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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A Traveler’s Guide to Mobile Phones Before Flying Off

Wazzup Pilipinas!

We all agree that when traveling, one of the first things that we have in our pocket or bag (besides passport and air ticket) is our mobile phone. Your phone is like your lifeline for keeping in touch with people and the world, wherever you may be. You can use it in case of emergencies, get in touch with family and friends back home, post your latest adventure on social media, check your emails, do a google search, and so much more! It is simply convenient to have a phone to rely on whenever you are abroad.

However, activating your phone’s roaming service can get pretty pricey; nobody wants to go home and find a huge bill waiting for them at the end of the month. Other scenarios that you should consider are not being able to even use your phone or even worse, it gets lost or stolen. The following are some things that you should know before taking your mobile abroad.

Questions to ask your provider when taking your phone abroad

If you are planning to use your phone a lot, the first thing that you should do before getting to the airport is to get in touch with your provider and ask about their roaming service. By doing this, you will know if you can or cannot use your phone abroad. Here are questions that you should ask your carrier:

     Will my phone work abroad? Most of the providers today do have roaming services but they require activation, so you can opt to do so. If you don’t want to use service abroad, some carriers can opt to temporarily deactivate your service if you want to save on roaming charges.

     How much will I be charged for roaming? If your provider does offer roaming service, then you should ask how much it costs to make international calls, use the Internet, make local calls, etc.
     Is my phone locked? If the answer is yes, then you might want to unlock your phone or use an R-sim. Some carriers do lock their phones. If you are to insert a new SIM card (subscriber identity module), it wouldn’t work especially if your phone is included within your mobile plan. Alternatively, you can buy a disposable phone, where you can still call and text. If the answer is no, then you can buy a local SIM card once you reach your destination.

Some tips when taking your phone overseas

Traveling abroad without your phone is like crossing a bridge, without an actual bridge. Many travelers today rely on their phones for finding tourist destinations, affordable hotels, restaurants, checking reservations, posting on social media, getting in touch with people back home, maps, translating, and so much more! So whether you can use roaming service or not, here are great tips to maximize your phone’s usage abroad:

Turn off everything that needs cellular data

If your provider doesn’t provide roaming service or you simply don’t want to, then it is advisable to turn off your cellular data, data roaming service or any such apps. It would also be helpful to turn off any automatic features that would require apps to connect to the internet such as emails, social media, automatic updates, etc. While abroad, you can also make great use of your phone’s airplane mode feature or call your provider to temporarily deactivate your SIM and reactivate it once you are back.

Use ONLY WiFi to connect to the Internet

Your phone is a tool to help you search and explore information from the Internet. It allows you to stay connected with friends and to find out about a certain place or a destination. Even without cellular data, you can still access the Internet via WiFi. Before you travel, download all the apps that you use frequently or your favorite social media apps (though using this requires you to connect to the Internet, you would be surprised at how not getting notifications every minute is simply refreshing and therapeutic). You can also download offline travel apps and interactive maps so that you don’t have to rely too much on the Internet. In doing so, there is no need to worry about finding a hotspot if you want to get connected. Most hotels, restaurants, and other facilities have free WiFi so that you can access everything that you need.

Maximize using apps to communicate

Apps are simply heaven sent for travelers to stay connected. If in the event you can’t use your phone or simply don’t want a huge bill filled with data roaming charges, all you need to do is maximize your using WiFi. Skype, WhatsApp, Messenger, etc., which are useful ways to communicate to your loved ones while you are abroad. It is also a great way to communicate with your friends locally. You don’t need to have cellular service to receive a message. All you need to do is connect to the Internet via WiFi and you can instantly chat, send and receive messages in no time.

Buy a disposable SIM card abroad

Perhaps one of the most popular option for travelers is using a disposable SIM as it is convenient. Not only will you have local service, enable cellular data, you can also make calls both locally and internationally, and send text messages. However, some providers do lock their phones as mentioned above. You need to unlock your phone or use an adapter or R-sim to be able to use the local SIM. At the end of your trip, you can simply deactivate the service and be on your way.

