Before heading abroad, make sure to charge your phone the night before the trip. While this task may seem simple, it’s crucial for the journey.

However, charging your phone isn’t the only thing you need to do before traveling with it.

Here are extra tips for smartphone-using travelers to keep in mind before embarking on their adventure.

smartphone apps for international travel

Tips for Preparing a Phone for International Travel

#1 Sign up for Google Fi

Google Fi acts as a virtual cell phone service provider, partnering with local providers for cell, data, and text services instead of owning its own towers. