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How Do I Use My Cell Phone While Traveling to Europe

Cell Phone While Traveling to Europe – In today’s connected world, it’s more important than ever before to be able to access our network at any time. Fortunately, these days we have plenty of different options, Verizon, T Mobile, AT&T, and Straight Talk.

Read Post  Do I Need A Visa To Travel To Europe? European Visa Guide

You can still use your cell phone while traveling to Europe if you plan properly and use all of the tools at your disposal. One word of advice: Don’t just use your plan without speaking with your provider. You could rack up hundreds, or even thousands of dollars in roaming fees. Compare this to something simple like a $10 a day extra fee — just by a bit of pre-planning.

Avoid sticker shock with your next phone bill by being smart and planning in advance.

Many travelers prefer to use their own cell phones while traveling to Europe. Some people even like to bring their other mobile devices for email, communications, watching videos, browsing the Web and so on.

The good news is, it isn’t that difficult to use your smartphone in Europe (or Traveling to Asia) to access the Internet, make calls or text. The following explains everything you need to do.

Cell Phone While Traveling to Europe

Cell Phone While Traveling to Europe

Using My Cell Phone While Traveling to Europe: Talk To Your Current Provider

Your current provider probably has some kind of international plan that will allow you to use your cell phone while traveling to Europe. People go on vacations all of the time, so it is not outside of the realm of possibility that they have some sort of package that would work best for you.

Your Smartphone cell plan provider in advance and speak with them about your options. Make sure that you cancel your international plan when you return home! Tips for Traveling Internationally

How to Use Your Smartphone in Europe

If you are from the United States, Canada, Mexico, or another country, traveling with your smartphone in Europe means additional fees, be it for calls, text or other types of data access.

If you are going to use your own phone, decide first how you intend to use it (for calls only, for text, the web, etc.). You can use your regular plan for calls, text and web browsing, but it will be more expensive.

There are international service plans you can sign up for a lower cost, i.e. flat fee or limiting you to a specific number of megabytes.

Before doing any of these, make sure first that your phone does work in Europe (you can check with your carrier), and then check the international rates.

Before you go to Europe, activate your phone’s international service or call your carrier and ask them to turn on international roaming for data, voice, text or whatever service you plan to use.

Once your phone has been set up, you can access Wi-Fi in Wi-Fi hotspots, which are pretty common in the continent.

What type of phone do I have

The easiest way to find what type of phone you have and what phone model, is to check the settings in your phone.

  1. Go to the Settings or Options menu, scroll to the bottom, and click on ‘About phone’.
  2. The name and model number of your Smartphone will be listed.

Cell Phone While Traveling to Europe and Smartphone Data Plans and Texting

If you want to use smartphone data plans and texting in Europe, keep the following things in mind.

  • First, Europe uses the GSM (“Global System for Mobiles”) system.
  • All American carriers use GSM except Verizon and Sprint that use CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access).

However, this should not be an issue since most smartphones today can connect to both network systems.

European SIM Card

European SIM Card

The easiest way to use data plans and text services in Europe is to use international roaming as suggested above. If you find it too expensive, you can sign up for an international data plan which is something your carrier and other services will offer.

The cost will depend on how you plan to use your mobile device, and it’s certainly going to be more expensive if you’re going to watch movies or YouTube videos.

Plan ahead for e-Learning success as well, including a language while you are on holiday. Even a simple language translator website will be helpful for specific words and phrases as you need them.

Get a Local SIM Card

Depending on where you’re traveling, it might make a lot of sense to get a local SIM card. In order to install your SIM card, you will need to unlock your phone. Many carriers will allow you to do this as long as the phone is paid for.

If your carrier pushes back on unlocking your phone, you can always have it unlocked once you arrive in Europe. There is no real standard of excellence for having your phone unlocked by a local shop, so make sure that you check around and get solid references before you go this route.

Once your phone is unlocked you can use your local SIM card with ease! Make sure that you keep your American SIM in a safe spot because you’ll need it when you return home.

Using a European SIM Card

The simplest and most practical option is to use a European SIM card, and you can get these from various European mobile carriers. In most cases you’re going to have to unlock your phone so it can use the SIM card from other carriers.

The majority of US smartphones are locked, and you may want to get in touch with your mobile company for assistance on unlocking it. If you’d rather unlock your smartphone yourself, download software that unlocks smartphones and use their codes to unlock your device.

There are several services like these available online and the process is fairly straightforward:

  1. Pay the fee
  2. Provide some info about the phone on the website
  3. The service will email you the code to unlock your mobile
  4. Once your phone is unlocked, you can look for a SIM card in mobile phone stores, electronics counters and in some cases, vending machines.

These SIM cards cost anywhere from 4 to 8 euros, and they don’t come with any commitment or contract. If you want a SIM card with data access good for a month, expect to pay around 13 to 25 euros for the card.

Before you buy, take a look at your smartphone and make sure that the card is compatible. Some mobile devices like the iPhone use a different type of nano-SIM card, so make certain the card fits your phone.

Talk to the clerk and check the rates for calls and to and from the European countries you will be visiting. Use the same approach for texting.

  1. Once you’ve got a SIM card that works with your smartphone, ask the store personnel to install it and do a test call.
  2. Turn your mobile on, enter the PIN and if necessary switch the language to English.
  3. Don’t forget to record the PIN number and ask how to check the credit balance.

In some European countries, your SIM card may have to be registered along with your passport for security reasons. Follow the instructions and after an hour or two you’ll be able to use it.

If you run out of SIM, you can get one in any mobile phone store and tell the salesperson how much credit you want. The clerk is either going to give you the credit over the phone or you will be given a voucher with instructions.

Best Data Plan WiFi Hotspot Devices for Travel

Charging Your Cell Phone in Europe

One of the most common mistakes people make is thinking that you’ll need a costly voltage converter to charge your mobile. In fact, the majority of mobile devices, tablets and laptops have battery chargers that can work on 220 volts used in Europe and countries in the world, as well as 110 volts (the US).

Cell phone chargers can work with different frequencies from 50 Hertz to 60 Hertz. Unless your mobile device specifically says to use a converter, don’t use it because it could actually damage your mobile because it already has a converter.

If you want to know if your cell phone has dual voltage capabilities, read the words on the charger.

  • If your cell phone has dual voltage you will see something like “Input 100 – 240V, 50 – 60 Hz.”
  • Then, if your mobile phone is dual voltage, you still need to use a plug adapter, but not a voltage converter.

Before going on a trip, you have to keep in mind that all countries have their own electrical system, and that will determine what type of plug adapters you have to use.

In Italy for instance, the majority of outlets are compatible with two round prongs, but bathrooms have three-pronged grounded outlets.

If necessary, you should purchase a multi-country plug adapter if you’re not sure which type of adapter to use. Better yet, you should research the plug adapters that are used in the countries you’re going to visit. Thanks to the Internet, this should be easy, and if you’re not really sure you can always send an email to the website and get clarification.

If you’re only going to bring a cell phone, a single adapter will do. However, if you’re bringing a laptop, tablet, and other devices, it’s best to have several adapters as your hotel room might only have a few electrical outlets available.

In some cases you also have to plug an adapter into another before you can use it. For instance, you can put plug a two-pronged adapter onto a three-prong European adapter to make it work.

No matter how many plug adapters you buy, make sure the plug fits in properly.

Prepaid Cell Phones in Europe

There’s no lacking of prepaid cell phones in Europe, but when you buy a GSM prepaid wireless and/or a SIM card, make certain call time is included.

Charging Your Cell Phone in Europe

Charging Your Cell Phone in Europe

If you’re in Germany, you can get a Handy for less than 60 euros which includes a refillable SIM card with prepaid minutes. The set up is usually pay per minute but the cost varies per country.

Almost always, however, it’s cheaper compared to international roaming.

Another option is to buy a GSM phone before leaving for Europe, but if you decide to do this, check the various services online to make sure you get your money’s worth. Once you’ve got your cell phone you can take advantage of the free Wi-Fi available throughout the continent.

Set Up a Mobile Hotspot

If you don’t need to make phone calls, you can always invest in a mobile hotspot. Companies like TEP Wireless, Skyroam, and Keepgo all have mobile hotspot technology.

A hotspot will enable you to log into the internet without using local Wi-Fi. If you want to browse the internet safely and rapidly, a mobile hotspot is really the best way to go. Many accommodations offer Wi-Fi for free, but in hotels there is usually a fee.

The Wi-Fi signal also varies, as in some places it’s great and in others it is less than ideal, which is the reason why many prefer to get a data plan.

Generally speaking, the speed is almost always good enough to send email and browse the web, but it’s not as reliable for watching HD films or video. If you have a dedicated data plan however this won’t be a problem.

All these prepaid cell phones can take advantage of Wi-Fi wherever they’re available, and in most cases, your best bet will be a café. Starbucks and McDonald’s also have Wi-Fi.

You can also get Internet access in popular tourist destinations as well as city squares, some public transit hubs and even trains and buses. In some cases, you will need to register and get the network password to gain access.

As you can see, you can use your cell phone while traveling to Europe in many ways.

With a good data roaming plan plus free Wi-Fi in certain locations, you should have no problem keeping in touch with those around you anywhere they are. Remember, if you have a prepaid cell phone and need more minutes, you can easily buy more airtime.

There was a time when using your mobile device and cell phone while traveling to Europe was expensive, but with all the options now available, you can save money without compromising signal quality.

TEP Wireless vs Skyroam vs Keepgo When Traveling to Europe

One of the first things that you need to consider before embarking on your next whirlwind vacation to Europe is how you will stay connected. There are plenty of providers out there, but TEP Wireless, Skyroam, and Keepgo are the top three choices.

Let’s explore TEP Wireless vs Skyroam VS Keepgo when traveling to Europe.


Keepgo is a fan favorite these days and it’s easy to see why. It offers 4G service that can be used on any corner of the planet, and you can access Keepgo through a variety of different devices.

Get Keepgo SIM cards for your existing smartphone or smartwatch, or use one of their hotspot devices. The data is a little bit on the expensive side, but it is always reliable and you can access it from almost anywhere in the world, making Keepgo a great option for business travelers.

If you need less connectivity and are worried about your pocketbook, the prices might be a little too steep for you!


In the battle of the hotspots, Skyroam clocks in at more affordable but less speedy than Keepgo. It’s a great option for those who want to make sure that they have the internet at their fingers, but don’t necessarily need top speeds.

With coverage spanning the world, Skyroam will relieve you from the hassle of having to tap into unreliable or insecure WiFi when you want to hop online.

It’s a legacy player for a reason, and has amassed something of a cult following since it first came onto the scene. The only real downside is that you won’t be able to get the speeds that you would with a company like Keepgo. If you need service for business purposes, you might be better off looking elsewhere.

TEP Wireless

TEP Wireless has hotspot devices that work with your smartphone or watch. You can also buy or rent a Teppy device, which acts as its own mobile hotspot and lets you get internet anywhere. One of the beautiful things about TEP Wireless is the sheer volume of different options that you have!

When it comes to fast internet, TEP Wireless is a great option, up to a point. They do start to throttle your speed after a certain amount of internet usage, which could become a problem for those who want to use it for business purposes.

As with Skyroam, TEP Wireless can’t compete with Keepgo for the speediest coverage. Alternately, it is a cost-effective option, and TEP Wireless has been around for a long time, so you know that they are a solid company to work with.

So, who wins the battle of TEP Wireless vs Skyroam VS Keepgo when traveling to Europe? It all depends on exactly what you’re looking for from a wireless service provider.

Each option has different strengths and weaknesses, but all of them cover the vast majority of the planet and will work in a pinch if you need wireless service right away.

Find WiFi and Use Chatting Apps

You can also rely on local WiFi for your internet usage. Use caution when selecting which WiFi options you will tap into. Try not to put in too much personal information, especially passport numbers, photos of identification, etc., and don’t access banking data or other sensitive websites when you’re tapped into public WiFi.

Assume that everyone can see what you’re doing because that is probably the case!

There are plenty of chatting apps that allow you to communicate with loved ones back home. Skype, WhatsApp, and Messenger are just a few options.

