How To Use Your Smartphone Abroad Without Going Broke

Using your phone abroad does not have to leave a massive hole in your wallet. There are ways to rein in your spending while keeping in touch with your loved ones back home.

It is not enough to avoid signing up for roaming plans and making phone calls or sending text messages abroad. There are apps that quietly access the Internet and download updates. These things need to be settled before you travel.

There is also the possibility that you will need to use some of your phone apps and features during your travels. Some of them may prove to be more useful and cheaper to use than calling or texting.

If you intend to travel with your phone, you will need to be aware of what’s running in the background and how you will use your device during your trip.

Don’t know where to begin? Let an established telecommunications company in Iraq help you. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to beat getting zinged with a massive phone bill during your time overseas.


1. Do you need your phone?

Before the invention of mobile phones and the Internet, people have managed to travel without worrying about these devices. Can you get by a few days or weeks without checking your social media messages or uploading photos online?

Freeing yourself of any mobile devices during your travel is possible. It is undeniably cheap and gives you a break from being tethered to your phone. However, you will need to do some careful planning to ensure that you don’t regret your decision.

Some people choose to leave their phones at home and buy a cheap prepaid phone when they land. This is an option to consider if you don’t have key apps or features on your phone that you will need to use abroad. For individuals who rely more on their phones, leaving their behind is not really an option.

Perhaps you need to do some work along the way or give instructions to your staff. There could be an emergency back home that you need to handle on the road.

What you can do is to look for areas where free or cheap Wi-Fi is available. In such cases, you will just need to make sure that your phone is only accessing Wi-Fi and not using data.

2. Visit your local telecommunications company

Mobile phone providers understand that people have unique needs and try to come up with alternative options to help their subscribers stay connected. By visiting your existing service provider, you may find a better plan that you can use during your trip.

For instance, there are telecom companies that offer postpaid plans with free roaming data or international call minutes included. Consider prepaid options as well if you don’t wish to make monthly payments for a package that you intend to use only for a few days or weeks.

3. Have your phone unlocked

Purchasing a SIM where you plan to stay is a more practical way of using the Internet. But for this to work, you need to make sure your phone is capable of accepting a SIM from another network.

Ask your local telco company if they can perform the unlocking for you. If not, you can check out other nearby shops for this service.

4. Change your device settings

Control which apps on your phone have access to the Internet. This will prevent apps from making unexpected updates during your trip which can add up to substantial data consumption.

The process can vary depending on the phone make, and OS. For iPhone users, for instance, you can check your settings then head over to the cellular sub-menu.

Under this menu should be a list of all the apps on your phone. Check which apps have access to data and turn off the ones you don’t want to update.

Consider turning off any automatic updates, push notifications, and location services as well. Some of these features are free, although some may also require mobile data to ensure accuracy.

5. Download key apps and important files

Before you go, download most (if not all) of the apps and files you will need. Planning to explore nearby areas? Download maps of the area via Google and save them for offline use.

Instead of making international calls or sending SMS texts abroad, you can download apps such as Line, Viber, WhatsApp, or Skype. These types of apps let you call or text other registered members for free. Instruct your loved ones and contacts to download and use the same apps to ensure that all parties have the same access prior to your trip.

6. Buy a local SIM card

Once you get to your destination, buy a local prepaid SIM card. If you didn’t sign up for one already back home, having a local SIM card will allow you to use mobile data plans available in the area.

Plan for a worry-free journey

Having your phone with you is undeniably convenient. You may need it to access information or just to let your loved ones know you are safe. However, simply crossing the border with your existing local plan is not wise and can land you in a financial pickle.

By following the steps indicated in this guide, you are taking control of your phone use and protecting yourself from a potential bill shock when traveling with a roaming plan.


Al-moottil P Antony is a C-Suite Executive Support Professional for Zain, a leading mobile and data services operator with a commercial footprint in 8 Middle Eastern and African countries.


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