By now, you must be familiar with Pokémon Go, the latest Pokémon game for iOS and Android that uses VR and real-world locations to send players on an IRL quest to catch Pokémon. But considering it’s a global phenomenon, Pokémon Go is surprisingly lacking in beginner instruction. This may be on purpose— Pokémon Go has a huge social element, and fewer instructions means more people turning to each other for help.
But if you’d rather not ask your 10-year-old neighbor for the basics, we’ve put together a beginner’s guide that will answer all your questions about hunting down Pokémon, nabbing items, and sating your desire for world domination by controlling all of your neighborhood gyms.
Pokémon, Pokémon, and more Pokémon
How do I find Pokémon?
When you first start the game, you will see three starter Pokémon spawn/appear in your area: Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle. You can pick one of these Pokémon to catch, and once you catch it, the other two Pokémon will disappear. But finding your next Pokémon isn’t quite so easy—you’ll need to venture outside to find more Pokémon. Pokémon tend to spawn in areas that are well-populated, like parks, tourist attractions, and shopping centers. You’ll also find different Pokémon in different areas—water-type Pokémon will only show up near bodies of water, for example, while grass-type Pokémon can be found in parks.
In the lower-right corner of your screen, you will see a small white bar with silhouettes of Pokémon that are close to your current location. Tap this bar to see all nearby Pokémon. As of the July 30 update, the ability to track nearby Pokémon has been disabled.
You can also find areas where Pokémon are more likely to spawn by looking at your map: Areas with leaves flying up in the air are more likely to spawn wild Pokémon.
How do I catch Pokémon?
To catch a Pokémon, you’ll need to hit it with Poké Balls. This is fairly easy—just tap the Poké Ball and flick it toward the Pokémon. Each Pokémon will have a circle that is green, yellow, or red: Green means the Pokémon is easier to catch, while red means it’s difficult. As soon as you put your finger on the Poké Ball, the circle will start shrinking; if you hit the Pokémon while the circle is smaller, it will be easier to catch (and less likely to break free).
You can increase your chances of catching Pokémon with higher level Poké Balls (you’ll get access to Great Balls at level 12) and by using Razz Berries, a treat that entices a Pokémon to stay. You can also get a 100-point Experience Point (XP) bonus by spinning the Poké Ball when you toss it.
How do I run from Pokémon?
You can run away from a Pokémon instead of catching it by tapping the run icon in the upper left corner of the screen. You may want to do this if you find yourself wasting Poké Balls on a low-level or common Pokémon.
What is Stardust? Where do I get it?
Stardust is used to power up your Pokémon’s Combat Power (CP) level. You can get Stardust by catching Pokémon, hatching Pokémon from an egg, or by controlling a Gym.
What are Candies? Where do I get them?
Candies are used to power up your Pokémon’s CP and to evolve Pokémon into stronger, more advanced creatures. You can get Candies by catching Pokémon, by transferring Pokémon to Professor Willow (your in-game guide who helps you learn how to catch Pokémon), or by hatching Pokémon from an egg. Candies are specific to the Pokémon you receive them from, but evolved forms of Pokémon take their unevolved-forms’ Candies. For example, Pikachu Candies can only be used to power up and evolve Pikachu, but Pidgey Candies can be used to power up and evolve Pidgey, Pidgeotto, and Pidgeot.
To transfer a Pokémon to Professor Willow, tap the Pokémon you want to trade, tap the three-line icon in the lower right corner, and tap Transfer. You will lose this Pokémon forever (so you should try to transfer Pokémon with lower CP), but you will get one Candy.
From this menu, you can also Favorite a Pokémon. Favorite Pokémon cannot be transferred until they are un-favorited (this prevents you from accidentally transferring a Pokémon).
Should I level up my Pokémon or evolve my Pokémon first?
Leveling up your Pokémon usually takes one or two Candies and some Stardust, while evolving your Pokémon takes anywhere from 12 to 400 Candies. But you’ll get better results if you evolve your Pokémon before leveling them up (this takes some holding out—it’s tempting to spend that Stardust), because evolved forms of Pokémon take their unevolved forms’ Candy and have higher all-around stats.
Is there any reason to keep multiple Pokémon of the same type?
