How to Travel Without an International Cell Plan

Alright, you’ve booked the ticket for your flight . . . but, do you need to contact your phone carrier about an international cell plan? No!

In this guide, I’ll hook you up with ALL of my phone-data-saving hacks for traveling abroad and you’ll be a guranteed expert in thrify travel.

So, just worry about getting yourself there and leave the rest up to me!


First things first, you’ve got to be able to text. Text the cool Australian you met at the hostel, that cute guy from the pub and . . . oh yeah—your family back home!

This is where WhatsApp comes in. WhatsApp is a messaging and calling app that allows you to communicate with contacts in your phone via internet connection.

This means that it makes your phone fully functional with just cellular data or WiFi! It also means you can send messages from anywhere in the world without running into any international fees.

WhatsApp is available as a free download on mobile devices and even has a web version if you’re traveling with a laptop.

Speaking of WiFi, take full advantage of that blessing while you have it.

One really cool (and somewhat creepy) aspect of our phones is that the built-in GPS continues to track even when offline.

How? I have no idea! But, I do know that it can be quite handy.

This enables the iphone’s built-in ‘Maps’ app to automatically track your location even when you’re offline. So, you can see exactly where you are on the map as long as your phone is turned on.

Without access to internet (whether that be cellular data or WiFi) you cannot search for locations or pull up places you’ve previously searched.

However, locations which you’ve previously ‘favorited’ stay displayed without an active internet connection. See what this looks like below.

Although you can’t route yourself to a location without an internet connection, by tapping the little compass (circled in red above) you can toggle through different settings until you reach the directional arrow which points out in the direction of where the top of your phone screen points.

Following the directional can take some getting used to but really works out great and can help get you where you need to go!

MAPS.ME is an offline map app created by backpackers for backpackers.

Though it is an amazing concept, the process for logging locations doesn’t always make the coordinates the most precise. That being said it is still a fantastic resource to have on any international trip!

MAPS.ME is available as a free download for mobile devices.

It’s always good to know what resources you have at hand. So get to know your phone plan!

For example, my plan provides me with basic data at 2G speeds, text messaging free in 165 destinations and voice calls for $0.20 per minute.

The easiest way to ensure you are educated about all of your plan’s benefits is to chat with a representative from your phone company online. This is not only a convenient means of communication; but, it’s also the most secure.

After receiving detailed breakdown of your phone plan’s international services, be sure to highlight the chat and copy it into a word document for your records! This way, you will have the information on file to refute any charges that may not comply with what you were told.


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