For many people, their cell phone is their lifeline. When these same people travel abroad, they are often faced with the heart-attack inducing situation of a nearly unusable phone. Suddenly the simple task of texting someone to see where they are becomes impossible — unless you want to rack up insane charges.
Luckily, there are ways around this, all of which we’ll delve into in the second part of our series on connectivity while traveling.
Part II: Traveling with groups
Just because you’re traveling with a group, that doesn’t mean you want to spend every waking moment with them. Particularly in large groups, different people are going to want to do different things. If half of you want to go shopping while the other half fancies visiting a museum, you shouldn’t be afraid of splitting up. Heck, even if you want to break off entirely and go solo, you should be able to do so with confidence.
Sometimes you may want to split off and do your own thing. But how do you keep in contact with your fellow travelers if you’re all going in different directions?
Local SIM card
I already talked about this extensively in my previous post, but it bears mentioning again, because they serve a wonderful dual purpose.
Local SIM cards are not only useful for calling home; they also give you a local phone number. This means that you can easily contact anyone within the country for local rates. In addition to being able to call your friends, you can buy pay-as-you-go data plans that will allow you to text freely. If you’re traveling with a large group that plans on splitting up often, I recommend that everyone gets a SIM card. That way you can stay in contact no matter where you are within the country.
Prepay and pay-as-you-go phones
If you don’t want to deal with the sometimes frustrating business of unlocking your phone, purchasing a SIM card and switching out cards (and not losing your original!), you can forego your own device altogether. Buying a local prepay or pay-as-you-go phone will give you the same benefits as purchasing a local SIM card without all the fuss. The downside, of course, is that you won’t be able to access your contacts or your apps from the new phone, and it likely won’t have as many bells and whistles as your everyday smartphone. Still, it gets the job done, and if you’re only looking to stay in contact with your group (rather than calling home on a regular basis), this is an incredibly cost effective way to go.
Yes, they’re old school. Yes, they can be bulky. But they do come with the added bonus of being able to pretend you’re a super spy while exploring a foreign city.
Seriously, though. These gadgets can be incredibly useful over short distances. If you just don’t want to mess with the phone business, they are a great way to keep in touch, and they’re actually used pretty frequently for just that purpose. This method of communication is especially prevalent on cruise ships or hiking trails where cell phone service is nonexistent. They’re also great for road trips where more than one car may be caravaning.
As an added bonus, walkie talkies are cheap and easy to find. You won’t waste a lot of money purchasing them, and they usually come in sets of two (what’s the point of a walkie if there’s no one to talkie to?).
Know your locale
New places can be exciting, but there’s no need to wander off into the unknown with no sense of direction. Yes, sometimes it is wonderful to put the map away and get lost on purpose. You never know what you’re going to find, or where you might end up. But when you’re finished losing yourself it’s definitely nice to be able to find yourself again quickly.
While you’re at it, make sure you download offline copies of any maps you might need. That way you don’t have to hunt down WiFi to figure out how to get somewhere. In addition to street maps, you can find online transit maps as well. Just download them to your phone for easy access on the go.
This is particularly important if you’re traveling with a group. If you and your friends want to split up, and you don’t have any other means of communication, arrange for a meeting spot. Make sure you know where your friends are going and select a meeting place ahead of time. And once you figure out where you want to meet, use your maps to make sure you know where it is. The last thing you want to do is hold everyone up because you got hopelessly lost.
It’s always better to be safe when traveling with a group. If your surroundings make you uncomfortable, use the buddy system, and always have check points in mind. That said, it’s not hard to stay in touch with one another with a little planning. You definitely shouldn’t be afraid to venture off!