A Pokémon GO guide for beginners

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By now you’ve probably heard of the craze that is Pokémon GO, if not you can read our overview for non-players. In a nutshell, the game is an augmented reality game by Niantic — the company behind Ingress — and Nintendo which has you running around trying to capture those lovable and popular little Pokémon creatures. But where do you start? If you’re unsure, then you’re in the right spot. Check out our Pokémon GO guide for beginners to get started.


This could happen to you if you don’t pay attention…

Before we get into the guide, I just want to take this time for a quick public safety announcement. The game warns you to always remain aware of your surroundings when playing, and it really is a warning that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Pokémon GO requires you to get outside and move around. It’s best experienced when walking but you’ll see your fair share of players driving from PokéStop to PokéStop or between Gyms.

Most areas have distracted driving laws, and those should be taken very seriously. You definitely don’t want to find yourself responsible for causing an accident while trying to catch a Pokémon while driving, or being hit by a car because you weren’t paying attention while walking around looking at your phone.

These warnings aren’t anything new, but with the excitement over catching Pokémon in the real world, it’s definitely a good time for a gentle reminder. That out of the way, let’s get on with the guide!

Character Creation

After you’ve downloaded and installed the game for your Android or iOS device, you’ll be able to login with your Google account. Once you’ve logged in, you’ll go through a quick introduction with Professor Willow and then be prompted to create a Pokémon trainer. You get to choose to be a male or female trainer, and have limited customization options which apply cosmetic changes to your character choice. After that, pick the name you want your trainer to be known by and away you go. As you play the game, you’ll receive XP which will level up your trainer. Each time you level up you’ll get some free items, and leveling up allows you to catch and train better Pokémon.

Now it’s time to get started.

Catching Pokémon

After you’ve created your character, Professor Willow will guide you through catching your first Pokémon. You’ll be presented with a choice of three starter Pokémon: Charmander, Squirtle, or Bulbasaur. If you really want to be different than every other trainer around, apparently you can snag Pikachu as your starter. When you see the three starter Pokémon, rumour has it that you can walk away from them until they appear in front of you. Walk away from them again until they appear again, and repeat a few times until finally they appear in front of you with a friend in tow.

Professor Willow tells you how to flick the Poké Ball with your finger to catch the Pokémon. You’ll either miss or catch it in the ball, which will shake three times. During this time, the Pokémon may escape and you’ll have to try and catch it again. If you miss, you’ll lose a Poké Ball from your inventory. If you catch it and it escapes, you’ll be able try and catch it again until it runs away. I’ve found that your best chance of catching a Pokémon is by flicking your ball over it as the green, yellow, or orange circle is at it’s largest around the pokémon. In order to get the bonuses for nice, great, and excellent catches, you have to hit the circle as it shrinks. The larger circle will net you a “Nice,” will a circle about 50% or smaller will give you the “Great” bonus, and finally a small circle will award you with an “Excellent” XP bonus (thanks to Ben for the tip!).

You can also feed wild Pokémon Razz Berries to make them easier to catch, and later in the game you’ll be able to use Great Balls or Ultra Balls that have a higher chance of a successful catch than with the standard Poké Ball.

You’ll find Pokémon just about anywhere… and I mean anywhere.

After a successful catch, you’re awarded with 100XP for the catch, an extra 500XP for catching a new Pokémon that you haven’t caught before, as well as extra XP for a nice catch, great catch, excellent catch, or curveball throw.

These shoes were made for walkin’… to hatch Pokémon!

Once you’ve captured your starter Pokémon, it’s time to get mobile and go outside and search for more. They’ll appear anywhere, and you also have access to an indicator which shows what Pokémon are nearby and how far away with a set of footprints. You can also hatch Pokémon from eggs that you find at PokéStops by using an incubator. Once you find an egg, open up your Pokémon collection, swipe left to get to the egg screen, select the egg, choose the incubate button and select an incubator to use. You’ll start with one incubator that’s good for infinite uses, though it will only allow you to hatch one egg at a time. You can find, or purchase additional incubators that have limited uses, but will allow you to hatch more than one egg at a time. Each egg requires you to walk 2, 5, or 10 km in order to hatch it. Sorry, driving doesn’t add to the distance traveled for hatching eggs either so enjoy the walk or hop on a bike. If you are hatching multiple eggs though, the distance you walk will apply to any eggs that are hatching. If you’re currently incubating a 2 km egg and a 5km egg, walking 1 km will reduce both counters.

