On Using Your iPhone Abroad Without Getting Totally Screwed
When I stepped off the plane in Mexico I got that sinking feeling. My
I mean it
, but, you know, it's expensive to use a cell phone abroad. It's even more expensive to use a smartphone abroad. A few years ago, I took a work trip to
I've not been back to jail. Every year, at least once a year, I try to leave the country. I like traveling and have spent a decent amount of time living abroad. So when I go now, I still don't get the data plan. I either forget or can't be bothered. This is more or less what happened when I went to Mexico. It was a hastily planned trip, and I was on my own. I was even thinking about quitting the Internet the whole time I was there. ""You're just gonna wanna lay on the beach and read books made of paper,"" my
So after one expensive phone call to sort out a rental car situation (Pro tip: Don't buy the
My first survival instinct was also probably the most obvious: I basically spent every free minute I had hunting down Wi-Fi hotspots. Luckily and quite surprisingly, the tiny beach town where I was vacationing was pretty damn wired. So Internet wasn't hard to find, and it was almost always free.
It was not, though, available on the beach, or in my rustic little cabana. But that's where a little ingenuity-and a few handy apps-came in.
I developed a nice little routine of using Wi-Fi at the bar and loading up things to do offline when I went wandering. If I really needed to call someone, I would take the phone off airplane mode and try to talk fast. If I really needed to check my email, I couldn't because my carrier is
There are obviously other apps that work great offline.
If you're going to a city, you're definitely going to want a map, especially one that includes public transit. (
If you like words-who doesn't!-download
Dictionary.com's fantastic app
. It's handy if you'll be somewhere that you don't know the language (you can get a translation upgrade for a buck), but dictionaries also make for surprisingly entertaining beach reading. If you need a straight-up translator, go with
. It's slick, and ten times better than the lame
If you're going abroad, you'll also want a currency convertor. Get XE Currency . It comes in a free version and an ad-free pro version. Don't waste your money on the pro version unless you really really hate ads, in which case, you should probably not have an iPhone.
If you get all of these apps, there's really no need to buy and expensive data plan. I met a couple from Los Angeles, while I was down in Mexico and one of them had gotten the data plan and the other hadn't. We had a fun debate about the perks and perils of staying totally connected while on vacation. Basically what we ended up agreeing on was that it depends on your personality. The man was a total surfer and said he like unplugging because, well, it is really relaxing. The woman used to work in the media, so she liked to be able to keep up with what was going on. In a way it would've been more stressful for her not to have a phone. (I'm the same way.) If you plan ahead, it's not that expensive either.
Oh and one last thing.
Get Star Walk
. Whether you're picnicking in Paris or lying down on the powdered sugar sand in Tulúm, stars are still amazing, and it's really such a blast to use. It's best on a retina
When I stepped of the plane at JFK, it was raining. I flipped the Airplane mode off, dropped my phone into my pocket laughed as it rattled with all the missed calls and texts that I didn't let myself see while I was away. It felt good.