A smartphone can be an essential travel tool when gallivanting abroad. Local maps, recommendations for hotels, restaurants and bars and a multilingual translator can all be accessed at the touch of a button. However, the benefits do not come without their dangers.
A survey by ITB Berlin revealed that holidaymakers – especially those from the UK – are increasingly concerned about the rising costs of using their smartphones abroad. The main fear revolved around unpredictable roaming charges, which can be astronomical in some countries and are not always clearly defined. However, you shouldn’t leave this vital tool behind just because you’re concerned about the purse strings. Here are some tips on how to ensure you keep yourself plugged in and logged on – without breaking the bank.
Turn off roaming
This is a no-brainer. Before leaving your country, make sure the data roaming option is deactivated on your phone. Many travellers are not aware that such roaming plans escalate dramatically when used overseas and come back from their holidays refreshed and rested… only to find a gigantic bill awaiting them. Though each plan varies from carrier to carrier and country to country, it’s better to be safe than sorry. To learn more about the specifics of how to go about switching off your roaming, check out this handy guide.
Consider getting unlocked
What does getting unlocked mean? Basically, it means that you “unlock” yourself from the carrier from which you purchased the phone, allowing you to insert any SIM card into it and use it (provided, of course, it has a removable SIM card). This is completely legal and will allow you to purchase a local SIM card when you arrive in your destination of choice. Be aware that the process itself can take up to a week to complete, so plan it well in advance of your trip – there also may be hoops to jump through in obtaining the local SIM card, depending on where you go.
Use free apps
There are many free apps out there which can be great for staying in touch with folks back at home. For example, if you don’t know what Skype is, it’s probably time to climb out from under that rock. This video call and text message application allows you to connect with anyone, anywhere in the world, free of charge. All that’s required is a mutual internet connection and the app downloaded onto both devices. Even more advantageous are the cut-price rates Skype offers for international calls to mobile or landlines. There are a whole host of other money-saving apps out there – do your research before jetting off and find the ones which will suit you.
Many major locations, such as cafes, restaurants and hotels, offer free Wi-Fi these days. Even parks and public spaces are jumping on the Wi-Fi bandwagon. Such a service is a great option for saving on your data plan – simply adjust your phone settings to only pick up Wi-Fi signals and away you go! The world of the internet is at your fingertips… all for free. Just be cautious about connecting to a Wi-Fi signal without an identifiable host (like a city or hotel or coffee shop), so you don’t set your data at risk to hackers.
Before leaving your country, use Google Maps to thoroughly research the areas you will be visiting. You can download these maps for offline use, meaning that you won’t get lost in your destination of choice – but you won’t eat up any costly data in orientating yourself, either. Alternatively, you can use the camera on your phone to take photographs of local street maps as and when you happen upon them.