When you spot a Pokémon, you can also take a picture of it in its “natural” environment by using the camera button on your phone.

Pokémon you’ve caught are added to your Pokémon collection, and new ones are also added to your Pokédex. Once you evolve one of your Pokémon, the evolved form will also be added to your Pokédex (unless you’ve already caught one in the wild).

Levelling/Evolving Pokémon

You’ll want to catch all of the Pokémon you can, even if you have already have one of that kind. You’re limited to 250 pokémon at once in your collection, but that should take you some time to reach. When you catch a Pokémon, you are also awarded some stardust and candy of that specific Pokémon type. You can use the stardust and candy to power up that Pokémon and make it stronger. Once you get enough candy, you can evolve that Pokémon to a better and stronger version of that Pokémon. As you power up and evolve Pokémon in your collection, their Combat Power (CP) and health (HP) will increase, making them harder to defeat.

Here’s why you want to collect as many as you can of each type: Not only do you get candy for catching them, but you can also transfer them to Professor Willow and he’ll give you one candy of that type. For example, if you have a bunch of Pidgeys, you can transfer them for candy in order to get enough candy to evolve your strongest Pidgey into a Pidgeotto. Once you have a Pidgeotto, continue to catch and transfer the Pidgeys until you have enough candy to evolve the Pidgeotto into a Pidgeot.

Gotta catch ’em all! Catch as many as you can to power up or evolve your Pokémons!

In addition, because you’ll be leaving Pokémon to defend Gyms (more on that below), you’ll want at least a few of each evolved Pokémon.


A PokéStop is a spot on the map which, when close enough, you can spin in order to get more items like Poké Balls. These spots are usually landmarks or points of interest of some kind: churches, schools, murals, art installations, monuments, etc. If you’ve ever played Ingress, Niantic has taken most of the portals and made them PokéStops or Gyms in Pokémon GO. A PokéStop will be portrayed by a blue platform with a cube over it. Once you get close enough, it will change into a spinning Poké Ball icon. When you tap on PokéStop you’ll see the name and photo of the location — which is taken directly from the Ingress portal information — and you can swipe your finger across it to spin it and get some much needed loot. Sometimes you’ll need to spin the PokéStop more than once to get it to relinquish its goodies. You’ll occasionally need to spin it repeatedly, but it should always give you something.

A Poké Stop in the distance, close enough to use , items received (L-R).

Once you successfully spin a PokéStop, you’ll have to wait 5 minutes before you’ll be able to access it again.


Pick a team once you reach level 5. *cough*Team Valor (red)*cough*

Gyms, like PokéStops, are real world locations that you can battle to take control of. Once you reach level 5, you can access gyms. When you first access a gym, you’ll be given a choice to make: Team Mystic (Blue), Team Instinct (Yellow), or Team Valor (Red). Once you join a team, you can’t leave it and join another so choose carefully. If you run across a Gym that is unclaimed, you can choose a Pokémon to leave at that Gym. If you have the highest CP level Pokémon at that Gym, you are the Gym Leader until someone else from your team adds a higher CP level Pokémon or another team takes it over. Once you leave a Pokémon at the Gym you will be unable to power it up, evolve it, or heal it. When the Gym is taken over and your Pokémon is defeated, you’ll then be able to revive/heal it, and once again power it up or evolve it.

Gyms have different levels, a level 1 Gym allows for one Pokémon to be stationed there, a level 2 Gym allows for two Pokémon, a level 3 Gym allows for three Pokémon, and so on.

If you come across a Gym that is owned by your team, you can add one of your Pokémon to it to help bolster it up. You can also friendly battle your team’s Pokémon which will increase the Gym’s prestige level. Increasing the prestige level of the Gym will allow you to level it up and eventually your team will be able to add another Pokémon to it.


