One thing people worry about when planning a trip abroad is not having a phone that works -- no calls, text, or data available on the spot. When you're used to having a mini computer to rely on at all times, it can be really weird to not have that access anymore. Don't worry though, I got tips for surviving it!
Deciding whether or not to invest in an international phone plan is something everyone will have to have to do. For some, paying for a plan (like this T-Mobile plan ILP offers) is worth it. For others, you may want to use that money elsewhere -- like these awesome ILP vacations! As someone who has been on ILP four times, I chose the latter option.
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If you're like me and chose to forego paying for an international phone plan, don't panic! It's actually easier than you think it'll be. For me, I actually LOVED being disconnected from my phone for my semester abroad because I really felt like I was living in the country with no distractions.
Tips for traveling without an international phone plan
- Carry your phone with you
- Download the best texting apps
- Stick with someone who has data
- Use it as a time to disconnect
Carry your phone with you
The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to still carry your phone with you. Bring it on your vacation because there are many things you'll still be able to do with it.
One thing you can use your phone for is internet. No matter what country you go to, you're bound to find cafes (like this cute cafe in China that will send postcards for you -- to your future self) or restaurants that have WiFi for you to use. In touristy places, restaurants typically have the WiFi password written on a card at each table because they know their backpacker guests will be asking for it.
You'll be able text your family and friends, update your Instagram photos, and enjoy a meal at the same time! Even if you're lost and need to look up maps, you can slip into a cafe for a few minutes and figure out where you are!
You will also have internet accessible where you're living as an ILP volunteer, so you can use your phone there for internet as well.
Another thing you'll want to bring your phone for is pictures! You're going to be taking SO many pictures over your semester and you never know when something funny or awesome will happen. Carry that phone with you so you can capture all the little moments you want to always remember. We even have some awesome tips for taking pictures with your iPhone!
Download all the best texting apps
There are many ways to stay in contact with your family while you're abroad now-a-days, but texting is for sure the easiest.
There are many texting apps out there and most works fine, but these apps are our favorites:
- iMessages -- If you have an iPhone, your iMessages will work with internet (but be careful because you'll be charged for texts from non iPhone users and/or if you try to use iMessage without internet - because then it's technically a text).
- Android Messages -- Works the same as iMessages, but for all your Android users!
- WeChat -- This is a great option that is FREE for messaging and calls and it's available for Google Play and iPhone users!
- Whatsapp -- This app is great because it works on your smartphones as well as your laptops or tablets. You'll never miss a message with this app.
- Facebook Messenger -- Messenger is great because almost everyone you know has Facebook. That makes it super easy to stay in contact with everyone.
One thing to do before you leave for your trip is to double check that these messaging apps work in your country. For example, if you're going to China you may not be able to use Facebook Messenger. I would recommend downloading a couple just in case one doesn't work.
PRO TIP: If you decide to take your phone with you, make sure your phone prepped for the trip!
Stick with someone who has data
To make it even easier on yourself, stick with a buddy who has an international plan. Most of the time, it won't even matter if you have access to data, but some times it's really convenient (like when you're lost or looking for a specific place). Having a buddy in your ILP group that has access to data in those specific situations is really nice and will make traveling a little bit easier.
Plus, if you ever need to send a quick text home or contact one of your new local friends, it's great to have someone that can do it without internet!
Use it as a time to stay disconnected
There really isn't a better time to get over your phone addiction than when you're traveling. Not having the option to just hop on your phone whenever you want is soooo freeing! You truly don't realize how much time you spend on your phone until it's not there anymore.
Honestly, one of my favorite things from my time abroad was not having to think about my phone. It felt so good to come home from teaching and not even look at my phone. I had so much more time to really enjoy and explore my city!
On that same thought though ... if you're someone who knows that you couldn't put down your phone for a week, you might not want to try it for a semester. If it causes you more stress to not have data at all times, you might want to consider getting that phone plan after all. It really depends on the person.
All in all, you'll be totally fine without a phone if that's your situation. You can still connect via the internet and you might even love the break from your phone. You'll probably even sharpen your map reading skills!
Not getting an international plan is a great way to save money if you're trying to keep your budget tight.
Speaking of saving money, did you know there are ways to pay LESS for a semester abroad with ILP? Click below to get your FREE download and learn more.