In a world of constant communication and cell phones acting as extra appendages, breaking contact for three months to travel abroad seems like walking into the dark room in a horror film.
Most of us are accustomed to pulling out our phone for everything we need — directions, dining ideas, transportation and the list goes on. Cell phone usage overseas backhands your bank account with whopping fees that no young traveler wants to or can afford to pay.
When you are stranded and roaming, prices can cost you an arm and a leg. It's best to have a plan of attack.
1. Always assume there won't be wireless: We all love our smartphones, but be prepared to toss it in the bottom of your bag and move along. Have a map and a written plan in hand if your phone is reduced to a paperweight, because the chances are high.
2. Beg for the wireless password: Most businesses have wireless connection, whether it is public or private is up to you to negotiate. Simply explain that you are traveling and have no other way to get the contact or information that you need.
3. Refer to these great websites: Lonely Planet, TimeOut and Student Universe are lifesavers when you are traveling on a budget, especially if you are alone. Lonely Planet and TimeOut will help you find friends, food and shelter. Student Universe gives you rockin' deals on transportation and other necessities.
4. Free WiFi is worth it: Most hostels and motels will offer free wireless, but you should double and triple check. Night time is the perfect time to recharge and get in charge for the following day. Utilize the above sites and plan your movements.
5. Get a map or screenshot everything: Maps will always be faithful, but if you are set on using your phone, make a habit of taking a screenshot of everything you search: directions, maps, messages, websites, the whole shi-bang. Screenshots will give you access to everything you need when wireless is spotty.
6. Don't be shy: If you are lost, march right up to someone that looks less confused than you and fire away with all the questions running through your noggin. Meeting people abroad is the best part about being abroad and asking for help is the best excuse to do so.
7. Local SIMS for the win: If you are staying put for a bit and need a way to stay in touch with those in the area, spare a few bucks for a local SIM card. They run from $12–$15, and you can top-up when you run out of juice. I don't recommend this if you aren't staying for longer than a week and you know you will have wireless most of the trip.
8. Get WhatsApp: GroupMe may be more popular in Alabama, but the rest of the world is using WhatsApp for all of their daily needs. You can call for free with wireless connection, which will save you a pretty penny.
9. Learn to love public transportation: Public transportation should become the pop to your corn, the Nutella to your bread. It is reasonably priced, will take you practically everywhere and it is available in most large cities. You will save hundreds, so get off Uber and head for the Underground.
10. Find the local get-around-the-town app: In large cities with public transportation, there is typically a coinciding application you can download for free. This app will tell you how to get around by bus, subway, train or tram. It will tell you when the pickups are and how long your journey will take.
If all else fails, have a plan sorted out that doesn't involve a smartphone. This world used to get along fine without the glorified pocket computers, and I'm sure with some effort, we can too.