Exploring a new country used to be a euphemism for “getting lost.” Today, it’s easy to maintain your course thanks to your smartphone. By opening Google Maps or any other navigation app, you can plot your route and arrive with time to spare. Although this might be less exciting and adventurous, it does negate the inevitable awkward conversations with locals. How do you say “where’s the nearest tube stop,” again?
Still, turning your handset into a makeshift satellite navigation system isn’t as straightforward as it appears. It’s a walk in the park at home, but it’s a different story abroad. After all, your phone might not be optimised for travelling. If it isn’t, you could pay a flat fee in foreign roaming charges, and they’re not cheap. Also, don’t forget about the lack of WiFi in far-flung places. Not everywhere is a big city with the most recent, up to date amenities.
To use your smartphone as a sat-nav abroad, you’ve got to think about the common issues to prepare it beforehand. There are plenty of ways to do it, but the easiest and less stressful methods are underneath. Follow these tips and your phone will be a Godsend on any trip regardless of the location.
Turn On Data Roaming
The first step is to switch on data roaming in your settings. This feature is the thing that stops your phone from working abroad as it does at home. Flick it from “off” to “on” and you’ll instantly connect to the local phone supplier. As long as you have signal, your mobile data should work as per usual, meaning you can open Google Maps without having to register for WiFi.
Playing around with your device is a simple way to find what you are looking for if you haven’t done it before. However, it’s also a surefire way to change settings that you want to keep the same, which is potentially problematic. Because every handset is different, it’s essential to Google yours and follow expert advice from bloggers and websites. The likes of Which? always have excellent troubleshooting posts. However, if you’re searching for varied information, this Gadget Cover article is perfect.
After all, you never know the consequences of turning on the data roaming function on your mobile. So, it’s good to listen to or read expert advice in case you need to perform an essential task that you’re unaware of, no matter how easy it sounds.
Switch Phone Supplier
The reason you might want to research data roaming is the price. When you go abroad, the rates sometimes double and triple, costing you a fortune if you use your phone a lot. Considering you’re going to be in new locations the majority of the time, it’s safe to say you will want to keep your phone handy to ensure you don’t get lost. While switching suppliers can be a hassle some job, it’s also necessary if yours doesn’t let you use your plan abroad as it does at home.
That’s the key – to make sure your package is inclusive regardless of your location. 3 is a company that’s well-known for this, but they aren’t the only ones. Smarty are also happy to help you turn your phone into a sat-nav on your travels. Plus, a Smarty SIM only data plan means you don’t have to overspend if you don’t have any intentions to send messages. Alternatively, it’s not hard to pick up a cheap, local SIM when you arrive and top it up with cash when it runs out of money.
Whichever option is the most suitable is fine. Just make sure you understand the terms and conditions before signing on the dotted line.
Plan Your Trip In Advance
Sometimes, it’s not easy to use your phone even when you have enough data or a local SIM. Depending on the service, a handset can be about as much help as a chocolate fireguard! When you’re in the middle of a huge city and don’t know where to turn, it can be scary and daunting. Therefore, it’s imperative to plan your trip when you have a signal and internet connection.
That way, you can keep the street names in your head and memorise the route. If your memory isn’t what it was, there’s nothing wrong with writing down the journey in the ‘notes’ section of your phone. Then, you can cross-reference your location with Google Maps and the ‘notes’ app. However, it isn’t always necessary. A cool feature of Maps is that it keeps the blue line visible if you’ve recently planned your route. So, it might guide you from A to B regardless of whether the app is online or offline.
At least with prior planning, you can prevent poor performance once you leave the hostel or hotel.
Stop Off For WiFi
The fantastic thing about modern countries is that WiFi is everywhere. Whether it’s a coffee shop or a park square, there is usually a connection to piggyback off and re-evaluate. By doing this, you can decide whether you’re on the right track, and plan new journeys if you’ve got time to spare. Let’s face it – it’s not as if you won’t want a drink and a bite to eat at some point during the day.
However, public WiFi is riskier than it appears. Because it’s not private, hackers can access the server and see everything you’re doing. You might not think this is a big deal when you’re on Google Maps, but it is when they can continue spying after you log out. Who knows what they’ll see when you’re back at the digs checking your budget or purchasing stuff online. Thankfully, a VPN will ping your IP address across several locations so that nobody knows where you are, or what connection you’re using.
As a result, you won’t be a target as hackers won’t notice that your connection is public. VPNs cost a couple of pounds per month, depending on the company, so it’s a tool worth considering if you plan on using public WiFi regularly.
Purge Your Data
Whatever application you use, there is usually an option that lets you download the map offline. By doing this, you can bring it up and plan your journeys accordingly. There’s no need for an internet connection; as long as you have your phone, it’s ready to use as a sat-nav. This Keep Go list of the best navigation apps for travelling should come in handy at some point.
Unfortunately, it’s not a feasible option for lots of travellers as there is never enough free storage on modern phones. Most of them are packed with “essential” apps that you won’t want to uninstall, which means downloading a map is off the agenda. After all, they take up big chunks of storage space. But, if you’re ready to purge your data, you could have a safety net for any destination on the planet. All it takes is to be logical and less uptight about your apps. Do you use it often? If you don’t, then it can go and free up room.
Even if you do rely on an application, it might not have to be on your smartphone. Tablets are mobile devices with much more memory, making them perfect alternatives. A tip: segment your apps. Then, you can keep the travel stuff on your phone and the banking ones on your iPad.
Rely On GPS
Please don’t read through this and assume that you’re up a proverbial creek without a paddle. Just because none of these hacks applies to you at the moment doesn’t mean you’re a lost cause. Sure, switching supplier is difficult when you’re stuck with a long-term contract, and a local SIM won’t work if the handset is locked. Of course, deleting apps isn’t going to work if you already have the bare minimum on your mobile.
Still, GPS is a feature of all modern phones, and it has nothing to do with any of the above. As long as you have navigation software on your phone, which you should with Google Maps, the GPS will show you where you are and where to go next. Press the small arrow button at the bottom of the page and wait for a blue, pulsing dot to appear. Okay, it won’t advise you on stuff such as which bus or train to catch, but it will get you to the station. Once you are there, you can ask for help as most transport links employ English-speakers.
So, no matter how lost you think you are, GPS on your phone will always point you in the right direction. It’s a lifesaver.
Is There Anything Else?
Yes. A battery pack isn’t a feature of satellite navigation systems, but yours won’t work if it doesn’t have power. Therefore, you will want to carry a fully-charged remote charger in case your phone runs out of juice. It’s not funny how many travellers forget to take one and then can’t rely on the last resort: GPS.