(Long time no see! Been pretty busy lately with traveling and work. I’ll probably write about my Malaysia trip in a future post. Enough chitchat, let’s jump into it)
In this day and age, surviving for more than a day without a cellphone seems like an impossible task, especially if you are traveling abroad. If you are directionally challenged like me, Google Maps is a must have when it comes to globe trotting. Here are the three ways to stay connected for cheap abroad:
1.Unlocked cellphone + local sim card
This option is great if you want to just visit one country, but if you are going country hopping in the EU or SE Asia then the other two options might be better in terms of price. There’s a few hurdles you have to jump over in order to get this option to work. First is you have to have an unlocked phone, and sometimes phones come with a contract and are locked. It’s best to call your cell service provider and sort that out. The second is to check if your phone even works in the designated country. Believe it or not there are multiple international phone signal frequencies called “Bands”, and if your phone doesn’t have the right bands for that country, you are SOL. To check, simply go to willmyphonework.net and put in your phone model and the country you want to go to. Don’t be like me, bringing my Moto E to vietnam with the wrong band and blamed the carrier instead of my phone. The third is to actually buy the sim card at the airport, and some countries charge a lot/have restrictions on tourist sim cards, so it’s your best bet to do your research on the Sim Card Wiki, it has a detailed breakdown of all the prepaid sim card plans for all the major carriers in every country and the prices associated. Invaluable.
This one’s easy, if you have T-Mobile post paid plan(called Simple Choice) in the US, you enjoy unlimited internet in 140 countries. Sounds too good to be true? Well there’s a catch: The data speed is 2G in most countries. If you don’t know how slow that is, just turn off LTE and 3G in your phone and you will get a good sense of what 2G, or EDGE, feels like. According to my friend it’s 3G in Hong Kong and blazing fast LTE in Japan though, so YMMV. I should also mention that if you are not a T-Mobile customer and wants to take advantage of them when you travel, it’s difficult, as you can’t really turn their service on when you travel and off when you aren’t without them catching on and refuse to deal with you.
This is the new kid on the block, and it works like this: $30 a month, you get 1GB of data, and you can use that almost anywhere in the world, at 3G or higher speeds. For each additional GB per month, you pay $10 extra, and if you bought too much data they will refund you for unused data. You can also put your account on hold for 3 months, or if you are going to travel way in the future, just cancel for now and reactivate later. Sounds pretty good right? Well there’s a big catch. Currently Google Fi can only work with two phones, the Nexus 5X($200 if you activate it within a month of receiving it. If you don’t sign up for Google Fi within the first month, the phone’s price is $250) and the Nexus 6P($500, doesn’t matter if you sign up for service or not). The phones are yours to keep, and they are unlocked and work with pretty much all the bands in the world. I have a Nexus 5X right now and it’s a solid phone for $200, the only problem with it is that it tends to overheat, which I guess is a great feature in the winter.
Dishonorable mention: Your carrier’s global roaming package.
Don’t do it, it’s usually way more expensive than any of the above options. Just don’t.
Now that you figured out your plan of choice, what next?
First, bring the right type of plug adapters. Check here and then buy on ebay. You don’t have to worry about voltage as most electronic chargers these days can handle 1from 110v to 240v fine.)
Second, download all the necessary apps before you fly(trust me on this one). My favorite ones are:
Uber (works almost everywhere, super good in SE Asia since it’s cheaper than taxis most of the time and less scammy than some of the local drivers.)
some sorta Subway Map App for the cities you are going to
Google Maps (or the local equivalent)
XE (for currency conversion)
Yelp (Surprisingly, it has quite a bit of reviews outside of the US, especially in major European cities)
Until next time,