There’s no real reason to keep multiple Pokémon of the same type—it’s best to transfer the weakest, or lowest-CP, Pokémon to Professor Willow for candies. The only reason to keep multiple same-type Pokémon is if they are your highest CP Pokémon and you want to win gym battles. I personally wouldn’t keep more than two or three of the same type of Pokémon, though, since CP level is not the only thing that matters when it comes to battle.
How high can my Pokémon’s CP get?
You can see your Pokémon’s CP by opening its profile screen. The arc above your Pokémon shows how high its CP can potentially get—further along on the arc means your Pokémon is nearing its maximum CP level.
Pokémon’s maximum CP depends on their type (some Pokémon are just naturally stronger) and on your level as a trainer. As you level up, your Pokémon’s maximum CP will increase.
How do I rename my Pokémon?
Open your Pokémon’s profile screen and tap its name to rename it.
How do I get eggs? How do I hatch an egg? Why can’t I hatch an egg while driving?
You can get eggs from PokéStops, which are real-world locations that let players grab items. Eggs come in three varieties: 2km, 5km, and 10km. To find your eggs, open the Pokémon screen and tap the Eggs tab at the top of the screen. To hatch an egg, you will need to put it in an incubator (do this by tapping the egg you want to incubate and tapping Start Incubation) and then walk 2 kilometers, 5 kilometers, or 10 kilometers.
In order for your steps to count, you must have the app open while you are walking. Step-counting stops working over certain speeds, so traveling in a car will not count toward your egg-hatching.
Can I catch Pokémon in a car?
Yes. But you should not play Pokémon Go while driving.
If you’re in a moving vehicle and you spot a Pokémon on your map and you tap it, the Pokémon will remain in your view long enough for you to catch it (even if you’re traveling at freeway speeds). You can also grab items from PokéStops in a car, if you tap them and start spinning them before you reach them (you’ll have to be quick). You can’t battle a gym while moving, though.
PokéStops, items, and lures
Where can I get different items?
You can get Poké Balls, eggs, potions, super potions, revives, Razz Berries, Great Balls, Ultra Balls, and Master Balls (powerful types of Poké Balls) from PokéStops. You will get some incense, lucky eggs, lure modules, and egg incubators as you level up, but these “premium” items can also be purchased in the shop. Here’s a quick rundown of what these items do:
- Poké Ball: Used for catching Pokémon. Just toss these at Pokémon you meet in the wild.
- Egg: These contain Pokémon. You will need to put an egg in an incubator and walk a certain distance (each egg will tell you how long you’ll need to walk) for it to hatch. You will also receive Stardust and Candies upon hatching.
- Potion: Restore 20 Hit Points (HP) to Pokémon injured in gym battles. Will only work if Pokémon have not fainted.
- Super Potion: Restore 50HP to Pokémon injured in gym battles. Will only work if Pokémon have not fainted.
- Revive: Revives a fainted Pokémon and restores half of its HP.
- Great Ball: Unlocks at level 12. Used for catching Pokémon. These special balls have a higher rate of capture, so you should use them on hard-to-get Pokémon.
- Ultra Ball: Unlocks at level 20. Used for catching Pokémon. Has a higher rate of capture than a Great Ball.
- Master Ball: Unlocks at a higher (currently unknown) level. Captures Pokémon every time.
- Incense: Attracts Pokémon to your location for 30 minutes. Works best if you are moving.
- Lucky Egg: Doubles your XP for 30 minutes. To rack up XP quickly, use a Lucky Egg in an area where you are likely to meet a lot of Pokémon (near a lure module or while using incense), or right before you are about to evolve several Pokémon (evolving nets you 500XP).
- Lure Module: Can be pinned to a PokéStop to attract Pokémon to that location for 30 minutes. Works for everyone near the PokéStop.
- Incubators: Can be used to incubate and hatch eggs. You can use multiple incubators at once to incubate and hatch multiple eggs.
How do I get items from a PokéStop?
To get items from a PokéStop, walk up to the PokéStop and tap on it. You will see an image in a circle appear—spin this image disc and items will fly out. You can tap the items individually to pick them up, or you can press the X button to exit the PokéStop and collect all items at once.
How often do PokéStops refresh?
PokéStops refresh (and will give you more items) every five minutes.
What’s that pink stuff around a PokéStop?
