International travel is exciting, but it can also cause a lot of anxiety, especially if it’s your first time abroad. One of the things people often worry about is whether or not they’ll be able to use their Android phone or iPhone internationally, and, if so, how much it will cost. A little planning can ease these concerns so you can focus on the fun.
Will your phone work?
The first step in your journey is to make sure your Android or iPhone settings for international travel will work in the country you’re visiting. While cell phone technology is rapidly changing, there are still two competing standards (CDMA and GMA) that may impact your phone’s compatibility during your travels. The good news is that you don’t need to understand the technology to figure it out. Check your provider's website or contact them, tell them where you’re traveling, and ask them:
- If your phone is compatible.
- If they have any special packages for international use.
- To activate your mobile roaming plan for the countries you plan to visit.
- To email you the rates you can expect while away.
Bring a compatible plug
Electrical outlets around the world aren’t a standard shape or the same voltage. While your phone charger is likely capable of handling the change in voltage, you may need an adapter to plug your phone charger in. Travel adapters are inexpensive and sometimes include several attachments so they can work across the globe. Bring multiple adapters if you tend to use several items at a time, such as your phone, laptop, and hairdryer.
Save money along the way
International phone use is notoriously pricey, but there is no reason it should break the bank. A little knowledge and smart planning can go a long way. These four tips will help you save:
- Turn off mobile data. The best money-saving tactic is to turn off your mobile data. Most newer phones have an easily accessible button in settings that toggles data use on and off. If not, look under Network & Internet settings for the option. Turning off your mobile data prevents your phone from updating apps, downloading email, and sending messages beyond basic SMS texts. You can also turn off roaming data access, which specifically blocks access to data on networks other than your home network. Don’t worry about being completely off the grid — WiFi will keep you connected.
- Airplane mode. Airplane mode is not just for airplanes. On most phones, it quickly disables WiFi, data, and incoming/outgoing calls and texts. You can typically turn WiFi on while leaving the rest of your device in airplane mode. Before you leave home, check that your airplane mode is behaving as intended by enabling it and calling your phone from another line.
- Make use of free WiFi. From cafes, to hotels, to museums, WiFi is readily available almost everywhere. Take advantage of free WiFi to make WiFi calls, send emails, browse the web, and send messages via WiFi-based apps like iMessage and Google Hangouts. Keep in mind that public WiFi is not secure, so don't handle your banking or other sensitive matters. It may also be slow, so plan ahead if you’d like to upload photos or video.
- Look for other available discounts. For example, Xfinity offers a Mexico & Canada Call Pass. It’s just $10 a month per line for unlimited calls from the U.S. to Canada or Mexico. Your family can call you all they like for one low price if you provide a local number.
These cell phone international tips can help ensure you can stay connected while keeping costs down, but none of them will matter unless you do your homework in advance. Reach out to your provider, double check your power adapter, and get to know the settings on your phone.