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How To Travel Abroad With Your Phone


As a solo traveler, your phone can be your lifeline to the outside world. It allows you to stay connected with friends and family back home, navigate unfamiliar territory, and even capture unforgettable moments with your camera. But using your phone while traveling can be a costly affair, with international roaming charges and data fees that can quickly add up. That's why finding the cheapest way to use your phone while traveling is essential, allowing you to stay connected with loved ones and the world around you without breaking the bank.

In this article, I'll cover some cost-effective ways to use your phone while traveling, so you can make the most of your solo adventure and stay connected with the people and places that matter most to you.


Solo female traveler in Rio Janeiro BrazilQuick selfie before heading up Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio Janerio, Brazil.


Download Content For Offline Later

One of the biggest challenges of using your phone while traveling is the high data usage, which can quickly add up to a costly bill. Fortunately, there is a simple solution to this problem: downloading the content you'll need to your device before you leave. By storing content offline, you'll have access to it no matter where you are or whether or not you have an internet connection. This can save you a significant amount of money on high data fees, and it also helps you save time waiting for things to load, such as a map or travel guide.

To make the most of your offline content, it's a good idea to download maps, music, books, language translation apps, and any other content you may want to access while you're on the go. Having a map downloaded to your phone can be a lifesaver when you're in a foreign country and need to navigate unfamiliar streets. Language translation apps can also be incredibly helpful when you're trying to communicate with locals who don't speak your language.

In addition to saving you money and time, downloading content before your trip can also help you travel more efficiently. For example, if you have a long flight or train ride, having a few books or movies downloaded to your phone can help pass the time. Similarly, having a playlist of your favorite music can make long walks or public transportation rides more enjoyable.


Limit Data Usage

While downloading content to your device can help you avoid using up data on downloads, the truest way to preserve your data is to limit your data usage while traveling abroad. One way to do this is by turning off automatic updates and push notifications for apps on your phone. By controlling when and how you use your data, you can make sure you only use it when necessary, saving you money on costly data fees.

Another way to limit your data usage while traveling is by adjusting your email settings. You can enable data hogs like music and video streaming to only work when you are connected to Wi-Fi. This ensures that you won't accidentally use up your data on an email attachment that you didn't mean to download.

You can also track and manage your data usage by using a third-party app, the settings on your phone, or an app from your wireless provider. These tools can help you monitor how much data you've used, how much you have left, and which apps are using the most data. This can help you make informed decisions about when and how to use your data, so you can stay within your data plan and avoid expensive overage charges.


Sunset views from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio Janeiro Brazil

Lovely views of the sunset from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. 


Turn Off Data Completely

While using data sparingly can help you avoid surprise roaming charges, it's still possible to use up your data without realizing it. This can happen if you have apps that update automatically or work in the background, eating into your data plan without your knowledge. One way to ensure that you don't use up your data accidentally is to turn off your cellular data completely.

Turning off your data completely is the truest way to save your data and avoid any surprises on your bill. To do this, you can keep your phone set to "Airplane Mode," which will prevent your phone from defaulting to use data. This means that you won't accidentally use up your data plan, saving you money on costly roaming charges.

Additionally, turning off your data can also help you be more present and mindful during your solo travels. When you're not constantly checking your phone or scrolling through social media, you can fully immerse yourself in your surroundings and appreciate the beauty of your destination. You can also engage more with the locals and fellow travelers, making new connections and creating meaningful experiences that you'll cherish for years to come.


Stick to Wi-Fi

While turning off your data completely can be a great way to avoid unexpected roaming charges, it may not always be practical or desirable. After all, there are many situations where you may want to use your phone as you normally would, whether it's to stay connected with loved ones back home, find directions, or simply browse social media.

Thankfully, there is a workaround for this: Wi-Fi. By connecting to Wi-Fi networks whenever possible, you can still use your phone while saving on cellular data usage. The great thing about Wi-Fi is that it's often available for free in many public places, such as cafes, hotels, and airports. Many businesses offer Wi-Fi as a courtesy to their customers, making it easy and convenient to stay connected without having to worry about using up your data plan. Some countries even have public Wi-Fi networks that you can access for free in certain areas, such as parks or city squares.