Public WiFi could be a good option for people on shorter trips who just need a little bit of internet for places of interest, hours of operation, maps/directions, language translation and look up, currency questions, and other general travel information.

FREE iPad iPhone Travel Apps for Your Cell Phone While Traveling to Europe

FREE iPad / iPhone Travel Apps – I’ve had my iPod Touch for about two months now, and I’m falling helplessly in love with it more and more every day. It’s my personal assistant, I use it for just about everything.

From reading books, storing recipes and workout exercises to converting currencies, booking hostels and checking the bus/train timetables.

I suppose you could call me an ‘iPad NERD’ – if there is such a thing…

Yeah, I admit I have also found some awesome applications which ONLY work for the iPhone, so I won’t lie and say I never wish I had one of those as well – but then again I like my cellphone, it’s pink!

Anyways, today I am going to share with you the best FREE Travel Apps out there right now! These are free iPad / iPhone travel apps.

Hostel Hero

This is an application that finds you the best deals by searching through every hostel website, all over the world. You have Hostelbookers, Hostelworld, etc. all in one place. From here you can book your stay from anywhere. I love it, very easy and simple.


If you are an avid HostelWorld fan and just want to book through them, they have their very own application for you to book your stays.


With this on your iPad you’ll never have to carry another of those brick-like-heavy books in your backpack ever again! You can download hundreds (probably more) of books for FREE on your iPad (yes, in all genres).

Every Trail

Finds many outdoor activities (walking, mountain-biking, skiing, etc.) for you to do, anywhere in the world

What Knot

Shows countless types of knots and how to make them step by step, a skill that can be crucial to know when backpacking, camping, or hiking through the jungle etc. Trust me, you never know when you’ll need it!

Skype (only for iPhone):

Now there really is a cheap way for you to call to other countries.


Translates whole sentences into heaps of different languages. The good thing about this one is that it doesn’t only translate to or from English but from all kinds of languages: Hebrew to Korean, or Hindi to Galician, it’s your choice 😉

Spending Light

Keeps track of your spending and income, how much you spend per day/week/month/year, and what you spend it on (food, clothes, entertainment, beer, etc.). It’s really good to keep you from asking, ”What happened? Where did all the money go??” and can help keep you on track with your travel budget.

Convert Everything

Convert Everything is a complete currency converter. What more do I need to say? This way you know exactly how much your paying anywhere in the world and can quickly determine the value.


Now you can search for flights and hotels with the best online travel search aggregates right from your iPad!

Lonely Planet

The application is free, and you get a Phrase book and one Guide for free. But the rest you’ll have to buy. But if you plan to bring a Lonely Planet guide, I highly recommend you pay for the digital version and bring it in your iPad. It sucks having all that extra weight when you could have it all in your hand.

Google Earth

I love looking at the earth globe – it really gets me into a happy state. I get so excited seeing all these places I want to visit, all cultures I want to see. So what is better than Google Earth?

Wi-Fi Finder

This way you don’t have to run around all streets and corners desperately looking for a Wi-Fi connection, the JiWire application does the job for you.

If you know of anymore apps which I might find useful on my travels, please link me below in the comments! 🙂

messaging apps for traveling

messaging apps for traveling

Using my SmartPhone While Traveling to Europe FAQ

What should I do with my phone when traveling to Europe?

Your options for being able to use your phone while traveling Europe, including how to see if you can get an international plan, how stay connected to 3G by getting a local SIM card, and why a pocket Wi-Fi device might be a good option.

Europe EU recently ended cell phone roaming and roaming charges. Stay connected while on your Europe trip.

Do I need an international phone plan for Europe?

Unless you travel to Europe frequently and your stays are longer than a vacation, it is simpler, more cost effective and easier to set up your own cell phone with international calling and international data plan through your existing cell phone service provider.

Do US cell phones work in Europe?

If you have an iPhone 4s or newer, then yes. But you still need an international roaming plan from your SmartPhone cell plan provider. If you have an older phone or a non-iPhone, it depends on the phone and your carrier.

Europe uses a cell phone system called GSM (Global System for Mobiles) but Verizon and Sprint use CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access). All the other major US carriers use GSM, so if you use a mobile service provider other than Verizon and Sprint, you should be able.

