As soon as your plane touches down in a new country, you’ll want to text, Snapchat, and Instagram every single thing you see to all the poor saps back home who are missing out. Cell phone charges can quickly halt a holiday, however – I’ve watched roaming fees creep into the triple digits just hours after arrival abroad. This nightmare bill can be easily avoided with just three simple reminders.
Keep Your Phone on Airplane Mode
If you find yourself compulsively checking Twitter every time you have to wait in line or habitually refreshing your email every other minute, keep your phone in airplane mode to avoid temptation. This will disable the roaming feature, preventing you from absentmindedly paying dollars a minute to flick trhough old high school acquaintances’ Nashville-filtered coffeeshop selfies. You can still enable the internet on airplane mode when you are in a WiFi zone without eating away at all your data. If you do need to make an emergency call, just switch it back off.
Take Advantage of Apps
Most phone service providers offer international packages with discounted rates for talk and text. If you know you’ll need it and will be in an area with little to no wifi service, this may be an option you want to investigate before leaving. This option is popular with frequent business travelers, and if you can put these charges on the company card, by all means, blaze ahead. However, if you’ve got a smart phone and access to WiFi, you can easily get by without them. Several apps will allow you to call or text internationally for free with an Internet connection.
My top choice is Rebtel’s wifi calling app. You can call abroad at some of the world’s lowest rates to other phones or use it for free calls and texts to other Rebtel users. Making free calls home will encourage you to keep in touch with your loved ones while you travel.
If you’re going to be in one country for three weeks or more, it’s worth getting a local SIM card. It’ll save you both time and money in the long run, and make booking accommodation, calling taxis, and meeting up with people that much easier. Pay-as-you-go phones are easy to find in most airports, and shouldn’t run you more than $50, including a SIM card and a week or so worth of credit. If you want to put a local SIM card into a smart phone, don’t forget to unlock it before you go.
Don’t spend your hard-earned travel money searching for signal and racking up fees. With these tricks and a keen eye for WiFi hotspots, you’ll be able to talk to anyone, anywhere.