Deciding on the Right International Phone Plan

Leaving the country absolutely means needing to take a step back and look at your main communication methods. Are you a big texter? Or more of a pick-up-the-phone-and-call person? Maybe you’re neither and you just like to check up on your friends and family through social media. No matter what your main communication method is, international trips can lead to big phone bills.

Here are some things to think about to help you decide if you want to shell out the money for an international phone plan.

Is Wi-Fi Available?

Number one, most important, if you remember anything from this post it better be this – will the place you are staying at have Wi-Fi? If the answer is yes, you can pretty much throw buying a phone plan out the window. You can absolutely survive with only using the internet in your hotel; you are in a foreign country—get off social media. You can catch up and post back at the hotel. Research where you are going before leaving for the day; that way the odds of you needing to use data while exploring is decreased.

You might be wondering what if I get lost? Won’t I need data to find my way back? Nope. The maps app will work on your smartphone without data—one of the best smartphone hacks. Also, and don’t laugh at this one, you can find free maps around most major cities. If you can read the street signs, chances are you can find your way to where you need to be. People got lost before smartphones too!

Take Advantage of iMessage, FaceTime, and Social Apps

Now you might say okay so I have Wi-Fi, that doesn’t mean I can send texts or make calls. Good point, but that’s where apps come in. If you have an iPhone and access to Wi-Fi, you can use iMessage and FaceTime. For text messages and normal phone calls, there are plenty of apps that use the internet for messaging and calling. Viber, WhatsApp, even Facebook Messenger allow you to text and call people over the internet.

Look for Free Wi-Fi

So what if you have no access to Wi-Fi whatsoever? If you are with the people you need to communicate with (mom, dad, significant other, etc.), you might be able to survive with no phone plan at all. Chances are, if you need it, you can find a few places within walking distance that have free Wi-Fi. Big chains like Starbucks and McDonald’s usually have free Wi-Fi so you can stay connected, and sometimes you can find it in chain clothing stores as well.

When You Really Need a Phone Plan

If there’s no Wi-Fi around and all of your family and friends are back home in the U.S., now we’re talking phone plans. Most phone companies offer a low daily fee for a day pass plan. This means you can use your phone just like you would in the U.S. (without Wi-Fi) for a few dollars a day. The best part of these plans is that you are only charged if you use it that day.

For example, you may tell your phone company you will be in Germany for 10 days. If you only use your cellular network without Wi-Fi on three of those days, then you will only be charged for those three days. The charge is “triggered” by using the cellular network and you have 24 hours to use your phone before another day pass is triggered.

The trick for saving money while staying connected is knowing where you’ll be, if you’ll have access to Wi-Fi, and how much communicating you’ll be doing while you’re out and about exploring your destination.


About The Author

Fueled by yoga and coffee, Francesca D'Annibale has traveled extensively both with work and for leisure. Her favorite destinations are Rome and Budapest.

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