If you see a PokéStop that’s shooting off pink petals, someone has placed a lure module there. Lure modules attract Pokémon for 30 minutes, and everyone who is near the PokéStop will benefit (unlike incense, which only attracts Pokémon to one person). If you head over to a lure module, you’re likely to find a bunch of other friendly Pokémon Go players hanging about.
To place a lure module on a PokéStop, tap the PokéStop and tap the white bar underneath the PokéStop’s name. If you have a lure module in your inventory, you can place this module in the module slot.
Beware of following lure modules to shady parts of town in the middle of the night, though— there may be armed robbers waiting for you.
Why are there no Pokémon/PokéStops/Gyms near me?
Pokémon Go is, unfortunately, a little biased toward cities, because it relies on landmarks and points of interest. If you live in a small town, or out in the country, you may not see a lot of Pokémon, PokéStops, or Gyms near you. However, Niantic now has a support page where you can request new PokéStops and Gyms be added to the database (you can only request businesses, not residential addresses, be added).
What is a Gym?
In addition to PokéStops, you’ll also see Pokémon Gyms—usually larger landmarks—around your city. Gyms are where you can battle other players’ Pokémon for control, pride, and free PokéCoins. You can’t visit gyms until you are level 5 and have chosen a team.
What is a team, and why do I need to join one?
When you get to Level 5, you’ll be asked to choose a team. There are three teams: Team Instinct (yellow), Team Mystic (blue), and Team Valor (red). Once you pick a team, your job is to fight for control of the Pokémon Gyms around your city—if an opposing team controls a gym, you can battle them for dominance; if your team controls a gym, you can train at the gym or place one of your Pokémon at the gym to defend it from opposing teams.
If you control a gym—or if you have a Pokémon defending a gym (you don’t necessarily have to be the gym leader)—you will get a defender reward of PokéCoins and Stardust once a day. The main incentive to control gyms is pride, naturally, but PokéCoins can be used to purchase items in the Shop.
I just reached Level 5. How do I join a team?
To join a team, you will need to find a gym on your map and tap on it. You will then be asked to join a team.
Which team should I pick?
It doesn’t really matter which team you pick, but if you have friends playing the game you’ll probably want to get on the same team so you can take over gyms together.
The best team, in my unbiased opinion, is Team Instinct!
How do I claim a gym?
You can claim an empty gym by assigning one of your Pokémon to defend it. To do this, tap the gym on your map and tap the assign button in the lower left corner.
If a gym is currently occupied by an opposing team, you can claim it by battling its current defenders. You can take six Pokémon with you into battle. Each time you win a battle, the gym’s prestige will lower—when the gym’s prestige is at 0, the gym will open up and you can assign a Pokémon to defend it.
What is gym prestige?
Gym power is determined by prestige—the higher a gym’s prestige level, the harder it is for an opposing team to conquer it. Every time the gym’s defenders win a battle against an opposing team, the gym’s prestige level gets higher. And every time the gym’s defenders lose a battle against an opposing team, the gym’s prestige level lowers. If the gym’s prestige level is lowered to 0 (by multiple lost battles), the gym opens up and can be claimed by any team.
Gym prestige can be increased if friendly team members train their Pokémon at the gym (more on training below). As the gym’s prestige increases, more defense slots will open up, allowing more friendly team members to assign their Pokémon to defend the gym. (You can only assign one Pokémon to a gym.) Higher-level gyms have more slots—a Level 6 gym can have six defending Pokémon, while a Level 10 gym can have 10 defending Pokémon. With each gym level increase, the maximum prestige level also increases. So a Level 1 gym has a maximum prestige level of 2,000, but a Level 3 gym has a maximum prestige level of 8,000.
How does battling work?
To battle an unfriendly gym, walk up to the gym, tap it, and tap the battle button in the lower right corner. You will see six of your Pokémon pop up—you can swap Pokémon out by tapping them. You may not always want to take your strongest Pokémon into battle—some Pokémon types have advantages against others. Here’s a chart that shows you which Pokémon types are weak/strong against other types.
You can switch between your six Pokémon at any time during a battle. To switch out a Pokémon, tap the arrow icon in the lower right corner and tap the Pokémon you want to switch to. You can also run from a battle by tapping the run icon in the lower right corner of the screen. Running from a gym battle will count as a loss.