The Ultimate Guide to Using a Phone Overseas

Smartphone photo of a sunset taken overseas

Updated: 11/6/2018 | November 6th, 2018

Dave Dean from Too Many Adapters gives us tips and advice on travel tech and gear. He is our resident expert, trying out new products and seeing what works so you don’t end up with gear that breaks and a laptop filled with viruses! This month’s column is about how to pick the best phone for when you travel.

As a travel tech writer, I get asked about using smartphones when we travel. The minute we head overseas with our phones, we’re hit with a confusing mess of technical jargon, expensive roaming agreements, conflicting advice, and nonworking gear. Trying to discuss the nuances of GSM frequency bands or iPhone unlock codes with a mobile vendor in a dusty Cambodian town isn’t my idea of fun, and I doubt it’s yours either.

Since we all want our smartphone to work when we travel, I’ve put together this guide covering everything you need to know about how to get your smartphone working overseas as well as the best smartphones for travel. It’s detailed, but not too complicated, and will save you money, time, and plenty of frustration (and has additional resources at the end).

How to Find the Best Travel Phone

To help you find the best travel phone, I’ve divided this article into 3 main sections. If you don’t want to read through everything just click on the links below to jump ahead.

Part #1: Understanding Your Current Phone

Using a phone overseas is relatively easy. You can either get a cheap old phone (think an old 2000s Nokia) or get a newer smartphone that you can unlock and use. There’s a lot of phones – from cheap to expensive – out there. The tips on using your phone will relate to you no matter where in the world you are!

1. Will your current phone work overseas??

The first thing to check is whether your phone will physically work overseas. Different countries and cell companies use different technologies and frequencies, and your phone needs to be compatible with them to work.

The most common cellular technology is GSM, and it’s widely used throughout much of the world. CDMA is less common, but it is used by Verizon and Sprint in the United States, and a few carriers elsewhere — if your phone only supports CDMA, it’s highly unlikely to work internationally.

Even if you do have a GSM phone, though, you still need to make sure it supports the frequencies used in your destinations. For the ability to send and receive calls, texts, and 3G data in most of the world, look for the words “quad band” or the specific bands 850/900/1800/1900 MHz in the specifications. If your phone supports all four, you won’t have many issues while traveling. This page lists the exact GSM frequency details for pretty much every country.

But, don’t fret, as phones are built these days to work in multiple countries, so there’s a 99% chance your phone will work overseas.

2. How do you unlock your phone?

Man walking and using his smartphone in NYC subway tunnel

When it comes to travel, you’ll hear a lot of talk about unlocked phones, which isn’t much use if you don’t know what they are and whether you have one.

If you got a free or discounted smartphone by signing up for a service contract, there’s a chance it’s network locked (this is especially true for Americans). This means your phone company prevents your phone from being used on anything other than its own network. In a particularly shady move, some companies in the US even lock phones that you paid full price for unless you specifically bought the unlocked version.

With a locked phone, you’re stuck with paying your cell company’s roaming rates from the minute you land in your destination until you arrive back home.

Locked phones are common if you’re from the United States, Australia, and New Zealand but less so in Europe and Asia, where paying the full price for unlocked devices is typical. (On the bright side, more and more companies are willing to unlock your phone if you pay full price these days. This especially true for Android devices. Google phones come unlocked already!

An unlocked phone is a phone that you can use anywhere in the world and where you are allowed to replace the SIM card as you travel the world without having to deal with your phone company or pay roaming fees.

Navigation apps for finding your way when overseas

The good news is that it’s easy to get your phone unlocked.

The first step is always to ask your cell company. Policies vary widely but cell companies in the US are at least legally required to unlock prepaid phones after a year, and contract phones after they’ve been paid off.

If your carrier refuses to unlock your phone, you can always try to find the appropriate unlocking code yourself. Companies like Unlock Base sell such codes for a few dollars. They aren’t guaranteed to work for every device, but the company says it’ll return your money if there’s a problem.

The best way to unlock your smartphone is to go to independent phone stores and specialized unlocking places and have someone unlock your phone for you. You can find unlock stores all around the world (especially in Southeast Asia).

