With summers approaching fast and COVID restrictions getting mild, we’re going to see a surge in international travelling. This year, a lot of people are likely to travel abroad on trips, and to meet their loved ones and if you’re reading this blog, you might also be the one boarding the plane any time soon. Roaming across your favourite destinations is exciting, but there a few must-haves that you shouldn’t forget before setting your foot out. For example, your smartphone.
By smartphone I don’t mean to simply pack your phone along with its accessories, but a little bit more. Such as downloading travelling apps like Google Maps, Google Translator, Trip Advisor and Airbnb. Most carriers allow international roaming, but if your network doesn’t, you will need SIM-unlocking and supported cellular frequencies. Moreover, you must keep an eye on your internet data. Otherwise, you might end up consuming it all in a flash.
In this blog, I will draw down a few tips you can follow to set your smartphone for an international voyage.
Check if Your Existing Network Offers International Roaming
Most cellular networks offer international roaming services, which means you can use your phone internationally without any additional setup. However, it is not as simple as it looks. Roaming charges and regulations vary depending on the network in use. You must check in advance whether your network offers international roaming. The charges you need to pay for international roaming are slightly higher than the local. So, if you’re good with your budget, you won’t need anything extra.
If your cellular network doesn’t offer international roaming, you will need an international pre-paid SIM with affordable SIM-only deals so that you can enjoy your travel without paying a hefty amount.
Check Whether Your Destination Allows the Operating Frequencies of Your Network
If international roaming is not offered by your network, you will have to find whether your smartphone supports the frequencies used by the networks at your travel destination. Most carriers across the globe operate on 2100 MHz, 1800 MHz, and 900 MHz, but it varies country to country.
To save your effort, I’ve added a few regional lists where you can find the country you’re visiting, and the network frequencies used there.
· Frequencies used by EU networks
· Frequencies used by Asian networks
· Frequencies used by African and Middle Eastern networks
· Frequencies used by South and North American networks
See the Frequencies Supported by Your Smartphone
After finding the right network frequencies, the next thing to consider is compatibility of your smartphone with international network. Although, it is a bit complex, but I’ll try to make it easier for you.
There are multiple websites from which you can get the overall description of your phone such as GSMArena. You will find the frequencies supported by your device in the ‘network’ section, categorized by 2G, 3G, and 4G bands. You have to look for the numbers in parenthesis mentioned in ‘4G bands’ section; For instance, 1(2100), 2(1900), 3,(1800). Here the number written inside the parenthesis are the frequencies.
You must know that Sprint and Verizon operate on CDMA – a distinct network type, as compared to the one generally used around the world, GSM. If you’ve purchased your smartphone from either of these networks, most probably your phone will not work internationally, unless it supports multiple network bands. However, the customers of T-Mobile, AT&T and US mobile networks need not to worry about such problems.
Unlock your Device Carrier
Now that you are aware that your device is able to work on an international mobile carrier, it’s time to ask your existing network to Unlock to your device’s carrier. SIM-unlocking your device will make it capable to support international cellular networks. The mobile networks in the US are bound by law to facilitate their customers for free if they ask for SIM-unlocking.
The process simply requires you to contact your existing network provider and ask them to unlock your device’s carrier. Once done, you can power off your device, insert the new sim, and turn your device on. It might take a few moments to set up, but you can confirm whether the unlock has been successful by making a call.
Download Essential Travelling Apps
Most people think travel apps are only for those planning an extended trip, but there are plenty of travel apps that can help you whether you’re going on a trip for two weeks, or two days. Firstly, you need to consider what kind of traveller you are. Do you prefer local knowledge or international? Do you want the high-tech stuff or old school wisdom? And do you have a plan for finding Wi-Fi along the way? This list is your starting point for downloading the best travelling apps so that nothing gets in the way of your adventure. These apps are free and available on both iOS and Android.
· Google Translate: Translate anything using your phone’s camera including menus, signs, names etc. With its conversation mode, speak with the locals in your language and your phone will translate everything in their language.
· Google Maps: Never get lost while travelling. Pin your favourite locations, the place you’re staying, and the points you’re about to visit.
· PackPoint: Enter your destination and arrival date and this app will create a packing list according to the weather.
· WiFi Map: This app will find Wi-Fi hotspots around you, so you can avoid roaming charges for internet data.
· Airbnb: You can now use Airbnb not just for renting a room or house, but dinner reservations and other experiences too. Like, cooking local dishes, bike rides, and hunting your cravings.
· TravelBank: This app allows you to manage your travel budget among different categories like lodging, food, transportation etc. You can also check the expense report at the end of your trip.
Turn Off Unnecessary Syncing
It’s an unfortunate fact that many of the apps you are using sync or pull-down data in the background. You must disable the background sync before travelling abroad in order to avoid data roaming charges.
If you’re using an iOS device, start by opening your smartphone’s settings and tap iCloud. Once you’re in iCloud section, turn off all the options that you don’t want to be synced, and you’re good to go.
For Android users, the process goes with opening your device’s settings and then Accounts. Once opened, select Google, and then tap on your Gmail account. Disable each toggle that you find responsible for consuming data in the background.
Make sure to remember all the steps because you might want to turn the sync back on once you return from your trip.
Get a Prepaid SIM After Reaching Your Destination
After your flight lands and you arrive at your destination, the first thing you need to look for is local prepaid SIM. You might also find some booths at the airport selling local prepaid SIMs. Although you can purchase the SIM right at the airport, but I would suggest you buy it from the city. This way you can explore different options. For example, if you’re traveling to the UK, you will find a bunch of MVNOs that offer exciting SIM-only deals in 2022.
More or less, all the networks and MVNOs offer the same calling minutes and texts. The real treat to look for is internet data. If a network is offering a good value for internet data in less money, go for it. After all it is the internet data that you’ll need the most.
If you’re on a budget trip to UK, go for Talk Home Mobile Prepaid SIM because you can order it absolutely FREE at your doorstep with 20% OFF on first top up. Moreover, Talk Home International Plans start as low as £7.5/month, where the new user gets 50% OFF for first three months. Isn’t it a win-win deal? Yeah! Thank me later.
Alternate Options to Connect Back at Home
Up till now, most readers would have got a solution to their basic queries, but if your mobile network does not allow international roaming, and your smartphone does not support the local frequencies, your options are reduced.
However, you need not to worry a bit. You can buy a cheap phone from amazon at any price, but make sure it’s SIM-unlocked. I’d recommend Google Nexus phones as they are low-priced and SIM-unlocked. Once you arrive at your destination, get a free sim with cheap international plan, and since you’ve already spent some bucks on a new phone, I’d suggest downloading Talk Home App. With this app you can get best international calling rates on the market. Also, you can send credit or top up internationally without a hassle.
I hope this read helped you take something useful before heading out on that massive trip you’ve been planning for months. Enjoy and be safe.