PICKING THE RIGHT TECH FOR YOUR NEEDS
This is part 1 of a 4-part report on communication for travelers.
Years ago, traveling meant being out of touch with home, and struggling with unfamiliar pay phones for local calls for reservations and so forth.
Fast forward a little, and e-mail appears, but whether on your laptop or at an internet cafe it wasn't exactly portable. In the age of cellphones, and especially smartphones, though, that's all changed.
But it still doesn’t mean that it’s as easy as stepping off the plane and turning on your phone. But no fear—Gumbo has been there, done that, and looked up some more. While this piece is mostly focused on Europe, most of it applies elsewhere as well—and we look forward to hearing even more useful info from you!
You may have heard from others about how hard or expensive it is to use a cellphone overseas, and heard horror tales about huge roaming data bills. Not to worry…not only have more options opened up for you, but most of those tales came from people who didn’t get good advice, or any at all.
Follow Gumbo as we lead you through the basics:
- Should I use my own phone, or do I need to buy one for overseas?
- If I use my own phone, should I stick with my home carrier?
- How do I know what service to choose and buy?
- Is doing this really as easy as you’re telling me?
- And a bonus question: Are there special ways to call home really cheap?
The short answers to the five questions are:
“Maybe…read on.” “Probably not.” “Read on.” “Yes.” and “Definitely yes.”
But, before you get to those answers, you’ll need to think about yourself and what you do, because your best choices depend on knowing your own needs and plans. Think through the answers to these questions, and they’ll help you make good choices.
- Are you planning to call home? If so, will you be checking in frequently, or just a call to make sure someone’s watering the plants or meeting you at the airport? Will you be having a longish chat, or just a quick check-in?
- What kind of local calling will you be doing on your trip? The most common kinds of local calling are for reservations, transportation and information about hours at attractions—but couples or families traveling together are finding local calls or texts an easy way to make separate plans and then meet up later.
- How addicted are you to mobile data? Among the most common uses for travelers are, of course, a GPS app to find your way; the web browser for more information about what you’re seeing and a translation app for checking what’s on the menu before it’s on your plate. and e-mail. Those are fairly light on data…but if you can’t keep your thumbs off the e-mail, Facebook and streaming media, you’ll have to plan on a bigger “byte” when you buy data.
No matter what your answers, there’s a solution that’s right for you.
If you’re going to be calling home a lot, you’ll want to consider a service that gives you a lower rate on calls home—but they won’t be very low, and you should really consider the special tricks we’ll cover in the last part.
Local calling and texting may be a big part of your plans; local SIMs vary in how many minutes are included in your purchase, or if you’re paying by the minute, how much each costs. You’ll be able to find that information on the websites we’ll list later on.
These days, data has become a really big part of the mobile business model—have you noticed how many U.S. carriers are practically giving away talk and text as long as you’re forking over serious money for the data plan? But if you shop carefully, you can get all the data you need for a week or three of vacation quite reasonably, and maybe even free.
In the next parts of this report, we’ll look at the answers about your phone and carrier, and about prepaid calling and data plans. Links to other parts of the report: