A lot of travelers prefer to use their own cell phone while traveling to Europe, and some even like to bring their other mobile devices for email, communications, watching videos, browsing the Web and so on.
The good news is, it isn’t that difficult to use your smartphone in Europe (or Traveling to Asia) to access the Internet, make calls or text.
The following explains everything you need to do. Tips for Traveling Internationally
Using my cell phone while traveling to Europe
How to Use Your Smartphone in Europe
If you are from the US or another country, traveling with your smartphone in Europe means additional fees, be it for calls, text or other types of data access.
If you are going to use your own phone, decide first how you intend to use it (for calls only, for text, the web etc.).
You can use your regular plan for calls, text and web browsing, but it will be more expensive.
There are international service plans you can sign up for a lower cost, i.e. flat fee or limiting you to a specific number of megabytes.
Before doing any of these, make sure first that your phone does work in Europe (you can check with your carrier), and then check the international rates.
Before you go to Europe, activate your phone’s international service or call your carrier and ask them to turn on international roaming for data, voice, text or whatever service you plan to use.
Once your phone has been set up, you can access Wi-Fi in Wi-Fi hotspots, which are pretty common in the continent.
Smartphone Data Plans and Texting
If you want to use smartphone data plans and texting in Europe, keep the following things in mind.
First, Europe uses the GSM (“Global System for Mobiles”) system.
All American carriers use GSM except Verizon and Sprint that use CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access).
But this should not be an issue since most smartphones today can connect to both network systems.
The easiest way to use data plans and text services in Europe is to use international roaming as suggested above.
If you find it too expensive, you can sign up for an international data plan which is something your carrier and other services will offer.
The cost will depend on how you plan to use your mobile device, and it’s certainly going to be more expensive if you’re going to watch movies or YouTube videos.
Plan ahead for e-Learning success as well, including a language while you are on holiday.
Using a European SIM Card
The simplest and most practical option is to use a European SIM card, and you can get these from various European mobile carriers.
In most cases you’re going to have to unlock your phone so it can use the SIM card from other carriers.
The majority of US smartphones are locked, and you may want to get in touch with your mobile company for assistance on unlocking it.
If you’d rather unlock your smartphone yourself, download software that unlocks smartphones and use their codes to unlock your device.
There are several services like these available online and the process is fairly straightforward: pay the fee, provide some info about the phone on the website, and the service will email you the code to unlock your mobile.
Once your phone is unlocked, you can look for a SIM card in mobile phone stores, electronics counters and in some cases, vending machines.
These SIM cards cost anywhere from 4 to 8 euros, and they don’t come with any commitment or contract.
If you want a SIM card with data access good for a month, expect to pay around 13 to 25 euros for the card.
Before you buy, take a look at your smartphone and make sure that the card is compatible.
Some mobile devices like the iPhone use a different type of nano-SIM card, so make certain the card fits your phone.
Talk to the clerk and check the rates for calls and to and from the European countries you will be visiting.
Use the same approach for texting.
Once you’ve got a SIM card that works with your smartphone, ask the store personnel to install it and do a test call.
Turn your mobile on, enter the PIN and if necessary switch the language to English.
Don’t forget to record the PIN number and ask how to check the credit balance.
In some European countries your SIM card may have to be registered along with your passport for security reasons.
Follow the instructions and after an hour or two you’ll be able to use it.
If you run out of SIM, you can get one in any mobile phone store and tell the salesperson how much credit you want.
The clerk is either going to give you the credit over the phone or you will be given a voucher with instructions.
Charging Your Cell Phone in Europe
One of the most common mistakes people make is thinking that you’ll need a costly voltage converter to charge your mobile.
In fact, the majority of mobile devices, tablets and laptops have battery chargers that can work on 220 volts used in Europe and countries in the world, as well as 110 volts (the US).
Cell phone chargers can work with different frequencies from 50 Hertz to 60 Hertz.
Unless your mobile device specifically says to use a converter, don’t use it because it could actually damage your mobile because it already has a converter.
If you want to know if your cell phone has dual voltage capabilities, read the words on the charger.
If your cell phone has dual voltage you will see something like “Input 100 – 240V, 50 – 60 Hz.”
If your mobile phone is dual voltage you still need to use a plug adapter, but not a voltage converter.