3. What to do After Your Phone is Unlocked

Closeup of smartphone apps that are useful on the road

Once you have an unlocked phone, you simply buy a local SIM card in your destination. The price, approach, and difficulty varies a lot, but you’ll typically end up paying between $10 and $50/month for a useful amount of calls, texts, and data. Daily and weekly plans are sometimes available if you’re in a country for a shorter period.

This is an inexpensive way to stay connected with phone and data service while you travel. The downside is that you’ll have to change SIM cards every time you change countries, so you may end up carrying a stack of SIM cards around the world with you (though I like being reminded of all the places I’ve been!).

4. Is roaming really that bad?

Closeup of 3 smartphone cameras

Yes, almost always. Your existing cellular plan doesn’t usually apply overseas, and you’ll typically be charged much higher rates every time you make a call, send a text, or use cellular data. Not every company is out to gouge their customers, but stories of people returning home to a bill of several thousand dollars after a short international trip are far from unusual.

There are a couple of rare exceptions – T-Mobile in the US includes free SMS and (slow) data in 120+ countries as part of its Simple Choice plan, and Three in the UK extends your calls, text, and data package to 16+ other countries. If you’re not with carriers like these, roaming is an option best left for those with corporate expense accounts, as even the “special” international packages are expensive and a poor value.

Part 2: Tips for Using an Unlocked Phone

Phone SIM cards and tools

If your phone won’t work overseas, or you can’t get it unlocked, you still have a few options for using it when you travel! You can do the following:

  • Only use Wi-Fi — Your smartphone will still connect over Wi-Fi just fine, so replace calling with Skype or Google Voice, SMS with WhatsApp, and download a bunch of offline travel apps to use when you’re away from a signal. You’ll be surprised how well that approach can work, and not getting notifications all the time is quite refreshing.
  • Buy a budget smartphone — While there’s a lot of junk at the bottom of the smartphone range, there are a few decent phones for travelers under $200. My current favorite is the Motorola Moto G — you’ll want to buy a microSD card for some extra storage, but other than that it’s a reasonably speedy smartphone, with a battery that lasts all day and a 5″ screen you actually want to use. Tip: grab the “Global” version for maximum compatibility overseas. You’ll still need to buy local SIM cards to put in it.
  • Rent a phone — You can rent phones at airports and from various companies before you leave home, but I’d only consider it for a short trip to a specific country where my usual phone didn’t work. For anything other than that, it’s cheaper just to buy a new one.
  • Rent or buy a portable hotspot — Portable hotspots are small gadgets that create a wireless network and share a cellular data connection over it — you can typically connect 5 or 10 devices to the network you create. You can rent one for short trips at an inflated daily or weekly rate, or you can buy an unlocked hotspot and stick a local SIM card in it, just as if it were a phone. Your smartphone will treat this like any other Wi-Fi network.
  • Use a tablet with cell capabilities — If you already own a 3G/4G tablet, there’s a chance it was unlocked when you bought it. If so, you can use this when you travel instead of a phone — just buy a data-only SIM locally, and use Skype and WhatsApp for your phone and SMS requirements. You can also use the tablet as a hotspot, to share the connection among your other devices.
  • Buy a disposable phone — If you’re in a country for a while and all you need are calls, texts, and maybe some light web browsing, just buy the cheapest prepaid phone you can find at the local mobile store. Sure, it’ll probably be complete rubbish, but you can often pick these phones up with a bit of credit for next to nothing and they’ll do the job for a while. The upside? You really won’t care if you drop it in the hostel toilet. If it does survive the length of your trip, just pass it onto to somebody else when you leave.

