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Communications and Technology Abroad

Everyone experiences some degree of emotional adjustment — even homesickness — when traveling for an extended period of time. It helps to stay in touch regularly with family and friends at home. Luckily, it's easier than ever to do that with mobile phones and apps like Skype. Apps can even help you find your way around in a strange city. Learn more:

Mobile phones

While abroad, you'll use your mobile or smart phone to communicate locally and with those at home, and for the convenience of all your favorite apps. Learn how to stay connected, without getting hit with major roaming and overage charges. See below on how to get the most out of your US smart phone, and whether or not you’ll want to utilize a local SIM card in your host country.

  • Use all your favorite web-based apps utilizing WiFi when available while abroad (be sure to set your phone to “airplane mode” with the WiFi enabled to avoid data and roaming charges!)
  • Your US contacts remain in your phone and easily accessible
  • Check with your service provider before departure about the costs of international plans to see if they fit within your needs and budget. You could potentially use this international plan during your stay to avoid purchasing a local SIM card.
  • Alternatively, check with your service provider before departure about suspending service while you are away to avoid excessive charges if you accidentally take your phone off airplane mode
  • Calls, texting, and data available even when there is no WiFi accessible – in some locations WiFi can be very hard to come by in public spaces. This option will prove to be very useful in emergencies, when you want to call or text local friends, call for a taxi, make a reservation, etc.
  • Affordable “pay as you go” SIM cards, allow you to pay as little or as much as you need for your communication needs. You can purchase a SIM card in many locations for as little as $10, and this may include few dollars to use for texts or calls as soon as you install your SIM card.
  • You can see if your US service provider can unlock your smart phone before departure so you can use a SIM card with your US phone while abroad. Alternatively, you can purchase an affordable “dumb” mobile phone while abroad to use with a SIM card purchased locally, and keep your smart phone handy for using your favorite apps when you have access to WiFi.


It's best to download all apps you will need before you leave the U.S.  Don't rely on Wi-Fi abroad to download apps that you might need later. There are many apps that can help make traveling easier, including:

Staying in touch:

Photo: Image of several people speaking on phones in phone boothsSave money on international calls and texts by using apps. Skype, Viber, Google Talk, FaceTime, WhatsApp, etc., are all free apps that let you to call and text inexpensively with everyone back home.

Finding your way:

Offline maps (like Google Maps and OsmAnd)  help you get around without not using a lot of data. You can download offline apps like OsmAnd, or cache your own offline maps in Google Maps. (To cache a map, just zoom in on the area, type "OK Maps" into the search bar, then press the "search" icon to save.)


USe Wi-Fi as much as possible, but keep in mind that Wi-Fi access may not be as widely available as you are accustomed to at home. Apps like Free Wi-Fi Finder let you use your phone's GPS to find free Wi-Fi in your area.
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Save data and battery usage

Save data and battery by turning data roaming off or putting your phone in airplane mode. Turning off your data will ensure that when you're not on Wi-Fi, apps don't eat up all your data or make you exceed the data limit you have.

You can still send and receive calls or texts while your data roaming is off.

Keeping your phone in airplane mode will save your battery in a pinch. Disabling "push notifications" and manually loading your email will help save data as well.


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