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How to stay connected while traveling with cheap and easy mobile access

Derek Walter | July 29, 2016
You don’t have to leave your phone in airplane mode throughout your trip anymore, as there are plenty of ways to get online and make calls.

WhatsApp, Hangouts, and Messenger (left to right) are among the most popular messaging apps for Android.

This way you’re able to stay in touch if you’re going the Wi-Fi only route and not adding on any type of travel plan or just don’t want to burn through a lot of text messages. Plus, these apps give you a lot of benefits that traditional SMS doesn’t have, such as read receipts and the ability to handle images at higher resolution.

Grab a SIM card

Another method to get cheap and easy coverage is to put another SIM card in your phone when you reach your destination. First things first: your phone will need to be unlocked. If you’re not sure if it is, you can contact your carrier and ask them to unlock the device for you. Most even automate the process so you don’t have to get quizzed about why you’d want to do this. 

If you’re not sure the status of your phone, a good tool to use is Type in your IMEI number to get the status of whether your device is locked or not. You can get the IMEI number from settings > system > about device > imei information. This may vary slightly depending on your device's interface. Or you can just put in another carrier’s SIM card before you ever leave. If your phone doesn’t recognize it and is unable to initiate service, it’s likely locked.

SIM cards can be obtained in a couple of ways. You can pick one up at the airport, as major carriers are happy to set you up when you arrive. For example, Vodafone offers a take-anywhere card that works throughout multiple counties in Europe.

Another alternative: make arrangements before you go. As an example, you can pre-order an O2 SIM card and have it shipped to you before your trip. Options are aplenty, and sometimes you’ll even get a deal if you’re buying a pair.

Be on the lookout for Wi-Fi

You’ve probably been playing plenty of Pokemon Go, so your search-and-find skills must be pretty sharp by now. Put that to use to find Wi-Fi networks. This observation is purely anecdotal, but there’s a good chance that wherever you’re headed is likely to be stocked with plenty of cafes and open spaces with Wi-Fi sponsored by the city or a major company. 

hot spot

Be on the lookout for free hot spots.

If you’re planning to rely on such hot spots, keep in mind that you may have to repeatedly sign in to networks as you access them. This is a pain, but a necessary evil of getting gratis wireless connectivity. And avoid a critical meeting over an unknown Wi-Fi network if you can, as hotels, cafes, and other venues don’t always provide the best bandwidth.


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