How to Use Your Phone in Foreign Countries
Are you planning a foreign travel adventure but you are wondering how to take you smartphone along for the trip? You know you want to. After all, your smartphone is packed with all those features that can be ultra useful while traveling – stuff like texting, phone calls, and GPS driving and walking directions. And then there is access to the internet with all that information which can help the traveler such as restaurant information, local activities, on-line ticket purchases, etc. The list is endless. My smartphone, in my case my iPhone, is just too handy and too useful to leave home. It’s a critically important piece of my travel gear.
Many people tend to be a bit intimidated about arranging to use their smartphone overseas. How do you use your smartphone when traveling to foreign countries? It’s not as difficult or complicated as you might think. The easiest way in most cases is to simply contact your own local service provider, tell them where you will be traveling, and arrange for them to add their foreign travel features to you plan for the duration of your travels. They will be happy to answer any questions and tell you how to go about using your phone while at your destination. The only down side to this approach is usually related to the cost. Foreign travel plans tend to be expensive and include rather small limits on texting, voice, and data in the basic package so be sure to get the details if you go with this approach.
For me, the better approach is to get a sim card for the country or countries I will be visiting. A sim card is a tiny data card which is inserted into your phone. It contains digital information allowing the phone to connect with a service provider. Your phone has one in your home country and connects to your regular service provider. When you travel you can take your usual card out and replace it with a sim card for a provider in your destination country. This essentially allows you to use your own smartphone in the foreign country in the same way as a native of that country. ( Three important points to note: 1) When you use a sim card from a foreign country you will be assigned a new phone number. You will need to inform your family and friends of that number so that they can call you while you are traveling. 2) Keep your original sim card and don’t loose it. You will need to put it back in your phone when you return home! When you replace it your phone once again will respond to it’s original phone number and connect with your normal service provider. 3) To use a different sim card your smartphone must be “unlocked.” In today’s market most phones are unlocked. But check with your home service provider just to be sure. If it is not, you can usually ask them to unlock it and they will do so.)
Each country typically has several different companies which offer mobile phone service. Prior to your departure you can do a bit of research on the internet and find out what companies provide service at your destination. With hardly any exception you will find that they offer short term plans for travelers – allowing your to purchase services for a week, 2 weeks, a month, etc. Check out the features which are important to you – coverage area, number of texts, minutes of talk time, amount of data – and the costs for the plan. Not complicated – this is the same stuff you do when you select your service provider at home after all. With this information you are set to go. Pick the company which works best for your needs. When you arrive in your destination country visit a store for your selected provider company. Most companies also have storefronts in major airports where you can sign up for your new plan. They do this all the time, they will answer any questions you might have, and they will help swap out your sim card and get you up and running in no time. And a brief “heads up” – you will most likely have to show proper identification when purchasing a sim card so it’s best to have your passport with you. I’ve also been told that in some countries they ask for you to provide a passport sized photo? Again check out this type of info prior to your departure – although I always carry a few extra photos of this type on my travels in case it is need for unforeseen circumstances – best to be prepared.
There is a third option for phone usage in a foreign country. Some companies will rent or sell you a very basic phone along with a package of services for a particular country. If you only want a basic phone with voice and maybe texting capabilities then you might consider this option. But it is not the same as having your own smartphone with you for your journey. You know how to use your own phone and it has all the features you want and use. My iPhone contains all my contacts including addresses and phone numbers making it easy to have information available for phone calls and emails. My calendar is stuffed with information about my trip including dates, reminders, and alerts. I load my phone with a variety of travel related apps to assist with different aspects of my journey. The GPS feature is amazingly helpful for all sorts of travel including live directions for driving as well as walking to destinations. The internet connection and browser let me look up information on the fly such as restaurants and reviews as well as phone numbers and directions. My iPhone also has a great camera and I use it all the time. And finally the phone also allows me to contact and keep in touch with others with texting and phone calls as well as the occasional FaceTime connection.
Take Your Smartphone On Your Journey …………….. And Enjoy The Adventure!
© 2016, Bruce W Bean, Ph.D. All rights reserved.