply).

Introduction to the Map – How to Find Pokémon

Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game, meaning that it superimposes its virtual world on top of the real one. For that reason, you’ll spend a lot of your time in the game staring at the in-game map, while you walk around the world looking for Pokémon to capture, PokéStops to visit, and special Gyms where you can train and level up your Pokémon.

Finding Pokémon

There’s really no secret to this. Just pick a direction and walk. Pokémon can appear anywhere in the wild, although you’ll find that they appear more frequently in populated areas and tend to congregate near PokéStops (more on those in a bit).

Time for a quick public service announcement. Because you’ll be walking around a lot, try not to bury your nose into your phone. Not paying attention to your real-world surroundings can have devastating consequences, as many Pokémon Go players have already discovered. Be smart. Don’t trespass and don’t wander into dangerous areas. Above all, remain alert to your surroundings.

When you get close enough to a Pokémon on your map, your phone will buzz/vibrate and the Pokémon will appear on your screen. If you have your sound turned on, you’ll also hear the Pokémon give his unique sound.

Pokémon Go - Finding Pokémon on the Map
Encountering a Pokémon in the Wild in Pokémon Go.

As long as the Pokémon appears within the pulsating circle around your avatar, you can then tap on it to bring up the Capture screen. From there, simply throw your Poké Ball as described above. Soon, you’ll have a new Pokémon to add to your collection.

Gotta catch ‘em all!

Visiting PokéStops and Lure Modules

When you walk around the world, you’ll see several blue pedestals with blue cubes floating above them. These are PokéStops, and they’re a source of valuable items, including additional Poké Balls and Eggs.

PokéStops are usually found in relatively populated areas, near major and minor landmarks. You’ll have much more success finding PokéStops in towns and cities than out in the countryside.

So many PokéStops, so little time.

When you get close enough to a PokéStop, it will change shape slightly, with a spinning circle appearing over the cube. Click on it and then tap and spin the photo disc in the middle to force the items to appear. Next, tap or swipe those items to collect them.

After you’ve collected from a PokéStop, it will turn purple and you won’t be able to collect items from it again until it resets — this usually takes several minutes.

Powering Up, Leveling Up and Evolving Pokémon

To give a Pokémon more power, you’ll need two things: Stardust and Candy. Both are collected by capturing Pokémon in the wild.

You earn Stardust with each capture. Candy is specific to the type of Pokémon. For example, you earn Zubat candy from capturing Zubats.

To power up your Pokémon, first go to the Pokémon menu. You get there by clicking on the red and white Poké Ball on the map screen and then selecting “Pokémon”. You’ll see a screen containing all the Pokémon you’ve captured.

Choose the Pokémon you’d like to power up and click on the Power Up button. You’ll be able to see how much Stardust and Candy you’ll need. Your Pokémon of choice will gain additional Combat Power (CP) and Hit Points (HP).

Power Up in Pokémon Go
Click the Power Up button and spend Stardust and Candy to upgrade your Pokémon’s combat and hit points.

Evolution works a little differently in Pokémon Go than it does in earlier Pokémon games. To evolve your Pokémon, first you must capture several duplicate Pokémon to earn enough Candy to complete the evolution.

Once you have the Stardust and Candy that you need, select your most powerful Pokémon of the type you’d like to evolve and click on the Evolve button. Your Pokémon will be upgraded to the next level on its evolutionary chain. When you evolve a Pokémon, it will gain both CP and HP.

Sound complicated? Don’t worry. Powering up and Evolving Pokémon gets easier with practice. Read our Pokémon Go Leveling Up guide for more tips and tricks.

How to Battle in Pokémon Go

In Pokémon Go, you could always battle gyms, but battling other trainers hasn’t always been possible. Battling trainers in Pokémon Go is a relatively new feature that lets users battle friends and others nearby. Your Pokémon are awarded experience by winning a battle, which makes them stronger, and you also get various items. As such, it’s definitely worth giving it a try.

Step 1: Select Your Opponent

You can choose to battle with friends, or you can battle with other trainers nearby. To battle with friends, you go to your trainer page and tap on ‘Friends’. At the bottom of the page will be a ‘Battle’ button. Once you’ve tapped the button, you’ll be asked to join a league and choose your three Pokémon that will battle. Now Pokémon Go will send an invite to your friend, and once they accept, the battle will start.

To battle with trainers or leaders nearby, you can tap on the ‘Nearby’ menu at the bottom of your screen. Tap the battle section to see all three leaders and your personal QR code. If you tap on any of the leaders, you can initiate a battle with them. If you want to battle other nearby users, you can have them scan your QR code to start the battle.

