Travelling with Your iPhone

I can still remember when travelling around a foreign country meant buying a Lonely Planet and a phrase guide and a relentless search for Internet cafes to try and communicate back home. These days, I just bring my iPhone.

With my iPhone I have a map, compass, phrase book, translation dictionary, camera, research tool, message sender, phone, and a flashlight for finding the toilet in the middle of the night.

To make the most use of your iPhone there are several things you should do before you go. And what you should do depends a bit on how you intend to use your phone.

If you want to use your phone, but don't want to spend too much money then the best way to travel is with airplane mode on and wireless on. As long as airplane mode is on then you will not have any cellular charges. Your phone is still surprisingly useful in this mode. 

Let's start with maps. It is possible to use Google Maps offline, but the process is not simple nor is it easy to use. A far better bet is Galileo Pro. The app is free, but maps cost money. $1.99 gets you three maps. $5.99 gets you all of them. Simply pick the maps of the places you are going and download them before you leave. You can do most things that Google Maps will do, with the exception of street view. It's very fast to load and the GPS locator is the fastest I've seen in any app. This is the best map application for your phone.

Get Whatsapp. In Canada and the US it's not as popular as most people simply use SMS or Messenger, but in the rest of the world it's the communication app. It also let's you message, make calls, and group chat via wifi, no cellular connection needed. It's secure and easy to use. And when you're travelling and want to contact a guest house, driver, restaurant, or almost anything, having their phone number is enough to put you in touch. The group chat is perfect for travelling with a group that is not always together, but wants to coordinate. Or you can add all your family members and get your “All Okay” message out to everyone at once.

Add Uber and/or Lyft and set up an account before you go. In Canada it may be controversial, but not in most countries.

Add a VPN app, if you're concerned about communication security. I use Private Internet Access, which costs about $60 a year. It ensures that no matter where I connect, all my online communication is secure. Note, that this is becoming less important as time goes by, as Gmail, bank apps, Facebook, etc. are all moving to HTTPS (secure) connections only.

If you want to use your phone as a phone while travelling then consider contacting your provider. Most have travel plans that let you use a limited amount of voice minutes and data. From Telus these run around $10 a day to $30 a month and go up from there depending on the country. Watch your data limits though. Uploading 20-30 pictures to Instagram or Facebook will eat up 20-30MB in no time.

Also, if you're doing this, go into your Settings ← Cellular and turn off cell data for everything you're not using. And turn off background app refresh in Settings ←General. This will keep apps from eating up your data while you're not looking. 

It's also worth checking your commonly used apps, such as Facebook. Facebook's advanced settings let you turn off Cellular Data, and HD video and audio. 

The last option is to go local. This means buying a SIM card in the country you're in and swapping it into your phone. These are prepaid SIM cards that come with a local phone number and a stack of minutes and data. If you're somewhere such as the Sahara desert (and I've tested this) wifi is hard to come by, but cellular connections are almost everywhere. You'll still be able to use your phone. Note – you must unlock your phone before you can do this. 

As of December 1 you can have your phone unlocked for free in Canada. Do it. Don't wait until you need it. Just unlock it. As soon as it is unlocked you can change your plan and you can change your SIM.

Most major airports will have a kiosk somewhere that will sell you a SIM card. And cellular costs in most countries are vastly cheaper than Canada. For example, in Portugal you can buy a SIM card from Vodaphone that gets you 500 minutes and 5GB of data for a month for about $30. 

Just don't lose your current SIM card. I recommend keeping one of those plastic cases that come with memory cards and writing SIM on it.

Happy Travels!

p.s. If you have any specific questions for the Answer Guy send them to Chances are good that if you want to know others do too.