The experience traveling overseas can be eye-opening in many ways. This includes differences in communication and connectivity. When preparing for a long trip abroad, there are many obvious things to consider: where to stay, where to visit, and what to bring. Less obvious might be to plan your strategy for communication. Here are a few things to keep in mind, as you figure out how you will communicate while traveling overseas.
Good Internet Connections Can Be Hard to Find
Reliable internet can be found in most of the biggest cities, but in some countries and regions outside big cities it can be challenging to find an easily accessible and reliable internet connection. High-speed internet is not considered as necessary in many rural areas, and you may have a hard time finding the internet you were planning on using for keeping in touch with loved ones or sharing your travel experience with the world. Even if you do find a good connection in some of these less connected areas, it may not be a connection safe from eyes looking to attain your personal information. Many seasoned travelers recommend investing in a mobile hotspot, so you can turn on wireless internet for all your devices regardless of how far off the beaten path you want to travel.
You May Be Surprised by Your Phone Bill
Travelers who will be spending more than a few days overseas will likely want to use a different method of communication than their usual cell phone carrier. Some cellular carriers offer packages for international travel, which help lessen full roaming fees. But, even those packages can result in a high rate per minute, with some as high as $1 per minute. This is further complicated if you are moving between countries quite a bit as some country rates are higher than others, and this can be hard to track while trying to focus on fun cultural experiences. These international packages often cap the number of message you can send or receive, as well as limit your general internet usage. If you use more than the allotted data, high per-message costs set in resulting in significantly higher phone costs. This can be easily avoided by making an alternative plan for your phone and video chats while you’re overseas.
You May Use Data Allotments Without Knowing It
Hidden data usage can also leave your phone bill high. Your phone’s push and fetch functions use the internet in the background without your doing anything on the device. This is normally how your phone automatically checks for new emails or suggests you check out a friend’s new social media post. The solution to this problem is easy to fix. You can likely find the settings for fetch and push in your phone’s setting. Turning these features off for part of all of your stay can save on data charges. You can always manually check for new incoming mail.
Some Apps Use More Bandwidth Than Others
Google Hangouts and Skype offer users similar tools, but Skype generally uses less bandwidth than Hangouts. The trade-off is that while Hangouts is free to use with a free Google+ account, Skype has a small cost associated with their international calls. These Skype call rates only apply to calls made to landlines or cell phone numbers, and they do not apply if you are having a Skype call with someone who is also using the Skype app.
Shorter Window to Catch the Internet
Places providing internet–whether it be the local internet cafe or the hostel at which you’re staying–may keep hours of operation you find surprising. Sometimes small local places close for a few hours without warning, and in places like Spain there is a built in down-time where many businesses are closed daily during those hours in the afternoon before reopening in the evening.
Hostels will often advertise that they offer internet connection, but the hours of accessibility, or the number of people competing for their internet connection may mean you have to do without connecting to the web. Remember, the fewer reliable high-speed internet opportunities, the more travelers will have to compete with each other for internet time for communicating with family and friends near and far.
Figuring out the mode of communication that best suits your travel plan and habits doesn’t have to be complicated if you keep a few realities in mind. Doing some research and having a communications plan can save you time, money, and frustration letting you be truly free to enjoy your time abroad.
Carlos J. Barron
Salus Security Services