World Travel 101: Part 9 – Staying Connected
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When traveling overseas, your friends and family will want to check-in to be sure you’re safe. And they’ll want to know all about your trip and (if you’re like me!) you might have some work to do!
World Travel 101 – Index
- Part 1 – Planning
- Part 2 – Travel Documents
- Part 3 – Foreign Languages
- Part 4 – Money
- Part 5 – Accommodations
- Part 6 – Transportation
- Part 7 – Packing
- Part 8 – Health & Safety
- Part 9 – Staying Connected
- Part 10 – Cultural Awareness & Respect
Using Your Cell Phone Outside the US
Cell Phone Service & Data
You can contact your mobile provider to find out about international calls and data. My post on international cell phone plans can help you compare services.
However, fees and packages can change, so it’s best to call your wireless company to see what options are currently available.
International wireless plans still tend to be pricey or have spotty service. So another option is purchasing a SIM card at your destination. Keep in mind, you should have your phone unlocked if you plan on using SIM cards overseas.
In certain locations, you can purchase a SIM card in the airport or at local convenience stores. But they aren’t always easy to get, especially in countries where not many folks speak English.
During a trip to Thailand, 1 of Emily’s friends purchased a SIM card for ~$15. With the card she was able to make local calls and use unlimited data for 7 days.
That also enabled her to use the GPS on her phone for directions, look up restaurant reviews, and call hotels to make last-minute bookings while on the go.
If you have access to a cellular network, whether through your phone company in the US or a SIM card you purchased abroad, you may be able to tether your computer to your phone so you can use the internet.
This is very useful when you don’t have access to a Wi-Fi signal! But certain plans may not allow you to use your phone as a hotspot, so check with your wireless company.
How to Get Free Wi-Fi!
Fortunately, many hotels, airports, and public places now provide free Wi-Fi to travelers.
You can access free Wi-Fi throughout many airports. Some airports don’t have free internet, but offer paid access through Boingo. But if you have the following cards, you can use Boingo networks for free:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- The Business Platinum® Card from American Express
Here are some hotels that now provide internet for free:
- Best Western – All guests (no booking or membership requirements)
- Choice – All guests (no booking or membership requirements)
- Hilton – Starting August 2015, all Hilton Honors members will get free standard Wi-Fi when booking directly with Hilton. Currently, Hilton Gold (or Diamond) elite members get free Wi-Fi. You get free Hilton Gold status with the AMEX Hilton Surpass and Citi Hilton Reserve cards (no longer available).
- Hyatt – All guests (no booking or membership requirements)
- Marriott – Must be a free Marriott member and book directly with the hotel. So you can NOT book through a discount site like Expedia.
- Ritz-Carlton – All Ritz-Carlton members who book their stays through Marriott or Ritz-Carlton (but some hotels do not participate)
- Starwood – When you book through the Starwood website, a Starwood hotel website (such as Sheraton), or the mobile app
Not staying at a hotel that provides free internet access? You can likely get online for free at some public parks, libraries, and restaurants.Wi-Fi Free Spot compiles a list of places around the world where you can get online for free. But I don’t know how accurate or up to date it is.
Many restaurants in popular tourist destinations provide free internet to give folks a reason to walk in and stay awhile.
If you need to call home, consider using internet-based tools to save money. For example, Google Voice will give you a US phone number, and you can make (and receive) calls for free as long as you’re connected to the internet.
With an international wireless plan or by purchasing SIM card at your destination you can use your cell phone when traveling abroad.
And there are many places with free Wi-Fi including hotels, airports, and public places. This will help you to stay in-touch with friends and family and explore your destination.
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