On She Goes

Getting Online While Traveling Internationally

A guide to getting connected.

Becca Ramos
Becca Ramos
July 31, 2017
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Sometimes you’re the frustrated friend awaiting every update back at home, and sometimes you’re the friend causing frustration because you’re too hard to get ahold of abroad. The point is, this is the 21st century, and there is no reason we can’t all be tech savvy in navigating the complications of communication abroad! So you can stay ahead of the game instead of learning the hard way, here’s a list of tips to help you master using the internet overseas.

Download those apps now
The last thing you want is to have reached your destination and play the could’ve, should’ve, would’ve game. Before you leave for your destination, download apps such as WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, and Skype that allow you to message and call over Wi-Fi for free. It also may be helpful to find some travel apps that allow you to use them offline, so that if you can’t find Wi-Fi you won’t be left feeling stranded or worried about going broke from data roaming fees.

Figure out what connectivity plan is best for you
It’s true that there are a lot of opportunities to find free Wi-Fi in countries abroad, but you should know all your options. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Global Subscription Wi-Fi
    Global subscription Wi-Fi is a service you can pay for through a mobile network plan. It allows you to tap into hotspots abroad through a specific log-in. Cost of plans can vary—some are based on minute-to-minute usage, while others are on a weekly or monthly basis. Here’s a list of some global subscription Wi-Fi networks if you want to learn more.
  • Travel SIM Cards
    You can purchase a prepaid SIM card that gives you a certain amount of data for your device. Much like global subscription plans, there are a variety of options that may or may not be in your budget. Check here for a list of some of the most popular international SIM card plans. This may not be an option for you if you have a phone that doesn’t have a SIM card, runs on CDMA technology (shout-out to Verizon and Sprint users), or isn’t “unlocked.” Also, as if this option weren’t already complicated, there are SIM cards that work only for certain countries—be sure to watch out for that!
  • Portable Wi-Fi Hotspots
    This is one of the more convenient options out there but also one of the more expensive. You can purchase or rent your own global Wi-Fi hotspot that allows you to get internet anywhere, but depending on which one you get, you’re out big bucks to begin with (some start at as much as $125!). Some have limits on how much internet you get, while others come with unlimited plans. A favorite is the tep wireless rental hotspot, but make sure it’s the right plan for you.
  • Free Wi-Fi
    I know what you’re thinking—why pay when there is FREE Wi-Fi? Well, as great as free internet can be, we as travelers are more susceptible to hackers while abroad. So if paying for internet isn’t exactly in your budget, be sure not to access personal accounts such as your bank account without being on a secure network. Also, as an extra precautionary measure, check out how to set up a VPN on your phone for when you’re abroad.

Make a communication schedule
Traveling is about YOUR experience, so don’t let the stress of others wanting to talk to you get in the way of your trip! To make it easier for everyone, I’ve always found it handy to schedule certain times I would talk to friends and family. Most phones have time zone apps, so use the app, math out the time difference, and let everyone know the plan.

Take a deep breath
Yes, figuring out data plans and connectivity can be stressful, but that’s why we made this list. Now you’re educated and one step closer to the best part—enjoying your trip!