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Five Practical Tech Tips for International Travelers

Brianne Miers - August 1, 2016
Sara Weiskotten
laptop on wooden desk

Whether you’re jetting off on a work trip or using your precious vacation days, technology is now an integral part of travel. Not too long ago, we would have been happy to spend time away from home unconnected, but it’s become essential that we can access the Internet wherever we are.

However, there are many questions that crop up when thinking about using technology while traveling: How much will it cost? What plan do I need? Are there any risks? These five tips cover the basic things you need to know to get the most out of using your electronics on the road. 

1. Invest in an Add-on Data Plan Package.

Many travelers naively believe that they can simply take their phone abroad and use it as usual. Unfortunately, this is almost never the case, and you will incur costly roaming charges if you attempt it. Fortunately, most providers offer add-on packages that will save you money. If you pre-register before you leave the country, you can make great savings on data, receiving a megabyte for between 10 and 25 cents. And popular cellular provider T-Mobile offers an even better solution—customers can use up to 2G of data in 115 countries with no additional charge to the original plan. So if you travel frequently, and you’re open to switching providers, this may work well for you.

2. Pick Up a Local SIM Card Upon Arrival. 

If it’s not essential to have your exact phone number and data plan with you or you’re staying somewhere for a longer period of time, your best bet is to pick up a local pay-as-you-go SIM card. Phone companies all over the world have many fantastic offers for new customers, so it’s highly likely you’ll be able be able to find a cheap option. For example, in Australia, you can purchase a $10 SIM that will give you unlimited texts, calls and data for a week, or without data, it will cover you for a month. This is a very convenient way to stay in contact while away; however, you will still incur roaming charges from loved ones who try to text or call from back home.

3. Find Public WiFi.

One form of communication that is always free, no matter where in the world you are, is public WiFi. All you need is a device that accesses the Internet, and you can find your nearest hotspot, connect and stay in touch with those back home. Although these free WiFi points are hugely convenient, there are a few drawbacks that you need to consider. Most of the time they are open networks, which means the data and traffic you share while connected can be seen and intercepted by anyone else using the network at the same time. Subsequently, every time you input personal details, such as passwords or payment card information, they can be stolen by malicious hackers and used for their personal gain.

4. Avoid Rogue Hotspots.

Cybercriminals have taken things one step further. All over the world, rogue hotspots have been set up with the sole purpose of intercepting your data. They usually have names that mimic well-known networks—such as Starbucks and McDonalds—so you can easily connect by accident. Once online and browsing, all of your data will be collected and stored without you even knowing that it’s happened. From here, criminals can commit direct theft or even use your identity for fraud, such as applying for credit cards and loans with your details. The best way to avoid these hotspots is to stick to trusted public WiFi providers and check with a member of staff at your location for the exact name before connecting.

5. Subscribe to a VPN Service

Although you can easily avoid the risks of public WiFi by being stringent with the networks you chose to connect to, doing so is timely and inconvenient, and prevents you from getting the most out of your vacation. Fortunately, a simple solution is using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This extremely handy piece of software creates an initial secure connection between your device and the VPN server before connecting to the Internet, which encrypts your information and protects you from malicious data collection. There are many free options available, but a paid option ensures that you receive a high quality of service and an active customer helpline, so it’s more than worth the money!

Using technology when you travel can be a dream come true if you know how to tackle it properly, and if you follow these five tips you will. If you have any more ideas and suggestions that you thing are important to note, be sure to leave a comment below and continue the discussion.

Many thanks to Jess Signet for contributing this very informative post.

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