Let’s face it, in our modern technological society, we are used to having our cell phones on us at all times. Say what you like about our dependence on them, they really do come in quite handy. When traveling they can be an even greater asset as we traverse unfamiliar territory and require guidance or references. Not to mention there are so many handy applications to use and those confirmation emails from your tour guide to check. Last but not least there is the security of knowing that if you get lost or separated you have a way of getting in touch.
Unfortunately, just as a phone can be your most useful tool when traveling internationally; deciphering a reasonable and affordable plan can be among the most difficult parts of planning. So what is the best plan of attack?
First up, using a phone On Vacation: When carrying your own phone be sure to keep “airplane mode” activated. This will prevent your phone from trying to acquire a signal at all times (which it is programmed to do) and incurring unexpected roaming charges. With smartphones, even trying to connect to a data network can cost you money despite the fact that you may not check a single web page.
Instead, stick to free, secure wifi connections like the one most likely in your hotel. Plan ahead and do your research before setting out for the day. Looking up information and storing it to your phone will save you having to log back on to a website while you are out. Saving information to a “notepad” app or taking screen shots are great ways to have relevant facts stored offline. This way you only use your phone data while out and about in emergencies. When it comes to calls you can save a ton by using free services like Skype or MagicApp.
Cell Phones And Traveling – Some Choices Are Better Than Others
To cover those times when you just can’t help but use data on-the-go, consider a short term international package from your carrier. While they are by no means cheap (for reference, approximate prices at the time of this publication were $30 for 125 MB with AT&T or $25 for 100 MB with Verizon) they will be vastly less expensive than roaming data on your domestic plan, which can run upwards of $20 per MB. Think it out and plan ahead.
If you are staying longer, or know you will be using your phone extensively there are more serious options. Prepaid International SIM Cards are a great choice for those with compatible, unlocked phones. This option allows you to keep your current handset and essentially turn it into a local phone for the length of your stay. On the upside, you will be able to use your phone like a resident and for a fraction of the cost; on the downside it will change your number for as long as the card is in, and those calling you from home will face international rates when doing so.
You may also consult your carrier for more robust international plans, or consider renting an international device for the length of your stay from a company like TravelCell.