Part 3: The Best Travel Smartphones

If you’re looking to get a smartphone, here are the best ones for travel right now:

1. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus – This is essentially a cheaper version of the Note 9. The battery life isn’t as long as the Galaxy Note 9 but it’s a couple hundred bucks cheaper, so if you’re on a budget this might be a better option.
Weight: 189g
Dimensions: 158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5mm
Screen size: 6.2-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 2960
Camera: Rear camera: Dual 12MP (rear), 8MP (front)
Price: $749

3. Google Pixel 2 XL – The Pixel 2 offers one of the best smartphone cameras on the market. if photography is the main reason you’re looking for a new smartphone, this would be a solid choice.
Weight: 175g
Dimensions: 157.9 x 76.7 x 7.9mm
Screen size: 6-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 2880
Storage: 64GB/128GB
Camera: 12MP (rear), 8MP (front)
Price: $805

4. OnePlus 6 – This is a budget-friendly phone with decent battery, improved storage capacity, and decent low-light photography.
Weight: 177g
Dimensions: 155.7 x 75.4 x 7.8 mm
Screen size: 6.28-inch
Resolution: 1080 x 2280
Storage: 64GB/128/256GB
Camera: Dual 16MP (rear) 16MP (front)
Price: $535

5. LG G7 ThinQ – With an incredibly bright screen, great audio quality, and improve AI for photography, this is a great middle-of-the-road travel phone.
Weight: 167
Dimensions: 153.2 x 71.9 x 7.9 mm
Screen size: 6.1-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 3120
Storage: 64GB/128GB
Camera: Dual 16MP (rear), 8MP (front)
Price: $725

6. Samsung Galaxy Note 8 – While the Note 9 made some improvements, the 8 is still a perfectly reliable model if you want to save some money. It’s a fast phone with great cameras and a useful stylus, and while the battery life isn’t as good as the 9 it is a lot cheaper, which is a fair trade off.
Weight: 195g
Dimensions: 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6mm
Screen size: 6.3-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 2630
Storage: 64GB/128GB/256GB
Camera: Dual 12MP (rear), 8MP (front)
Price: $589

7. iPhone 8 – The iPhone 8 has a great camera and improved speed, so if you’re an Apple fan but find the X and XS too pricey then this is your next best bet.
Weight: 148g
Dimensions: 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm
Screen size: 4.7-inch
Resolution: 750 x 1334
Storage: 64GB/256GB
Camera: 12MP (rear), 7MP (front)
Price: $699

8. LG V30 – The LG V30 has a great camera, fast processor and the battery life is great. It’s also waterproof, which can be helpful when you’re on the road. The camera autofocus is a bit slow, but for the price you likely won’t find better.
Weight: 158g
Dimensions: 151 x 75.4 x 7.3mm
Screen size: 6-inch
Resolution: 2,880 x 1,440
Storage: 64GB w/ microSD
Camera: 16/13MP (rear), 5MP (front)
Price: $539

9. Moto Z2 Force – This is a durable phone that’s budget friendly. If you have a tendency to drop your phone or are traveling off the beaten path then this might be a good choice. The battery life isn’t great, but that’s a fair trade for a shatterproof screen.
Weight: 143g
Dimensions: 155.8 x 76 x 6.1 mm
Screen size: 5.5-inch
Resolution: 2,560 x 1,440
Storage: 64GB w/ microSD
Camera: 13MP (rear), 5MP (front)
Price: $359

10. HTC U11 – Another great middle-of-the-road phone with reliable performance and a big, water-resistent screen.
Weight: 169g
Dimensions: 153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9mm
Screen size: 5.5-inch
Resolution: 1440 x 2560
Storage: 64GB/128GB
Camera: 12MP (rear), 16MP (front)
Price: $649

*** Getting your smartphone to work overseas without coming home to a huge bill isn’t always a straightforward task. But with a bit of time and effort up, you’ll know exactly what options you’ve got when you’re on the road and you’ll be able to use your phone overseas. Do your research, avoid the rip-offs, buy one of the above best smartphones when you travel, and you’ll be able to stay in touch, stay connected, and stay Instagramming when you travel!

Dave runs Too Many Adapters, a site devoted to technology for travelers. A geek as long as he can remember, he worked in IT for 15 years. Now based out of a backpack long term, Dave writes about travel and tech from anywhere with half-decent Internet and a great view. You can also find him talking about the life of a long-term traveler at What’s Dave Doing?

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

    (best for everyone) (for those 70 and over) (for additional evacuation coverage)

Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

Avoid Pricey Cell Phone Charges When Traveling Abroad

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher is a nationally recognized family travel expert and an award-winning travel writer and editor.

