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Does your Phone Make a Good Travel Companion?

Does your Phone Make a Good Travel Companion?

Author Martin Wigginton
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Phone TravelSo you’ve booked the trip of a lifetime and you want to take your best friend in the whole world along. The two of you are inseparable, going everywhere, doing everything together. It’s only natural that you wouldn’t want to go on your trip without…your PHONE. If you’re not careful your best friend could turn into the worst over-spender you’ve ever met. In a few simple keystrokes you can easily double the cost of your trip. Remember the story of the traveller who returned home to a phone bill in the tens of thousands of dollars? That could be you.

Smartphones have become our main communication tool, but when travelling we need to be ready to use them with care, or not at all. Within Canada the major cell carriers offer the flexibility to take your local calling area with you, which means you can call across the street 2000 km from home and not pay long distance charges. Data is also often national, so that you can surf the web anywhere in Canada and not pay data roaming charges (check your plan to confirm what your provider offers).

Caution: reading on is not for the financially squeamish

When you leave Canada the situation changes, in some cases dramatically. If you are travelling to the US you can often buy temporary services that will cut the cost of making calls, sending and receiving texts, or even using data (as above, contact your provider to explore your options).

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If you are travelling internationally the costs associated with using your Canadian cell phone can be quite high, even for the most basic of services like texting or local calling. Even additional international services can be quite expensive. For example, one Canadian carrier offers the following for $50 for one month:

  • 15 Minutes of local calling & 100 Outbound text messages
  • Additional minutes are charged at $2.00/min
  • Additional texts are charged at $0.55/outbound text

For an extra $50 you can buy 10MB of roaming data. Yes. 10 MB for $50. That’s if you are in certain countries. If you are on a cruise ship, costs for data can be as high as $25/MB. Now you can see how a huge cell phone bill is possible.

Got data?

So, how can you still take your best friend along without ending up making this your last vacation ever?

First, remove the SIM card from your phone. This prevents it from searching for a network.

Second, look for wi-fi availability where you are travelling. Another option is to rent a wi-fi hotspot while you are away. One example of this is from a company called TEP. TEP rents wi-fi hotspots that you use for the duration of your trip and then return postage paid upon your departure. Data rates are quite reasonable. For example, if you are travelling to the UK for 12 days you could get 150 MB of data per day (unused data rolls over to the next day, which is excellent) for $64.50 US, or $5.38 US per day. There’s even an Unlimited data option for an extra $1.99 per day.

Remember what $50 got you from your Canadian carrier? 10 MB. Now you can take your friend along and share memories, listen to music together, play games together, keep in touch with other friends, and even watch a movie without regretting that you invited them along.

A caveat to consider

One warning – devices and carriers differ, so check details of your device and services provided before setting out with your phone. Make sure that your carrier knows that you want all services disabled on your phone so that wi-fi is the only way your phone will communicate. You may want to visit them personally to have their technicians show you what to turn off and how to remove the SIM card. Most Canadian carriers phones are locked, so swapping SIM cards where you are going is not likely an option. If your phone is unlocked, then purchasing a SIM and getting pay-as-you-go service is a further option to explore.

Most of all, have fun and take lots of pictures!

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Found some cool wi-fi hotspots on your travels, or have some advice for fellow tech travellers? Take a minute and comment below.