The Best Ways to Get Phone Data While Traveling or on Vacation

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Screenshot of a phone running Airalo

You have options to stay connected abroad.
Photo: Airalo

Smartphones are pretty essential to modern life, but so is internet access: there’s no need to have apps that can hail taxis, order food, translate languages, navigate between places and post on social media if they can’t. actually connect. Free public wifi is becoming more and more ubiquitous, but cellular data access is still very important very often – and if you’re heading out of the country, those are your options.

Stay with your operator

Before you do anything else, check what your carrier will charge you for data usage in the country you’re visiting. You need to check how much data you get, how much extra it will cost you, and how fast your web access is. These types of agreements have evolved through years to be cheaper and difficult to set upand go for one might end up being the best of your options.

We will not cover all carrier agreements here, but take AT&T for example: It offers an international day pass for $10 per day which allows you to call, text and get “high speed data” in over 200 countries around the world. AT&T also says that “data will be pulled from your national plan allowance with the same data and speed restrictions” – so you’re limited in some ways by your current plan. It’s probably a better deal than the alternative on AT&Twhich pays $2.05 for every megabyte of data.

Screenshot of Google Fi data plans

Check what your carrier offers before doing anything else.
Screenshot: GoogleFi

If you are on GoogleFion the other hand, the same agreement that applies in the United States also applies outside the United States, as long as you are in one of the countries where roaming is supported. With the Unlimited Plus plan, you won’t pay extra for data you use on international networks, and if you’re on the flexible plan, you’ll pay the same $10 per gigabyte rate you pay when you’re at home. Texting is free and you’ll pay $0.20 per minute for calls from abroad.

To get data on a cellular network outside your home, you need to enable data roaming. On the Pixel version of Android, in Settings, select Network and Internetthen SIMthen make sure Roaming is authorized; on the Samsung version of Android, open Settings and choose Connections, Mobile networksand activate Data roaming; and on the iPhone, in Settings, select Cellularthen Cellular data optionsand activate the toggle switch labeled Data roaming.

Get a new SIM card

It may be cheaper and easier to buy a local SIM card or eSIM in the country you are visiting, effectively turning your handset into a local phone. There are more options for this than you might have imagined, including international SIM cards which work well in multiple countries, although you will need an unlocked smartphone to be able to do this, and which will work on networks international 4G and 5G.

Travel sites are full of advice on which SIM plans will suit your trip, and sometimes you can pre-order before you even go on a trip. The prices and methods of purchasing SIMs vary considerably depending on the destination, from the kiosks selling SIMs at the airport in india to the prepaid SIM cards for Australia that you can pick up on Amazon. You need to look at the carrier options for where you’re headed, and that should then narrow down your choices.

Screenshot of a phone running Airalo

Airalo makes getting eSIM very simple.
Screenshot: Airalo

If your phone supports eSIM, setup is even easier. A site like Airalo can handle it all through an Android or iOS app – just choose your destination, choose from one of the eSIMs on offer, then everything else is taken care of for you through the app (including your payment). At the time of writing, for example, you can get a UK eSIM for $15 which gives you 5GB of data for 30 days. Or, get one International eSIM by OneSimCard for $10 plus the amount of data you will need.

The downside is that unless you have a phone with dual SIM support, you’ll have to keep swapping between numbers, which can make it difficult to contact people back home. You need to do your research in terms of speeds and data limits, as well as how long your SIM or eSIM card is valid for, but if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to check out the options, then it can save you money.

Use a wireless access point

The last option for your travels is to buy or rent a hotspot device, which connects to the cellular network of the country you are in and creates a small Wi-Fi network that you can then stay connected to. permanently. Your hotspot goes wherever you are. go, which means you’re always online via wifi and your phone doesn’t have to worry about establishing a direct connection to cell towers in the country you’re in.

At first, this may seem like an overly complicated and expensive solution – and it certainly won’t be the right choice for everyone – but it has the advantage of allowing you to quickly bring multiple devices online at the same time. If you’re carrying a lot of gear with you, or have other people with you on the trip, this can make a lot of sense and be the most convenient option (you might also be able to bring your companions to contribute for the price of the hotspot).

Picture of the Netgear Nighthawk M1

The Netgear Nighthawk M1 supports up to 20 devices.
Photo: Net Gear

The Netgear Nighthawk M1 is a good example of what we are talking about: yes, it costs several hundred dollars, but it will give you speeds of up to 4G for up to 20 devices, it will charge your other gadgets via USB, and it comes with a display so you always know how much data you have used. Consider it’ll probably save you from having terrible wifi in hotels and airports, and it’s starting to look like pretty decent value if you travel a lot. It allows you to stay connected at home, also – you can use it as a backup for your broadband.

It is also worth mentioning the Urozetta Cloud Pro, which combines a physical hotspot that supports eSIM with an app that will take care of all eSIM orders for you – you don’t need to mess with actual SIM cards, just launch the app that accompanies it when you arrive in a new country and choose the best offer you can find. Again, the initial outlay is certainly high, but if you do a lot of traveling with a lot of gadgets, then this device could quickly become indispensable.

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