Learning Abroad Center

Technology Abroad

Using Your Phone Abroad

From staying in touch with folks back home to apps of all sorts, our phones play a big role in travel. However, they also can be really expensive if you don't do it right. Here are some tips to save you money and make travel easier if you are using your phone abroad.

All students are required to carry a cell phone for use in an emergency.  On-site staff will contact you on your cell phone, and you will utilize your phone to contact on-site staff and/or emergency services.

Unlock your phone and purchase an international SIM card.

Many major US wireless carriers will now "unlock" your phone for you. This allows you to use a SIM card from any carrier in any country, which allows you to get rid of those expensive roaming charges. You can purchase a prepaid SIM card when you arrive at your destination.

Use Wi-Fi as much as possible.

Data roaming can be very expensive, so try to use WiFi networks whenever possible. Before you depart, download one of the free 'WiFi finder' apps that use your phone's GPS to locate nearby free wireless networks.

Offline maps will help you navigate your city while not using a lot of data.

Download offline apps like OsmAnd, or cache your own offline maps in Google Maps

Save data and battery by turning data roaming off or putting your phone in airplane mode.

Turning off your data will ensure that, when you're not on Wi-Fi, apps don't use all of your data or make you exceed your data limit. You can still send and receive calls or texts while your data roaming is off. Keeping your phone in airplane mode will save your battery charge. Disabling "push notifications" and manually loading your email will help save data as well.

Save money on international calls and texts with call and text Wi-Fi apps.

Google Voice, WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime and Facebook Messenger are all free apps that allow you to inexpensively communicate with people in the US.

Monitor your data usage.

If you have a limited amount of data available, you can monitor your usage on most phones. This ensures you don't go over your data limit and rack up overage fees.

Download any and all travel apps before you leave.

You won't want to rely on Wi-Fi abroad to download apps. There are tons of worthwhile apps developed with travelers in mind, but a few staples include Google Translate, Citymapper, Triposo and TripIt.



Electrical currents abroad often run differently than the American system. Without the use of a converter, your appliance will often burn out in a matter of seconds and you could also damage the building's electrical wiring system. High voltage items such as hairdryers can be purchased in the country you are visiting.


Besides the converter, you will need an outlet plug adapter, which can be purchased inexpensively. Sometimes the best solution is to bring necessities only, since most types of appliances can be purchased in-country.

Check out this list of voltage specifications by country to determine if you need a voltage converter or adapter for the appliances you plan to take abroad.