1. Essentially, you have three options regarding cell service while you are overseas.If your phone is unlocked from your carrier, then you can simply purchase a prepaid (no-contract) SIM card at the airport in the country and use the local carrier. These are inexpensive compared to US cell service prices and since there is no contract and you can discard the SIM card once you finish your trip.
You can purchase as many Gigabytes of data as you need and the price should be between $10-$25 for service that will cover your entire trip. This option is best if you will be in only one country during your trip because the SIM card will often only work in one country.
If you do not know if your phone is unlocked from the carrier, contact your cell service provider to ask them. If your phone is not unlocked then this option will not work. See options number two and three below.
2. Most US based cell service providers offer international plans or daily international plans. Prices vary, but it shouldn’t be that expensive because of the length of your trip. If you choose to go this route we recommend asking your carrier about the daily plan because most of these plans only charge you if you use your cellular data on that day. Many days you will have wifi available so frequently that you will not even need to use your cellular data.
3. As stated in option number two, wifi is widely available throughout Europe. So the final option is to simply travel without cell service. We often choose to just use WIFI because it is widely available in cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels, and malls throughout Europe. All of your applications on your phone will work the same as they do back home only using Wifi. You can also message people using your iMessage on your iPhone if they have iMessage also.
If you choose to not have cell service, do not worry because you can still easily use your phones to navigate while you are offline no matter where you are. Also, in the event of an emergency, you can always activate your US cell service and make a phone call. For more information about this read “How to Navigate Without Cell Service” below.
If you choose to use your cell service provider from the US then this section will not apply to you because you will have service just like you would in the US. However, if you choose to use a local SIM card or use wifi you will not be able to send normal text messages to people in the US. One exception for iPhone users is that you can continue to send iMessages if you are on wifi.
If you want to stay in contact with a non-iPhone user or you do not have an iPhone, then we recommend downloading the application WhatsApp to communicate with people in the US while you are abroad. It is a free, very user-friendly application that allows you to text or call anyone you want, as long as you have cell service/wifi, no matter where you are in the world. If you choose to use WhatsApp, you need to confirm your phone number with a text message, while you are still in the US. So make sure to download the application and complete that process prior to your departure. We both use WhatsApp to stay in touch with our friends and family in the US.
If you choose to use your cell service provider from the US we still recommend reading this section and using Maps.me along with Google Maps during your trip. If you choose to not have cell service then this section will explain how you can still navigate, while walking, driving or taking public transport during your trip even without cell service.
When we travel we use Maps.me and/or offline Google Maps downloads for navigation if we do not have cell service.
Maps.me is a great application that is user-friendly, but it is better for travel inside of a specific city. The public transportation information is not as accurate as Google Maps, but the addresses of local buildings are often more accurate than google (especially in smaller towns or more off the beaten path destinations). We recommend using Maps.me for travel within a city on foot, but then using Google Maps offline for traveling using public transport or car.
From both applications, you get detailed information on routes, public transportation and reviews for local restaurants, bars, and businesses. For both applications, you need to download the maps for the specific regions that you are traveling to beforehand so we recommend doing this before your departure from the US.
We wrote these articles to prepare you for your trip and help you save money. Our years of traveling around the world have taught us many techniques and tips that we can share with you to make your trip flow smoothly. . We want you to share our knowledge with you beforehand, so that when it is time for your trip you can simply relax and enjoy!