Jillian Dara is a freelance journalist and fact-checker. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, USA Today, Michelin Guides, Hemispheres, DuJour, and Forbes.

Using a cell phone when traveling internationally

Afraid to let your family members use their cell phones overseas? Anytime you leave the country on a family vacation or a cruise, your next cell phone bill has the potential to be astronomical. An international trip doesn’t have to break your budget when it comes to your cell phone.

Before You Go, Talk to Your Provider

First things first. Depending on where you’re traveling, your wireless provider may offer an international plan that is affordable for your destination. If you’re only spending a few days in Canada or Mexico, for example, it may only cost you a handful of dollars to switch to a different plan temporarily. On the other hand, if you do nothing and simply cross the border, you could end up spending hundreds or thousands of dollars.

For example, Verizon’s TravelPass and AT&T’s Passport plans both let you use your phone as you would at home for a small surcharge when traveling to Canada, Mexico, and hundreds of other regions.

If your cell phone company does not provide an international plan, consider upgrading temporarily to a plan that gives you more data. You can verify coverage in your destination country and estimate how much data you will need by using tools such as Verizon’s International Trip Planner or AT&T’s International Travel Guide.

Aside from choosing an alternative plan, there are a number of steps you can take to stop or cut back on how much cellular data you use when you are out of the country. Avoiding massive data overages is the key to keeping costs under control.

Turn off Roaming

In order to stop cellular data use, you should turn off roaming. To do this, go to your settings, and look for roaming options. Set it to “Roaming Off.” This is essentially the nuclear option and shuts off your cellular data entirely when you’re out of the country. If you choose this option, you’ll still be able to get phone calls and texts whenever you’re logged into a Wi-Fi network or hotspot. But your phone will not send or receive data on networks such as 3G, 4G, or LTE.

If you have kids who are old enough for a phone but young enough that you can’t trust them to stay off YouTube and Instagram while you’re away, this may be the best bet.

Set Email to Fetch

This feature is only on iPhones. It turns off automatic downloads of new emails and lets you manually download your email when connected to a Wi-Fi network or hotspot, which is much cheaper. The best scenario is if you can live without email altogether, then turn off both “Push” and “Fetch.” On an iPhone, in “Settings,” go to “Mail, Contacts, Calendars” and toggle off your settings for “Push” and “Fetch New Data.”

Shut Down Non-Vital Apps

This lets your phone download data only for the apps you want to use without having all your other apps also using up data. The fewer apps you leave turned on, the less risk of racking up hundreds of dollars in roaming charges. On an iPhone, in “Settings,” go to “Cellular,” then toggle off any individual apps you will not need on your trip. On an Android phone, go to “Apps,” pick your app and tap “Disable.”

Deactivate Texting

By deactivating texting, this stops texts from being billed as data when you’re away. When you’re outside the country, iMessage and other calling and messaging apps are treated as pricey data rather than as text messages.

If you have an iPhone, go to “Settings,” go to “Messages” and deactivate your messaging app (such as iMessage), along with MMS Messaging, and Group Messaging. If you have an Android phone, turn the phone on airplane mode and leave it that way for the entirety of your trip.

Before you leave for your trip, if there are some people that you need to stay connected to, then agree to download an app like FireChat, which allows for live communication within a group even without an Internet connection or cellular network. When you get back home, simply reactivate your texting settings.

Check Your Usage

You should track your usage within the current billing period. As you leave the country, on an iPhone, click on “Reset Statistics” to reset your data usage tracker so you can see your usage for that specific trip. As your usage approaches your max for the month, consider turning off roaming. On an Android, you can set an alert to notify you if your data reaches a certain level.

Do Not Stream

Let family members know that streaming video and movies are banned on your trip. Instead, have everyone download content before leaving the U.S. This allows you to avoid streaming content, which is extremely data intensive and will make your bill exorbitant.

Get a Temporary International Phone

Signing up for international roaming plans and data plans aren’t the only options. If you think you will need to make a lot of calls and will use the phone extensively, then you may want to consider purchasing a specialized international phone for traveling. These international cell phones often come with reduced data and international roaming rates.




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