The first time you travelled overseas, there were probably no smartphones; no wifi, Google Maps, Skype or Uber. How on earth did you manage to get by? Modern technology has made overseas travel easier in many great ways but planning ahead is important. Here’s some advice on how to organise your tech before taking a trip.
Buy a SIM before you leave
Most people will tell you to buy a SIM card for your phone once you’ve arrived in a foreign country. It seems to make some sense, but what about when you land and need to call the hotel, or your airport transfer drivers hasn’t shown up, or you need to order an Uber? You could pick up a SIM card at the airport or you could arrange one before you leave Australia. There are hundreds of travel SIMs out there, so you’ll want to investigate your options for the best deal. It may work out to be slightly more expensive than waiting until you reach your destination, but it’s worth the peace of mind. Check out AussieSim, TravelSIM and Woolworths Global Roaming Travelling SIM to get you started.
Get to know third-party messaging apps
Once you have a new SIM card, you’ll also have a new phone number. This can make SMS messaging between countries a little tricky, especially when existing message threads on your phone get out of sync. One option is to use third-party messaging apps, such as WhatsApp and Viber. These use your new number and rely on data rather than SMS, so you’ll need the internet (wifi or a data plan). Facebook Messenger is also a good way to avoid the whole phone number situation, since it just links up with your Facebook account. You can also make video and voice calls. Facebook Messenger can sometimes provide a better service than Skype, which can have glitches. All of these apps are free to download and use.
Outsmart two-step authentication
While it’s a great way to protect your digital information at home, two-step authentication can get in the way when you’re travelling. This feature works by having you confirm access to your accounts via an SMS to your phone to be entered as a password. Each time you try to log in to your Facebook, email etc. from a new location, you will be prompted to prove it is you. Once overseas, you’ll be using a new SIM with a new number, but the SMS will go to your old number. Remedy this before you jet off by making sure your essential accounts (email, bank and Facebook) seek to verify your identity using a different method, such as a secondary email account, an app such as Google Authenticator, or even a local friend’s phone number.
Download Google Translate
If you’re visiting a foreign-language country, Google Translate is an essential app to download onto your phone. When you’re confused about street and metro signs, menus and day-to-day instructions, Google can perform on the fly translations from 90 languages into English. Perhaps the app’s most impressive feature is that it can actually translate text from a photo you’ve taken. For instance, you could take a photo of part of a menu and Google will translate it instantly for you. The app requires data or wifi but there are downloadable language packs for when you don’t have internet access.
Bring extra power adaptors
This tip cannot be understated, especially if you’re travelling with a second person. Sure, you’ve thought ahead enough to pick up a universal power adaptor. But just one? What happens when you both need to charge you phones? Or you lose it? One small adaptor isn’t enough. Consider picking up (buying or borrowing) a few adaptors. You could even go for a travel power board, allowing you to plug a few devices into one socket. Nowadays, you can even get adaptors with USB ports, meaning you can plug your phone and camera cable straight into the wall adaptor, instead of needing to bring along the bulky parts of your chargers.