Once you’ve picked your team, tap Go to enter the battle. You have three moves at your disposal: Standard attack, special attack, and dodge. You’ll want to start off with standard attacks, which you can perform by tapping your enemy. You’ll also want to liberally use dodge, which you can do by swiping to the right or the left. Once you’ve performed enough standard attacks to power up your special attack (you can check this by looking at the blue bars underneath your name), tap and hold to perform your special attack. If you have multiple blue bars, you can perform this attack multiple times (assuming they’re charged).
Why is this enemy Pokémon impossible to beat?
You may encounter a known bug where an enemy Pokémon has 1HP but refuses to die. If you encounter this bug, shut down the app and reopen it. You will have to restart the fight, but all of your Pokémon will be restored to full health.
What happens when my Pokémon get injured or faint?
If your Pokémon get injured, you can restore their HP with Potions and Super Potions, which you can pick up from PokéStops. If your Pokémon faints, you will need to revive them with a Revive, which can also be found at PokéStops. You cannot use items during a battle.
Will my Pokémon heal themselves, or do I need to use potions and revives?
Your Pokémon will not heal themselves—you will need to use a combination of revives (if your Pokémon has fainted) and potions to heal them.
I just beat a gym—but I can’t put my highest-CP Pokémon in as defenders?
You can only put fully-healed Pokémon in gyms as defenders. If you just used a Pokémon to battle a gym, and your Pokémon was injured in battle, you will first need to heal that Pokémon before you can place it in the gym. Gyms can be “sniped” by other players (other players can place their Pokémon in the gym and claim it for their team while it is open) while you are healing your Pokémon, so I suggest keeping “defender” Pokémon on hand—Pokémon you don’t battle with—so you can place a Pokémon in vacant gyms immediately.
If a gym I’m defending gets beaten, what happens to my defending Pokémon?
If a gym you’re defending (either a gym you’re the leader of, or a gym where you’ve dropped a Pokémon) is beaten and taken over by another team, your defending Pokémon will return to you. Your defending Pokémon will be injured, so you will need to heal it before you can use it in gym battles or assign it to another gym.
How can I train my Pokémon at a friendly gym?
You can “train” your Pokémon at a friendly gym (a gym owned by your team) by fighting against the Pokémon defending it. To do this, walk up to the gym, tap it, and tap the train icon in the lower right corner. You can only take one Pokémon into battle when you train.
Every time you win a battle against a friendly gym, that gym’s prestige raises. If you lose a battle at a friendly gym, its prestige is not affected.
Does training hurt my Pokémon?
Yes. When you train your Pokémon at a friendly gym, your Pokémon will take damage—whether they win or lose the battle. You will need to heal your Pokémon before you can use it in another battle or place it in a gym. The defending Pokémon (the Pokémon in the gym that you are training against) will not be injured after a training session.
How can I drop my Pokémon at a friendly gym?
If you encounter a friendly gym with an empty slot, you can drop one of your Pokémon there to help defend it. To do this, walk up to the gym, tap it, and tap the assign button in the lower left corner. When you drop a Pokémon at a defending gym, you will lose the ability to level it up or evolve it until it’s defeated and comes back to you. You will not get a notification if your Pokémon faints or is injured in battle and the gym is taken over by another team, but it will show up in your roster to be healed.
If the friendly gym does not have an empty slot, you will need to train (win against the gym) until its level raises and a slot opens up.
What do I get for being a gym leader?
Gym leaders and gym defenders get Stardust and PokeCoins every 21 hours. If you are controlling or helping to defend a gym at the 21st hour, you will get these benefits by going to the Shop and tapping the shield icon in the upper right corner. The highest CP Pokémon defending a gym determines the gym leader.
Ready for more tips and tricks? Check out our other guides and articles for more Pokémon strategies:
- Where are all the Pokémon? How to find the rarest of them all
- 8 insider tips to help you become a Pokémon Go master
- The complete guide to earning and spending coins in Pokémon Go
- 7 things you shouldn’t do while playing Pokémon Go
- Is Pokémon Go really a runner’s best friend?
- How to dominate Pokémon Go without spending money
- Hands-on with Pokémon Go: Catch ‘em all by exploring the real world
- New Pokémon Go maps show you where to catch ‘em all
Have any other pressing Pokémon questions? Sound off in the comments below, and we’ll do our best to answer them.
Editor’s note: This story launched on Wednesday, July 13, 2016, was updated on Monday, July 18, 2016, and was updated again on Tuesday, August 2, 2016.