Before going on a trip, you have to keep in mind that all countries have their own electrical system, and that will determine what type of plug adapters you have to use.
In Italy for instance, the majority of outlets are compatible with two round prongs, but bathrooms have three-pronged grounded outlets.
If necessary you should purchase a multi-country plug adapter if you’re not sure which type of adapter to use.
Better yet, you should research the plug adapters that are used in the countries you’re going to visit.
Thanks to the Internet, this should be easy, and if you’re not really sure you can always send an email to the website and get clarification.
If you’re only going to bring a cell phone a single adapter will do, but if you’re bringing a laptop, tablet and other devices, it’s best to have several adapters as your hotel room might only have a few electrical outlets available.
In some cases you also have to plug an adapter into another before you can use it.
For instance you can put plug a two-pronged adapter onto a three-prong European adapter to make it work.
No matter how many plug adapters you buy, make sure the plug fits in properly.
Prepaid Cell Phones in Europe
There’s no lacking of prepaid cell phones here, but when you buy a GSM prepaid wireless and/or a SIM card, make certain call time is included.
If you’re in Germany you can get a Handy for less than 60 euros which includes a refillable SIM card with prepaid minutes.
The set up is usually pay per minute but the cost varies per country.
Almost always, however, it’s cheaper compared to international roaming.
Another option is to buy a GSM phone before leaving for Europe, but if you decide to do this, check the various services online to make sure you get your money’s worth.
Once you’ve got your cell phone you can take advantage of the free Wi-Fi available throughout the continent.
Many accommodations offer Wi-Fi for free, but in hotels there is usually a fee.
The Wi-Fi signal also varies, as in some places it’s great and in others it is less than ideal, which is the reason why many prefer to get a data plan.
Generally speaking, the speed is almost always good enough to send email and browse the web, but it’s not as reliable for watching HD films or video.
If you have a dedicated data plan however this won’t be a problem.
All these prepaid cell phones can take advantage of Wi-Fi wherever they’re available, and in most cases your best bet will be a café, and Starbucks and McDonald’s also have Wi-Fi.
You can also get Internet access in popular tourist destinations as well as city squares, some public transit hubs and even trains and buses. In some cases you will need to register and get the network password to gain access.
As you can see you can use your cell phone while traveling to Europe in many ways.
With a good data roaming plan plus free Wi-Fi in certain locations, you should have no problem keeping in touch with those around you anywhere they are.
And if you have a prepaid cell phone and need more minutes, you can easily buy more airtime from companies like Recharge.com.
There was a time when using your mobile device and cell phone while traveling to Europe was expensive, but with all the options now available you can save money without compromising signal quality.
Going travelling soon? Make sure you phone camera is up to scratch
If you’re going away on a holiday this Christmas or New Year (or anytime for that matter), you might want to make sure that you follow these top tips to get the very best out of your phone.
N.B, the phone we are using currently is the Samsung Galaxy.
Tap to Focus
As obvious as this may seem, not everyone uses this feature correctly – how many times have you seen your photos underexposed and/or out of focus?
This is usually due to the fact that the snapper hasn’t tapped to focus.
Ensure that your pictures are fully focused and exposed by making sure that you tap on the actual subject of the photograph, this will let your camera know what you are looking at.
Turn on grid lines
What happens when you are attempting to capture those beautiful vistas and views and you look at them later only to find that they are misaligned or skewed?
9 times out of 10, it is due to uneven ground, but on occasion, it can be down to the position of the camera.
Turning on grid lines for those landscape shots can give you a quick and easy guide to keeping your phone at an optimum angle; (Samsung S8 users can find this in the advanced camera options).
Try Pro Mode
Pro mode is a real headache for some people and most of us just want the simplest option available to us.
Do not be foolish with those holiday memories – turning on Pro Mode gives you access to your camera’s finest features.
Users who little or no experience with this mode can try it out pre-holiday; you will get used to it and once you go Pro, the results in your pictures will show.
As with tap to focus, selective focus also has it’s added benefits – ever have it where there are more than one subjects at different distances in your picture and you just can’t seem to get the right focus or exposure?
Well, this is where selective focus comes into its own.
Phone cameras are renowned for being difficult with this problem and the Samsung Galaxy s8 is no different.
