These days, it is nearly impossible to get through a day without making a call, checking email, or posting to social media accounts. If you are planning a trip overseas, you may find that staying connected is more difficult and expensive than you expected, right at a time when you need to be relying heavily on websites and apps for things like directions, restaurant reviews and public transit routes. Quickly, those internet habits that you have developed at home can become very costly while traveling. Here are a few things to keep in mind to make staying connected easy and save yourself a small fortune.
Across Europe, WiFi is readily available in many cafes, restaurants and hotels. Many public transit stations and even some trains and buses offer WiFi service. In order to take advantage of the WiFi at restaurants, you will usually have to purchase something from the restaurant and will most likely have to ask your waiter for a code and password. It’s helpful to pop into a train station when you are out and about and just need to look something up quickly. Some services will make you give them an email address or sign up for a free account, but it can be well worth your time and effort when you are in a city for a few days and might need to use it more than once. It’s a fairly convenient way to get around in a big city without having to spend a fortune on an international calling/data plan. Internet service will in all likelihood not be nearly as dependable as you are used to at home, but it is fairly easy to find free wifi.
Making Phone Calls
Need to make a phone call? Spend some quality FaceTime with those you need to contact instead. If you have an Apple iPhone, you can talk to your loved ones back at home for free if they also have an Apple device as long as you are on a wifi connection. (iPhone, iPad, iTouch) Not feeling camera ready? You can also make these calls voice only. Making them voice only is also a way to make the call more reliable because it is less data for your phone to transmit. We found facetime to be fairly reliable in most places as long as we had a strong connection. When our connection was weaker, simply turning off the video made a huge difference. If you are not an iPhone user, Skype is a great option for calls and videochats. With Skype, as with FaceTime, you can also choose to disable the camera and use a voice only option. Skype has another great service available for Skype to landline phones, for a small fee. You can get the Skype app for smartphones and tablets, or load Skype onto your laptop. Both of these are great options for calling locally or internationally for free.
Unlocked Smart Phones
Its operating system may be outdated and the camera may not be as fancy as the one on your new phone, but that old smartphone hiding in the back of your dresser drawer may soon be your best friend again. Ask your service provider about getting permission to unlock your phone. If you are approved, this will allow you to purchase SIM cards while overseas. This is an easy and inexpensive way to get access to phone, SMS and Internet service while traveling, and it is SO much less expensive than buying an international calling and data plan from your provider. Once you arrive at your destination, head to the nearest cell phone store and purchase a local SIM card. The cards are also readily available at other stores, like Tabacs, as well. While prices vary by provider and country, you can find a SIM card that can offer you as much as 500 phone calls (mostly local, but some carriers will have deals with other carriers that allow you to call across country lines in Europe), 1500 SMS messages, and 5 gigs of data, for as little as 15 Euro. You’ll most likely be using this strictly for the data, but 5 gigs for 15 Euro is such a great deal. Compared to the $60 for 500mgs we got through AT+T, it was a steal. Be sure to check all the terms when you purchase your SIM card to make sure you understand what the limits are. The one down side of purchasing SIM cards is that if you are visiting more than one country, you will need to purchase a new card in each country, so keep that in mind when you are deciding how big of a card to get. If you’re only going to be visiting for a week, maybe it makes sense to ask if they have a 2gig card for $10 instead of a 5 gig card for $15 etc.
Ensuring that you have easy ways to communicate with others, and reliable internet access, will make your trip much less stressful and more fun, so be sure to take advantage of these easy and inexpensive ways to stay connected while traveling.
Check out my other travel tips to help make your adventure easier!
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