Worst case scenario - stolen phone

Probably the worst thing that could happen to you abroad is losing your phone. You should be extra careful when taking out your phone in unfamiliar places as pickpockets, thieves, and swindlers often target unassuming tourists. As much as possible, never let anyone carry your phone or let it out of your sight. Not only will you lose your contacts and information, unauthorized use of your phone can result to hundreds of dollars’ worth of charges made to your phone bill. On top of that, personal photos, passwords, and emails might also be compromised. So, never lose sight of your phone while you are traveling.

If in the event that your phone is lost or stolen, do contact your provider immediately to deactivate the service, even if there is still a chance to finding it. You can opt to temporarily deactivate it just in case. You can also ask your provider to further block anyone from using your phone by blocking its IMEI (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity). To know your phone’s IMEI, you can dial #60# or simply look behind its battery. Along with your phone’s model number, take note of these set of digits if in case your phone goes missing.

Phone locating apps downloaded earlier into your phone are handy as they can be used to trace your phone and remotely wipe all information in it such as findmyiphone and Android Device Manager. This way you can fully remove all the sensitive information, lock your phone, and make your phone ring remotely.

Make it a point to check your mobile insurance policies to see if they cover lost or unauthorized use of your phone.


Your phone is one of the most important gadgets that you must always have with you at all times while you travel. It is a great tool for many travelers to quickly do a search, stay connected, and communicate through the Internet. If you are travelling abroad with your phone, it is important to get in touch with your provider about roaming service and charges before you fly off. If you don’t want to wind up with a huge phone bill at the end of the month, turn off your cellular data and roaming service, put your phone on airplane mode and simply use WiFi. You can also opt to temporarily deactivate your phone and use a local SIM card throughout the duration of your trip. Make it a point to have your important and personal information and contacts either written down or saved into another device. If you accidentally lose your phone abroad, get in touch with your provider immediately, block call-making services and wipe out all the information on your phone. According to a survey from iprice, when planning to travel, you are recommended to bring along an international travel adaptor so that you can charge your phone wherever your destination.

With a bit of time and effort upfront, you’ll know exactly what options you have when you are abroad and still have an affordable, connected trip with smartphone in hand. Bon voyage!

Contributed by Marjorie Mae Mendoza 

Marjorie is a Filipino-freelance writer currently based in Kuala Lumpur and have been writing professionally since 2010. On top of her superb writing skills, her great command of the English language paved way to enrich her career in radio broadcasting, working with some of the biggest names in radio. To enhance her skills, Marjorie is continuously working as a creative writer who constantly improves and develops her own style with iprice.

About "" is the fastest growing and most awarded blog and social media community that has transcended beyond online media. It has successfully collaborated with all forms of media namely print, radio and television making it the most diverse multimedia organization. The numerous collaborations with hundreds of brands and organizations as online media partner and brand ambassador makes a truly successful advocate of everything about the Philippines, and even more since its support extends further to even international organizations including startups and SMEs that have made our country their second home.


  1. While I agree with almost all of the great advice in this column, there are a few things you haven't considered. Relying on WIFI and VoIP Apps is a good idea, but in some cases, you may wish you had other options available. We're seeing an increasing number of cases in some countries where governments have switched off access to social media for a number of reasons. WhatsApp keeps getting banned in Brazil, social media gets turned off now and then in Turkey, Vietnam and other places, and this is to say nothing of the tendency of thieves to operate 'free' WIFI areas with the intent of stealing people's sensitive data. An international SIM card is a good option to have in these cases, as you'll have access to phone, SMS and data in all eventualities, and for a fraction of the cost of roaming on your regular SIM. I use a international SIM as I travel quite a lot, and it's never let me down yet.


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