Enable this feature in the advanced options and you will notice a massive difference in the quality of your photos.
Slightly different than selective focus, manual focus allows you to completely take control and produces you with a drag-slider to focus in on any subject you please.
This is a feature that will allow you to get super close to your subject (or far away) and still have control of your cameras focusing.
Scene modes open up a whole host of different modes for you to toy with – for taking pictures of those beaches, you have the option to switch to panoramic mode.
Panoramic mode is for those scenes that seem to need a wide angled lens.
From here we can also select 360, food shots and also hyper-lapse for video.
This may seem like a no-brainer – but with the Samsung Galaxy s8‘s massive storage capacity, it is sometimes easy to forget that this powerhouse of a phone has the ability to take an extra SD card.
With SD cards getting cheaper and cheaper, you can pick a 32gb upgrade for a little under £10 – beware, however – eBay will have cheaper and slower SD cards; ensure that you purchase a well-known brand (like Samsung for example).
If the out-of-the-box options just aren’t cutting the mustard on your Samsung Galaxy s8, then you might want to try this fantastic little free camera app.
The developer has had multiple offers from mobile phone manufacturers and camera app developers to buy his company out, but we at AsWeTravel thank him for holding out.
Open Camera is exactly as it sounds, it will open your camera’s features to the point where you can even use voice commands to take pictures.
One of best features of your camera is you – whatever setting you change, whatever feature you employ, the biggest factor that will make a difference is you.
Don’t be afraid to experiment a little and you will find your own way of getting the best bang for your megapixel.
Above all, be smart, be safe and keep snapping.
My Favorite FREE iPad iPhone Travel Apps
FREE iPad / iPhone Travel Apps – I’ve had my iPod Touch for about two months now, and I’m falling helplessly in love with it more and more every day.
It’s my personal assistant, I use it for just about everything.
From reading books, storing recipes and workout exercises to converting currencies, booking hostels and checking the bus/train timetables.
I suppose you could call me an ‘iPad NERD’ – if there is such a thing… yeah, I admit I have also found some awesome applications which ONLY work for theiPhone, so I won’t lie and say I never wish I had one of those as well – but then again I like my cellphone, it’s pink!
Anyways, today I am going to share with you the best FREE Travel Apps out there right now!
An application that finds you the best deals by searching through every hostel website, all over the world.
You have Hostelbookers, Hostelworld etc. all in one place.
From here you can book your stay from anywhere.
I love it, very easy and simple.
If you are an avid HostelWorld fan and just want to book through them, they have their very own application for you to book your stays.
With this on your iPod you’ll never have to carry another of those brick-like-heavy books in your backpack ever again!
You can download hundreds (probably more) of books for FREE on your iPod (yes, in all genres).
Finds many outdoor activities (walking, mountain-biking, skiing etc) for you to do, anywhere in the world
Shows countless types of knots and how to make them step by step, a skill that can be crucial to know when hiking through the jungle etc… trust me – you never know when you’ll need it!
Skype (only for iPhone):
Now there really is a cheap way for you to call to other countries.
Translates whole sentences into heaps of different languages.
The good thing about this one is that it doesn’t only translate to or from English but from all kinds of languages: Hebrew to Korean, or Hindi to Galician, it’s your choice 😉
Keeps track of your spending and income, how much you spend per day/week/month/year, and what you spend it on (food, clothes, Beer etc).
Really good to keep you from asking ”What happened?
Where did all the money go??”
A complete currency converter, what more do I need to say?
This way you know exactly how much your paying anywhere in the world.
Now you can search for flights and hotels with the best online travel search aggregates right from your iPod!
Ok, so the application is free, and you get a Phrase book and one Guide for free.
But the rest you’ll have to buy.
But if you plan to bring a Lonely Planet guide, I highly recommend you to bring it in your iPod.
It sucks having all that extra weight when you could have it all in your hand 😉
I love looking at the earth globe – it really gets me into a happy state.
I get so excited seeing all these places I want to visit, all cultures I want to see.
So what is better than Google Earth?
This way you don’t have to run around all streets and corners desperately looking for a Wi-Fi connection, the JiWire application does the job for you.
If you know of anymore apps which I might find useful on my travels, please link me below in the comments! 🙂