Quarter Life Excursion

Taking Your Phone Abroad – 9 Things to Know

There is a lot of joy and relief in leaving your phone behind as you go explore the world. There is also a lot of joy in having a basic GPS, the ability to check flights, and taking pictures on the go. Basically, there are pros and cons to taking a phone with you. I personally brought my phone but left my data plans at home and operated with whatever Wi-Fi I could find. Eventually I got a SIM card for the last month and a half as I began looking for work again. Everyone will make a different decision about their phone, but if you do decide to take your phone, here are a few notes that may be useful:

  1. Almost all apps operate perfectly on Wi-Fi only. The exceptions being calls and text, of course. Read my other post, Best Backpacker Travel Apps for Free, for the best travel apps. They are all offline or Wi-Fi based.
  2. GPS still works without service and without data.
  3. Bring a plug adapter with USB ports to make your life easy, and bring an external battery for extra life in a pinch.
  4. The camera in your Galaxy or iPhone is just as good as any point and shoot camera. Save yourself the weight and leave the little camera at home.
  5. International plans are available from major American providers, but they are generally expensive (additional $40/month).
  6. There are international data providers in the region you’re traveling. If your phone is unlocked, you just need to change SIM cards and pay a new company. Most are pay as you go, have no contracts, and are very cheap! Do the research and find the right company for you.
  7. New regional data plans and SIM cards can be brought after you arrive in the country from a huge variety of stores. They are super cheap.
    1. Example data plan: Malaysia, CELCOM company, XPax Magic SIM card, 2.5 Gb/month of 4GLTE service plus text and calls from a Malay number for $10/month plus $2.50 for the SIM card.
  8. Most cell phones, especially new 4G phones, come unlocked now including all iPhone 5’s and 6’s. This means you can easily put in a SIM card from an international provider.
  9. As of 2014 and the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, all phones that have been paid for must be unlocked by the carrier on request. Many companies now ask you to pay for the phone in installments over time so they can get around this.

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