5 Ways to Use Your Smartphone While Traveling

In today’s ultra-connected world, many Americans are accustomed to being online all the time. In fact, a study by Contentsquare, an analytics company, found that 53% of Americans regularly use their phones in bed before going to sleep. For some, the prospect of disconnecting while traveling internationally may seem like a dream, but for others, it could be a daunting thought.

If you prefer to stay connected, there are several options for data and text messaging while overseas. You can choose from international cell phone plans, local SIM cards, or eSIM cards. Here are some tips on the best ways to use your smartphone while traveling abroad.

Discover Google Fi

Google Fi operates as a virtual cell phone service provider. Instead of owning cell towers, it collaborates with local telecommunications companies to deliver cellular, data, and text services. Notably, Google Fi extends this partnership beyond the U.S., offering coverage in over 200 countries, making it a top choice for frequent international travelers.

Upon arriving in a foreign country, you can simply disable airplane mode and use your phone as if you were at home. Google Fi offers unlimited free texting, and data charges remain consistent with domestic rates. However, international phone calls incur an additional cost of 20 cents per minute, whether you’re contacting loved ones back home or making local calls within your travel destination.

Try Finding An Operator With Free International Plan

Traveling abroad doesn’t mean high phone bills for data, calls, and texting. Some wireless carriers, like T-Mobile, include free international plans in their services. T-Mobile is also a great option for international travelers. With T-Mobile, you get unlimited 2G data, unlimited texting, and calls starting at $0.25 per minute. The downside is the slower 2G connectivity, but you can purchase a faster data roaming package if needed.

If you are used to using a fax machine in your office or a fax center near your home, you don’t have to give it up. You also don’t need a separate device for travelers that supports digital faxing. All you need to do is download fax from your iPhone. This fax app completely replaces the fax machine and even when you return home, you can completely abandon it.

Buy A Local Sim Card

Experienced international travelers might recall the days when acquiring a local SIM card was the sole means of staying connected while abroad. Surprisingly, even with today’s myriad alternatives, obtaining a local SIM card remains a viable option. If you find yourself residing in a foreign country or region for an extended duration, a local SIM card could be your best bet for making affordable local calls.

In many destinations, a local SIM card is often the most cost-effective choice. Take my visit to Vietnam in January 2019, for example—airport vendors offered local SIM cards with unlimited LTE data for just $8. This was far more economical than paying for even 1GB of data with Google Fi. Consequently, I switched between using the local SIM card for data and Google Fi for text messaging.

Find Great Deals On eSim Cards

Image by drobotdean on Freepik

eSIM cards offer a modern solution for travelers needing a local number without the hassle of finding a physical SIM card at their destination. Instead of inserting a traditional SIM card, you can purchase and download an eSIM directly to your phone. This allows for seamless connectivity to local cell networks and data services while abroad.

There are numerous eSIM providers online, each offering various options and price points depending on your travel destination and usage needs. It’s essential to read reviews and compare offerings before making a choice. Let’s take a closer look at Airoli to understand how eSIMs generally work.

Explore Your Operator’s International Tariff Plan Additions

If you plan to use your phone number for calls and texts while traveling abroad—and you’re not a Google Fi, T-Mobile, or Sprint customer—you’ll likely need to add an international package to your plan. Rates and options vary among cell phone providers. Let’s explore Verizon’s offerings as an example.

Verizon’s unlimited plans include free talk, text, and data in Mexico and Canada. Be aware, however, that data speeds drop to 2G after reaching 0.5 GB per day. For travels beyond the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, there are two main options:

  1. TravelPass: For $10 per day, you can use your phone just as you would at home, with unlimited talk, text, and data in over 185 countries.
  2. International Monthly Plan: For $100 per month, you receive a package of minutes, data, and text messages for use overseas.

Selecting the best cell phone service for your travels depends on your specific needs, such as your current provider in the U.S., your destination, and the amount of data you require. If your primary goal is to stay connected for basic tasks like checking emails and searching for directions, opting for T-Mobile or Sprint can help you avoid extra charges while abroad.

For those in need of high-speed data, exploring options like eSIMs or purchasing a local SIM card is advisable. And if you prefer the convenience of using your phone just as you would at home regardless of your destination, services like Google Fi or international add-on plans offer a seamless solution.

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