To make the most of Wi-Fi while traveling, it's a good idea to plan ahead and research places that offer free Wi-Fi. You can also download Wi-Fi finder apps that can help you locate nearby networks.


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Use Apps to Communicate

Using messaging apps to communicate while traveling is an excellent way to stay connected with loved ones back home, without worrying about expensive international calling fees. There are many popular messaging apps available today, such as WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime, and more, that allow you to send messages, make calls, and even video chat with friends and family around the world.

To use these apps, you'll need to download them before you go on your trip, and make sure that the people you plan to communicate with also have the app installed on their device. This way, you can stay in touch without any additional fees, no matter where you are in the world.

One important thing to keep in mind is to use these apps only when your cellular data is turned off. This will prevent you from accidentally racking up international roaming charges, which can be very expensive. Instead, connect to Wi-Fi networks whenever possible, and use the messaging apps to communicate with friends and family without worrying about data usage.


Solo travel girl sitting on the Lapa Steps in Rio Janeiro BrazilGetting early morning pictures on the Lapa Steps before the crowds pour in.


International Travel Plan

If you're a frequent traveler or will be spending a considerable amount of time abroad, investing in an international travel plan could be a more practical option. Although it will come at a cost, you'll be able to enjoy the convenience of using your phone as you normally would without the worry of incurring outrageous roaming charges.

Before settling on a plan, make sure to do your research and compare various international travel plans offered by your carrier. Some plans may offer reduced rates for data and calling or a flat daily rate you only pay for when data is used.

Additionally, be mindful of any restrictions on the plan such as usage limitations, expiration dates or restrictions on specific countries. It's also important to note that these plans usually require an advance sign-up and activation process, so be sure to plan accordingly to avoid any inconveniences while traveling. By choosing an international travel plan that suits your needs, you can save money on roaming fees while enjoying the convenience of staying connected throughout your solo journey.


Local or eSIM card

Using a local or eSIM card is an excellent way to avoid spending too much on roaming charges while traveling, particularly for those who travel often or for an extended period of time.

Purchasing a local SIM card is usually cheaper than opting for an international plan, comes with an international phone number, and it allows you to use local rates and data plans; all that is required is an unlocked phone. An unlocked phone means that it is not tied to a specific carrier, allowing you to use it with any carrier that supports the phone's frequency bands. Additionally, obtaining a SIM card is typically a straightforward process, with some places requiring identification or registration prior to use. Local SIM cards are often available at airports, phone stores, and convenience stores in many countries.

Another good idea is to purchase an eSIM card before embarking on your solo travels. Just like a regular SIM, an eSIM provides you with data for calls and text but it operates digitally. This alternative is an excellent backup to have in case you encounter any issues locating a local SIM card when you arrive at your destination. Check out Airalo for your eSIM needs and use the code ARIANA0931 to get $3 off your first eSIM!

Regardless of which option you choose, don't forget to pack a paperclip in your suitcase to assist you in removing your current SIM card and inserting your new one.


 Solo travel girl posing with Christ the Redeemer in Brazil

Posing with Christ the Redeemer, one of the seven wonders of the world.


Have A Back Up 

Backing up your phone's data is an essential step to ensure the safety and security of your important files, especially when traveling. By taking the time to back up your data before your solo trip, you can have peace of mind knowing that you can easily restore it to a new device if necessary. 

In addition to backing up your data, consider investing in a cheap (unlocked) backup phone for emergencies. This backup phone can serve as a lifeline in case your phone is lost or stolen or if your primary phone runs out of battery. It also gives you the flexibility to use the backup phone with a local SIM card, providing you with affordable data and call rates while traveling.

Backing up your phone's data and having a backup phone are both vital to ensure that you stay connected and have access to your important information while traveling solo. With a little preparation, you can enjoy your travel adventures without the worry of losing important data or not being able to communicate when you need to.



In conclusion, as a solo traveler, it's important to stay connected with the outside world through your phone, but it can also be costly. The good news is that there are several cheap ways to use your phone while traveling abroad. From purchasing local SIM cards, using Wi-Fi hotspots, to downloading offline maps, these methods can help you stay connected with loved ones and navigate unfamiliar territory without breaking the bank. By taking advantage of these cost-effective options, you can make the most of your solo adventure and keep your phone bill under control.


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