Depending on the type of person you are, using technology abroad may be the first or last thing on your mind when preparing for your adventure overseas. No matter how much you use technology in your daily life, the use of technology is important, especially when in a foreign country. This article will provide cell phone advice (as silly as that may sound) of a young traveler that has done both long and short-term periods abroad in North America, Europe and Asia.
Mobile Phones: many phones do not automatically come with an international plan and they can get quite expensive depending on the type of plan you are looking for and the extent of your stay abroad. Here are some quick tips to make sure you make the most of your phone while you’re overseas:
Check with your mobile phone company: The first thing that I would advise would be to talk with your mobile company at home, prior to your departure. If you tell them where you are going they will tell you what settings to put your phone in so you won’t be charged for international roaming, data, talk, text, etc. In some instances (depending on your phone company) texting people back home with US numbers is free, just make sure you check with your mobile company.
Local sim card: Another option is to purchase a local sim card once you arrive to your destination. This is especially true for those who will be abroad for a long period of time, such as 6 months or longer. In order to have a local sim card for your regular phone, it has to be unlocked. Again, talk with your phone company to make sure you can use a foreign sim card in your phone.
Finding wifi: If you have a smartphone, having access to wifi can open many doors, or at least allow you to use social media, email and iMessage. Depending on the country you are in, many places may have wifi that guests can access. Even if it isn’t promoted, it doesn’t hurt to ask. With a smartphone you can download an array of free apps that will allow you to contact people both home and abroad.
Messaging Apps: while in China and the Netherlands I had two phones, one local and one from home. I used my local phone to contact my local friends and colleagues. I had a local pay-as-you-go sim card and just added minutes and data as needed. While in Canada and Belgium I used my phone from home to text people, and used a few different apps to get in touch with people both locally and abroad. Below are just a few of those apps that I found useful when hoping to get in touch with others:
Whatsapp: This is an app for texting and talking internationally, for free. Be sure to download it onto your smart phone before you get abroad, or when you gain wifi access.
Facebook: So many people around the world use Facebook everyday. I used it to contact people locally, and with messenger it becomes it’s own messaging app.
Google Talk/Hangout: I also occasionally used google talk when I had access to wifi. Google talk is available if you have a gmail account, which is free to open. To contact people back home, it’s free to call from within your gmail account. To contact people abroad, add about $10 to your google talk account and you should be able to talk for a lifetime.
Skype: Before heading abroad download and make an account on Skype, and make sure the people you want to communicate with while abroad do the same. Once everyone has Skype you can easily communicate through live video.
I survived 6.5 months abroad traveling around Europe and Asia using the above “techniques”, you can too!