Battling is pretty easy. If you’re attacking an opposing team’s Gym, you’ll be able to choose 6 of your Pokémon to take into battle. Once you’ve selected your 6 Pokémon, chosen by tapping on the appropriate slot and then selecting from your list of Pokémon based on what Pokémon are defending the gym. I’m not up on what’s better against what, but standard Pokémon rules apply and water Pokémon are better against fire, fire against grass, and so forth.

Once the battle begins, you tap the screen to attack. Each attack will start to fill up a blue meter under your health bar. When the blue meter fills, you can long press on the screen to use your Pokémon’s stronger secondary attack. If the Pokémon you have is ineffective against the enemy Pokémon you are battling, you can swap out for another one. You’ll have to be quick though as the battle continues against your current Pokémon until you make the switch. Once you’ve defeated all the Pokémon at the Gym, you’ll be awarded XP, the Gym’s prestige level will go down, and you’ll be kicked out of the gym. Don’t worry. For example, if you attacked a Level 3 Gym, you’ll now see that there are only two Pokémon left defending it. Heal up your Pokémon and attack it again. Come out victorious and you’ll have one more round to go against the Gym Leader. Once the Gym Leader is defeated, the Gym will go grey and you’ll have your chance to claim it for your team.

An opposing Gym, Pokémon to battle, choose your team, BATTLE, and WIN (L-R) – then repeat until the Gym turns grey and you can claim it for your team.

There is currently a bug that affects some Gym battles. You may find that the defending Pokémon has 1 HP left but just won’t die. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about it except close the game and relaunch it. Fortunately, the Pokémon you used in that battle will still have full health so you won’t be wasting any potions healing them back up.


You can always replenish your supply at the Shop with PokéCoins purchased with real money.

Some of the items that can be acquired from PokéStops, leveling up, and the store include:

  • Poké Ball/Great Ball/Ultra Ball: these are used to catch Pokémon, if you run out you’ll be out of luck when you run into a wild Pokémon or three.
  • Potion: you’ll be able to use these to heal your Pokémon between battles. There are Potions, Super Potions, and Hyper Potions which all heal for a different amount.
  • Revive: a revive is used to revive a Pokémon that has fallen during a Gym battle. Revived Pokémon will be restored to 50% of their maximum HP.
  • Lucky Egg: when used it doubles your XP earned for the next 30 minutes.
  • Incense: use this to attract Pokémon to your trainer for the next 30 minutes.
  • Lure Module: you can place these on PokéStops to attract Pokémon to that stop for the next 30 minutes.
  • Razz Berry: as mentioned above, feed this to a wild Pokémon to increase your chances of catching it.
  • Egg Incubator: used to incubate eggs as you walk.

While these items can be collected at PokéStops and by leveling, you can also purchase PokéCoins for real money and use those to replenish your item supply. In addition, you can use coins to buy backpack upgrades or Pokémon storage upgrades, allowing you to store more items or Pokémon at once.

If you don’t want to spend real money, you can also get free PokéCoins once every 20 hours based on the number of Pokémon you have at Gyms. If you don’t have any, then you’ll have to go out and capture or add Pokémon to your team’s Gyms in order to get the free coins.

What’s Next?

There are a few bugs to be ironed out, and you’ll find times where the servers aren’t available. Niantic is working on bringing more servers online, and this was supposed to be a region phased rollout so it should get more stable as time goes on.

One of the things you may have noticed missing from the above guide is trading. The ability to trade Pokémon isn’t currently in the game, but Niantic has indicated that it is coming in a future update. After all, what would Pokémon be without the ability to trade them with your friends? It’ll be interesting to see what else Niantic has in store for the game, given the popularity and the fact that people are finding ways to install and play it even though it’s not live in their region yet is already showing great promise for the popularity of this latest AR game.

Hopefully this Pokémon GO guide gets you off to a good start! Let us know if you have any tips or tricks in the comments below, or on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook. Enjoy the game, have fun trying to catch them all, and remember: play safe, be considerate of private property, and always be aware of your surroundings while playing Pokémon GO.

Last Updated on July 15, 2016.


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