How to set up your phone for international travel

It's summer (at least in the Northern hemisphere)! What this means is that it's time to hit the road and take a look at the big, wide world around us. And while a few years ago, many would pack in their laptops along with heavy DSLR cameras and what not other technological gadgets to stay connected and capture the moment, these days, you really don't need much more than your smartphone well-charged and connected.

So what should you do in order to be well prepared for international travel with your smartphone? No matter whether it's an iPhone or an Android device you have, there are a few simple steps that will make your journey a lot more enjoyable, less confusing, and ultimately - great.

We walk you through these few simple steps to set up and prepare your phone for your international travels.

Step #1: Get well informed about roaming fees

The first step we advise you to take is one of precaution: check and get well informed about roaming fees that your carrier charges for the country/countries that you plan on visiting. You should inform yourself about the call and texting rates, but most importantly - pay attention to fees for mobile Internet that are often astronomical and see if you can get some sort of a deal or a change in plan to accommodate for possible data needs (or even occurrences - your apps might decide to auto-update on 3G/4G while you're in another country, eating megabytes and often hundreds of dollars).

Step #2: Turn off mobile data in roaming

Mobile data in roaming is evil. 

Fees are still often per megabyte at most carriers, and those megabytes stack up quickly, and so does your bill.

Step #3: Get a local SIM card

Dealing with roaming is a necessity that helps you avoid (or at least deal somehow with) emergencies in the beginning of your stay at another country, but it really makes no sense to stay on expensive roaming tariffs when you can get a local SIM card with cheap data plan during your stay. Check at the local carriers about their pre-paid plans - getting a SIM card and a local number should cost little and the process is quick and simple.

In order for it all to work, make sure you have a GSM phone, as CDMA phones won't work in many parts of the world.

Step #4: Check official currency exchange rates

You would need an Internet connection to learn about the latest exchange rates, but getting the latest info is a worthy investment as many tourists fall victim to currency exchange fraud. If you travel to resorts, it's often hard to find banks, and you'd have to exchange money at a shady exchange office. Another rule of thumb that you can follow in any situation is to NEVER accept money exchanges from strangers who approach you on the street.

Did you know: you don't need to download an app to check currency rates - just type your search in Google in the following format "1 US dollar to Chinese yuan" or "1 USD to RMB".

Step #5: Download maps that you can use offline with an app like HERE Maps

Some of the strongest and most notable features of Nokia's HERE Maps is that it supports offline navigation thanks to your device's in-built GPS. This allows you to explore the map and navigate yourself to a desired location without an Internet connection, and Nokia touts that you can use all features of HERE Maps on Android while being offline.

The app will allow you to download detailed maps of various areas, regions, or even countries (more than 200 are available for download as of now). Said maps are kept on your device and pave the way for fast access. More than 100 of the maps in question allow you to make full use of turn-by-turn navigation, while 40 of the maps will provide you with traffic information (we suppose that this feature won't work offline, though). HERE Maps will work in a seamless concert with Glympse, too.

Step #6: Get a universal power adapter (different countries use different plugs)

A universal power adapter is a must-have if you travel from the United States to Europe where most countries use a different type of a plug, but plug standards differ all across the globe and rather than getting one just for Europe, you might get a universal power adapter for all your journeys.

Step #7: Make sure you pack a charger and a USB cable (best: use a QuickCharger if your phone supports the technology)

If you have a flagship Android phone made within the last two years, chances are that it supports Qualcomm's Quick Charge 2.0 technology allowing you to juice up its battery much faster than you would using older, regular chargers. Unfortunately, manufacturers don't always include a compatible charger in the box and instead opt for more affordable wall chargers that sometimes take 3 hours and more to fully charge a phone. The Sony Xperia Z3 is just one example: in our recharge test, we measured that it takes 235 minutes, or nearly 4 hours to fully recharge its battery from zero to 100%. No wonder, given it only features a 850 mA charger in the box, while support for QuickCharge 2.0 allows it take 2 amps at its 5 volt battery chemistry.

With all this context in mind, here is a reliable and very affordable QuickCharge 2.0 compatible charger that will boost charging speeds significantly on phones supporting the technology: the Aukey Turbo Wall Charger.



1. Sovat_fc

Posts: 224; Member since: Aug 30, 2014

Why do you need HERE Maps when you buy a local SIM card?

4. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

because local doesn't mean you will get the best data package.

2. waddup121 unregistered


3. Omarc07

Posts: 574; Member since: Nov 12, 2012

i just buy a local sim period. No more payin for crappy roaming rates from att. Atts passport plans are crap and give u lil bit of data . I had to get my phone unlocked ,once i did that were ever i go i take out my att sim n buy a local sim they usually give u lots of minutes for cheaper and more data for cheaper ,also one thing i like about att phones is that they support lots of 3G n lte bands ,i had Lte with a Telcel sim in mexico and 3G and some Lte in colombia with a sim from there .

5. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

How much do you pay for the sim? In terms of the service. I suspect it is a pay as you go plan. And how much to call back to the states?

10. Omarc07

Posts: 574; Member since: Nov 12, 2012

Dpends were your going ,in mexico sims were more expensive than colombia especially the Nano sim for iphone 6, like about the same as 25 US dollars. And yes there prepaid sims u add money and they give u decent ammount of data and minutes and to call the Us its about 15 cents the minute only problem is they give u a local number from there , i had no problem using my att Lg G3 i tought i was gonna have problems with data but once i inserted the prepaid telcel sim in mexico full bars 4G LTE i didnt had to fix apn settings it did it all by itself ,same in colombia once i inserted the Claro sim same thing 4G didnt had to fix apn settings

6. Augustine

Posts: 1043; Member since: Sep 28, 2013

Or just switch to T-mobile and just go abroad without thinking about roaming charges, as long as it's one of the 120+ countries it offers this service in.

8. Omarc07

Posts: 574; Member since: Nov 12, 2012

@ augustine i tought of doing that plenty of times but tmobile is not good here in my area in los angeles so i just stick with att i tried tmobile plenty of times always end up back at att. Once u have an unlocked att phones u never pay high roaming fees so it aint that bad .

7. Augustine

Posts: 1043; Member since: Sep 28, 2013

When traveling, I take a charger that doubles as a battery pack by Tylt (bit{dot}ly/1G7egJP). It's just so convenient to pick up a device and a battery charged overnight for the day ahead.

9. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

Was in Brussels (Belgium) last few days and didn't get a local sim. Normally I use a Mifi router with the local sim, but forgot it. You can get 30 MB's for like 4 dollars (only in EU countries). Total damages was like 80 dollars but my boss pays 80% anyways.

11. An.Awesome.Guy

Posts: 636; Member since: Jan 12, 2015

If you are using Android I advise to use a firewall like DroidWall if you have root access If you don't, then use Opera Max it can be firewall for Wifi and mobile data and also it can compress some of the data

12. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

Dual sim is the way to go. T-Mobile roaming with free data in one slot, local sim for calls in slot two. Call to the States with Hangouts or Skype for free on the free T-Mobile roaming data or on wifi. Text back to the US is also free.

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