Tips and Tricks for Traveling Abroad with Tech

Check out tips and tricks for traveling abroad with your technology from our very own guest writer, Anya Overmann. You can check her out here:

While most people aren’t considering travel during a pandemic, I took a different approach. I decided to escape the epicenter of COVID in the US, finally pursue my dream as a digital nomad, and fly to safer locations in Europe. My journey began back in late August 2020 in Croatia. I spent 9 weeks there, then moved over to Malta (an island nation in the Mediterranean, just south of Sicily).  Being a writer that relies on technology and good connections to earn an income; I have learned a lot about how to navigate tech and travel.

Here’s tips and tricks for traveling with your tech:

Tips and Tricks on Travel Adapters

Travel adapters are a must for traveling nearly anywhere outside the US–– with the exceptions of Canada, Mexico, and Japan, which also have the same plugs and sockets as we do in the US (Type A/Type B plugs). In most of Europe, they use Type C plugs which have two round pegs. The UK, Ireland, Malta (where I am currently), Malaysia, and Singapore use Type G plugs which have three flat prongs. Two of the prongs allow electricity to flow and one prong is solely for stability. You can see the UK plug here on the left, and the Euro plug on the right:

I used to resent packing such a chunky British travel adapter, but have been since persuaded it’s actually one of the best plugs in the world. There are universal travel adapters that you can purchase which include all the major plugs: Type A/B (US/Canada/Mexico/Japan)Type C & F (most of Europe/Russia/parts of South America/parts of Asia)Type G (UK/Ireland/Malta/Malaysia/Singapore)Type I (China/Australia/New Zealand/Argentina). But, believe it or not, there are even more types of plugs in the world that aren’t typically included in universal adapters. Here’s a full list. You can find travel adapters in the travel section of many major department stores. If all else fails: order what you need online before you leave for your travels.

Tips and Tricks on SIM Cards

While many service providers offer packages for using your phone outside the US, they are usually unreasonably expensive. (Yeah, I’m looking at you, AT&T). A more affordable option tends to be purchasing a SIM card in the country you will spend the most time so that you can continue to make calls, send and receive texts, and use data without spending a fortune. In fact, you can sometimes end up spending less on a phone plan abroad than you do at home.

There are a variety of service providers abroad willing to sell you a SIM card with packages that often serve you in more than one country. This is particularly the case in Europe. You can buy them at pretty much any airport, corner shop, or convenience store. Once you buy it, you just take the little pin tool they provide to pop open the little SIM shelf in your phone and replace your American SIM card with the SIM you’ve purchased. Then you’re good to go.

Pro tip: Put that tiny little American SIM card in a safe and secure location that you will be able to find later. You really don’t want to lose your old SIM card. It’s best to do your research on service providers and packages before purchasing a SIM wherever you’re going. Know what you’re getting, how much data you’re getting, and in which countries the service is operable. Because there are so many different options for SIM cards and it can be a tricky matter to navigate (especially if you plan to travel between multiple countries around the world like I do), I strongly recommend opting for Google Fi instead. 

Tips and Tricks Outside of Cellular: Google Fi

Fi is Google’s carrier service that’s available not only to Android users but now also iPhone users. Google Fi service is pulled from major 4G LTE networks and is able to smartly switch between them as you move around to ensure you always have the most reliable connection wherever possible. It can also use Wi-Fi when available to make calls and send texts. Not only can it serve as your carrier service in the US, but it works in over 200 countries (that’s basically everywhere in the world)!

International data and calling works just as it does in the US and at no additional cost. No roaming charges! They make the billing affordable and simple. You pay one fee per month for unlimited talk and texting, plus a flat rate per gigabyte of data after that. Your charges are even capped every month once you reach 6GB (then it’s unlimited data!). I pay less with Google Fi than I ever did with my AT&T phone plan. 

This is why I use Fi and sing its praises–– I can use it pretty much anywhere I travel without having to deal with the hassle of switching between SIMs and the billing is super simple. Plus, when you switch from your current carrier to Google Fi, you can keep your old number. It works great, and I highly recommend it!

Tips and Tricks for Security

People often ask me if I worry about getting my laptop or phone stolen. The truth is I’m worried about anything happening to my precious technology. I need both my laptop and my phone to work and travel. I always err on the side of caution when it comes to my tech. Best tip I can give is to always travel with your laptop and phone in carry-ons and keep them close in transit at all times. 

Tricks for Browsing Securely:

But an issue of security and privacy that’s often not addressed about traveling is browsing. I don’t know what you like to look at online (and I’m not here to judge). Every country has different laws around internet privacy and security. For example, Europe has GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) laws that prevent certain US websites from being accessible when browsing from Europe because they don’t comply with the regulations. Many local news sites (like KSDK) are not accessible, for example, because their advertisements go against GDPR.

Tips on VPN:

But there are ways around this which will, in turn, provide even more protection online. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the internet. VPNs can be used to access region-restricted websites and shield your browsing activity from anyone on public Wi-Fi, among a myriad of other benefits to your privacy. 

I strongly recommend using a VPN when traveling abroad so that you don’t unwittingly violate any local laws or restrict yourself from being able to view certain US websites. I use TunnelBear. 

Looking for More Tips and Tricks for Traveling with your Tech?

Email me your questions and I can write another article for MGSTL answering said questions:  

(editor note: We’ve been having good luck with AT&T and Verizon configuring the eSim, which on the newer ‘Pro’ iPhone models, is very cool. It means your primary phone number is ‘hard coded’ to the phone itself – while the SIM slot is left empty for you to add a SIM card in from another service provider you might want to use. This is ‘advanced’ but we at least wanted to make note of it.)

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