Tips for Using Your Smartphone Abroad

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For many people, smartphones have become an integral part of daily life, particularly when traveling. Phones have apps for translation, maps, hotel reviews, and more, and it’s much easier to have one small device that does all those things than to try to carry a library of possibly outdated travel books. Using your smartphone abroad, however, is different than using it at home. Keep the following things in mind when travelling with your phone:

Not all cell phones use the same technology.

Cells phones that use GSM technology work all over the world, but ones that have CDMA technology only function in certain countries. Additionally, you’ll need to make sure your GSM phone is compatible with the signal type in use at your destination.

International roaming rates for most carriers are punishingly high.

Blithely using your phone abroad can quickly lead to a very high bill. However, if your phone is “unlocked,” meaning not restricted to a given network, you can avoid roaming charges by buying a SIM card that will allow you access to a local network. Using a local SIM card is by far the cheapest way to call, text, or use data abroad, and you may be able to pay a shop to unlock your phone for you.

Wi-Fi always works.

Even if you can’t get service in the country you’re going to, or you can’t get your phone unlocked, you can still use your smartphone to connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi. Once you’re connected, you can use apps like Skype and WhatsApp to call home or send text messages.

Be careful how you use data.

On its standard settings, your phone may engage in a number of data-heavy activities, like syncing photos to the cloud. Even on a cheap local calling plan, you may end up racking up a lot of data charges if you don’t address this. Go into your phone’s settings and forbid the phone from using cellular data. At the very least, you should check which apps use the most data and run them sparingly.

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