[Disclosure: This post was contributed with support from our partner.]
Sure, it’s great to travel around the world and experience new and awesome things – but what makes it even more awesome is being able to share those experiences with your friends and family back home. Spending Christmas in the surf in Australia is much more satisfying when you can call your friends back in sub-freezing Oklabraska and rub it in, right? And what good is that iPhone pic of you eating a scorpion on Khaosan Road, if you can’t upload it instantly to Instagram? If you like to stay connected at home, chances are you’ll want to stay connected on the road, and I’ve got some tips on how you can save money and stay connected while traveling.
There are lots of little things you can do, and the first would be to call your cellphone company and tell them that you’ll be traveling abroad. Ask about data rates, international calling rates, and roaming rates. Some companies have international plans that you can sign up for, that unlock better rates for you.
If you don’t need to keep your same phone number, I recommend getting an unlocked phone or unlocking your current phone, there are lots of websites that can sell you an unlock code. Unlocking your phone lets you use any SIM card from provider in any country (phones are usually “locked” to one provider when you buy them). That means when you get to your destination, you can buy a local Pay-As-You-Go SIM card, and use your phone with local rates for local calls and data.
I always use a local SIM for local calls, and when I want to call internationally, I use the Skype app with my data, or on a wifi connection. Skype has free calling to other Skype accounts, and it’s super cheap to call internationally. There are actually a lot of apps for international calling, texting and messaging. Check out WhatsApp and Viber.
An alternative to getting a local SIM card when you’re traveling, is to get an international SIM card, like TravelSim. It’s basically a Pay-As-You-Go SIM card that works internationally, and they have rates that are much cheaper than if you took your standard SIM abroad. TravelSim can be used in over 135 countries, and incoming calls are free and anyone can call you for free from Skype, which is great for your Skype-savvy family and friends back home.
Besides saving you money, TravelSim can save you a lot of time, because you don’t have to buy a new SIM card for each country you travel to. One SIM to rule them all! This means you can hit the ground running at any destination, and stop wasting your time trying to find a and buy a new SIM every time you cross a border.
These kinds of international SIM cards are a great way to save money on your phone while traveling – in fact, TravelSim says it can be up to 85% cheaper than roaming charges on regular plans!
Another neat features is their Call Redirection Service. So when you’re not using your TravelSim, the call can be redirected to your regular number, making it extra easy for people to get in touch with you, no matter where you are. They even have a loyalty program, so you can earn points towards hotel stays and flights.
If you don’t care what number you have, and you’re staying in one country for a while, it can be hard to beat the price of a local SIM for calling and texting, and bouncing from wifi to wifi for your data and Skype calls. Of course, it depends on where you’re traveling, but most tourist destinations, especially backpacker destinations, will have free wifi at every cafe and bar and hostel in town – I spend a day collecting passwords, and then I’m never more than a couple blocks from a good wifi signal!
What are your best tips for being smart about your smart phone while traveling?