Step 2: Tap the Screen to Attack

Once the battle starts, you will have to tap the screen to attack the opponent. Continue tapping and attacking as this charges your stronger attack.

Step 3: Use a Charged Attack

Once your charged attack has been built up, you can tap on it to release a strong attack. For the charged attack, you will see a bullseye appear on the screen, and you have to time the attack perfectly to determine the strength.

Using Items in Pokémon Go

Items are used in the game to help you capture Pokémon, lure them, and revive or heal them following battles at the Gym. You can access your items inventory by tapping on the backpack icon that appears after you tap on the Poké Ball from the main screen.

Most of the items you’ll find in-game can be acquired in one of two ways — collecting them from visiting PokéStops or by purchasing them from the Shop using PokéCoins (which are bought with real money).

Some of the main items that you’ll find in Pokémon Go are:

Pokémon Capture Items

  • Poké Ball – A device for catching wild Pokémon. It’s thrown like a ball at a Pokémon, comfortably encapsulating its target.
  • Razz Berry – Feed this to a Pokémon, and it will be easier to catch on your next throw.
Pokémon Go - Razz Berry
Feed a Razz Berry to a Pokémon to make it easier to catch.

Pokémon Restoration Items

  • Potion – A spray-type medicine for treating wounds. It restores the HP of one Pokémon by 20 points.
  • Super Potion – A spray-type medicine for treating wounds. It restores the HP of one Pokémon by 50 points.
  • Revive – A medicine that can revive fainted Pokémon. It also restores half of a fainted Pokémon’s maximum HP.
Pokémon Go Potions
The Potion, Super Potion, and Revive items are used to heal your Pokémon following a battle.

Pokémon Lures

  • Incense – Incense with a mysterious fragrance that lures wild Pokémon to your location for 30 minutes.
  • Lure Module – A module that attracts Pokémon to a PokéStop for 30 min. The effect benefits other people nearby.

Miscellaneous Items

  • Lucky Egg – A Lucky Egg that’s filled with happiness! Earns double XP for 30 minutes.
  • Egg Incubator – A device that incubates an Egg as you walk until it is ready to hatch.

Selecting a Team and Training at the Gym

Once you reach Level 5, you’ll have the option to visit a Gym and join a team. Just like PokéStops, Gyms are real-world locations in the game.

When you visit your first Gym after reaching level 5, you’ll get a choice of joining one of the three color teams in Pokémon Go: Valor (Red), Mystic (Blue), or Instinct (Yellow).

Each Gym you encounter in the world is controlled by one of the three color teams at any given time. You can train up your Pokémon at Gyms that are already controlled by your team or battle opposing teams to take over their Gyms.

When you enter a Gym controlled by an opposing team, you can select a Pokémon from your collection to fight with and then you’ll begin a Pokémon Go Battle against the opposing Leader/Guard of the Gym. When you battle, you essentially have three simple options:

  • Tap the screen to attack
  • Press and hold the screen to use your Pokémon’s special attack
  • Swipe left or right to dodge an opponent’s attack

The goal of the battle is to reduce your opponent’s Pokémon to zero hit points before he or she does the same to yours.

To take over a Gym that is controlled by one of the opposing teams, you must battle and defeat all of the Gym Leaders that occupy it. Higher level Gyms will require several successful battles for complete victory.

When you occupy a gym you earn PokéCoins. Every 20 hours, you can visit the Shop and redeem your coin reward, which is calculated based on how many gyms you currently occupy. Visiting and occupying several gyms can lead to significant rewards.

FAQ About Pokémon Go

Now that we’ve shared a lot about the basics of the game, here are a few more Pokémon Go tips to answer any last questions you may have.

What Is a Shiny Pokémon?

Shiny Pokémon are rare variations of existing Pokémon. Their color is slightly different from their normal counterparts, and they usually have boosted skills. You can find these shiny Pokémon in the wild randomly or during special events.

What Is the Best Pokémon in Pokémon Go?

While the best Pokémon is usually a personal preference that is very much based on your playing style, there are a few of the strongest Pokémon which do make formidable forces. In Pokémon Go, the strongest pokemon overall are Tyranitar, Dragonite, Snorlax, and Rhydon.

What Are Rare Pokémon in Pokémon Go?

Rare Pokémon are much more difficult to find and usually occur only in specific locations or during particular times of the day. Some of the rarest Pokémon in Pokémon Go include Sandile, Noibat, Azelf and Unown.


Now you know everything you need to successfully explore and conquer the world of Pokémon Go. Remember to be aware of your surroundings as you play the game, but even more importantly, have fun!

Scott Arpajian

Scott Arpajian

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