Nov 02, 2016
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4 Easy Ways to Save on Data Charges Abroad

Traveling abroad can be one of the most exciting adventures of a lifetime. It's a great opportunity to strike out on your own, learn about new cultures, and experience people, places and customs you've never encountered before. However, while traveling internationally is a lot about venturing outside your comfort zone — it can also be important to stay connected to home while you're gone with one of your many electronic gadgets.

There are lots of reasons you'll want to stay connected while on-the-go. First, traveling in a foreign place can pose some safety risks (for example: pickpocketing), and having a means of communicating may ensure that you can always get help if you need it, and that you can check in with people at home to let them know that you're fine. Being connected abroad can also help you stay abreast of work if you need to do so, by giving you access to things like e-mail and the internet. Finally, traveling in a foreign place can sometimes feel lonely, especially if you don't know the language of the people around you. Therefore, having a way to communicate will allow you to call a friend or family member, and just hear a familiar voice.

If you're planning to travel abroad and you want to stay connected while you're on the go, but you're not sure how — fear not! The following four tips can help ensure that you have access to communication when you need it, and that you don't have to spend a fortune doing things like using hotel phones or paying for expensive international roaming fees.

1. Use Wi-Fi as Much as Possible

According to travel expert Johnny Jet, using data on your mobile device without a prepaid plan can cost you around $20 per megabyte. This means that downloading one simple medium-resolution photo from an e-mail could end up costing you $20. So, when using mobile devices abroad, make sure that you turn off their cell data and keep Wi-Fi on. (One easy way to do this is to put your phone in "Airplane Mode.") By avoiding using cellphone data and simply using Wi-Fi services, you can have access to many of the same features you love on your smartphone, like email, Internet browsers and even Skype. Wi-Fi is a great, affordable way to ensure that your phone functions without costing you a fortune.

2. Purchase an International Data Bundle for Your Cellphone

In today's smartphone-centric world, most people rely on cell data almost constantly. Sometimes, while abroad, you might find yourself in an area without access to a Wi-Fi network, and you'll just need to use your phone (i.e. you get lost, you need to get in touch with someone quickly, etc.). So, instead of using international data haphazardly, you can purchase a prepaid data package from your cell service provider, which means that you pay one fixed price for a fixed amount of data for the time that you're away. Popular cell service providers like AT&T, Sprint and Verizon offer fixed data packages, and they're a great way to avoid paying for the data you use byte by byte (which could end up draining your bank account).

3. Consider Buying a Local SIM Card for Your Cellphone

SIM cards are the tiny pieces that go inside of a phone that actually give them access to cell service. Instead of paying for international data by using a SIM card from your home country, you can purchase a local SIM card from the area you're visiting and pay local rates to use data while you're there. One caveat? You may not be able to use an international SIM card in your existing cellphone. Some cell service providers "lock" their phones, which means you can only use their SIM cards inside of their phones. However, it's possible to purchase an unlocked cellphone online or from certain cellphone companies (i.e., the Verizon iPhone 5 and 6 already come unlocked), and use a foreign SIM card inside of it. You can purchase an international SIM card before you travel (this usually comes with a surcharge), or you can find one once you arrive.

4. Use a Disposable International Cellphone

If you decide you don't want to travel with your own cellphone when going abroad, another good option is to buy or rent a low-cost, "disposable" cellphone once you arrive in the country you're visiting. Disposable cellphones are really just cheap, not-so-durable phones that can be used with an international SIM card. Using a disposable international phone minimizes the risk of a more expensive phone (like an iPhone) being stolen, lost or broken while you travel. It's also an easy way to ensure that the phone you're using is unlocked and able to receive an international SIM card. If you do decide to opt for a disposable phone, be sure to bring a list of important phone numbers with you when you travel. That way, you don't have to depend on your own cell phone's contact list to find phone numbers, and you can easily reach the people you want to connect with. You can find disposable cellphones for purchase or rent at many tourist gift shops, hotels and airport stores.

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