Using your mobile phone while travelling


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Using your mobile phone while travelling

Viewing the trip advisor app on a mobile device

What's coming up?

In this activity you’ll find out about using your mobile phone while travelling, but not just as a way to keep in contact with people. Your mobile can do so much more.

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Your most important travel tool

Your mobile phone is so versatile that you can think of it as your most important tool for travelling. Let’s explore some of the ways your mobile can help keep you safe and informed while on the road.

A flying plane and a mobile device
A range of tsaks being carried out on a mobile device

What your mobile phone can do

Making calls is just the start! Here are some of other things you can use your mobile phone for, while travelling:

  • Storing important documents like vaccine certificates, itineraries, booking confirmations, and copies of your identification
  • Showing your digital boarding pass for flights
  • Using a maps app to navigate locally
  • Booking transfers and rideshare trips
  • Getting information on the local area
  • Accessing your financial information
  • Taking photos and sharing them with friends and family.

The importance of a data connection

You can think of your mobile phone as a portable internet connection, that keeps you in touch with home and the rest of the world.

You can use your regular mobile data account overseas, in a mode called roaming, but this can be expensive.

You can also purchase a SIM, or local mobile data plan. This is usually cheaper than using roaming, but sometimes can be difficult to set up.

Data roaming switched to On
A mobile device with two different network provider logos

All about data roaming

When you use data roaming, your mobile phone uses a mobile data network wherever you are, and sends the bill back to your provider in Australia.

For instance, Telstra might have an agreement with the American provider AT&T. Your Telstra phone would work as normal on the AT&T network in the US, but all the charges will appear on your Telstra account.

How much does data roaming cost?

Usually, data roaming is more expensive than using data at home. You can expect to pay per megabyte of data downloaded, and bills can run into the hundreds of dollars if you’re not careful.

However, it’s a good idea to call your provider before you leave, to see if there are any deals for data roaming for your destination. You may be able to pre-purchase data to use overseas, or set up an overseas daily data plan at a much lower rate.

Data roaming charges
Putting a local SIM into a mobile phone

Buying a local SIM

If you don’t want to use data roaming, you can buy a short-term mobile data account in your destination country.

For example, if you visited London, you could buy a pre-paid UK SIM card to put into your phone. This card will give you a temporary UK phone number and a lot more data at a lower price.

You will need to take your Australian SIM out of your phone and keep it safe. When you get home, you can take out the UK SIM and keep it in a safe place for your next visit.

Find out more about using your phone internationally in the Going overseas course.

Relying on Wi-Fi when travelling

If you don’t use your mobile much and only need to send an occasional message home to friends and family, then you can turn it to Flight mode and simply connect to hotel/ restaurant Wi-Fi when required.

Flight mode means that your network is disabled and you can’t receive incoming calls or messages while it’s switched on. However, you can still connect to Wi-Fi networks.

You can download a messaging app and use it to send text messages home over the Wi-Fi network. You can also check the news and weather, updates on Smart Traveller and exchange rates over Wi-Fi.

Using a mobile device  on Hotel Wi-Fi
Using the cloud to access a range of information from a mobile device

Using the cloud to access information

If you store your important information in the cloud, such as on Google Drive, iCloud or Microsoft One Drive, you can use your mobile phone to access it while travelling.

Using an app or your phone’s web browser, you can log into your cloud account and retrieve your documents. Your cloud account doesn’t care where or how you access the internet - as long as you have your username and password, you can access your documents!

Apps to use when travelling

There are hundreds - maybe even thousands! - of apps for travellers, using both Android and Apple phones. You can search on your app store and download some before you go to save on data costs. Some useful apps include:

  • Maps. This should already be installed on your phone but it’s worth checking for any updates
  • World clock apps
  • Weather apps
  • Public transport apps for the city you are visiting, for example the London Underground app
  • Ride sharing apps, for example Uber. You might need to set up an account first
  • Translation apps, such as Google Translate.

You can find out more about downloading and installing apps in the All about apps course.

A range of useful apps
A mobile device showing New Zealand local time

How time and weather work on your mobile phone

When you travel, your mobile phone gets information about your location from the mobile data network it’s connected to. This means it can automatically update the time zone, clock, and your weather app.

This is a great feature and means you don’t need to remember to reset your phone’s clock when you arrive.

You can find out more about how to make sure your phone is ready to set its time automatically, in the System settings videos for Apple iPhone and Android mobile phone devices.

Don't forget your device chargers

The only real downside to a mobile phone is that it has a battery that goes flat, so don’t forget to pack your charger!

You will also need to take an adaptor for each kind of power point in the countries you will be visiting.

Charging a mobile device

eSafety tip

At the end of the day, your mobile phone is just another electronic device, and it is vulnerable to being lost, stolen, or broken.

You should always take paper copies of your most important information. This includes your itinerary, flight booking details (including ticket numbers), medical information, and contact numbers for emergencies.

Keep this information in a zip-up waterproof folder or wallet, along with your passport and pack it in your carry-on luggage.

Well done!

You’ve completed the Using your mobile phone while travelling activity and should now understand the many ways your mobile phone can help while you’re away from home.

Up next, we’ll look at some of the risks you might encounter on your international adventures, in the Avoiding common travel scams activity.

A mobile device and a flying plane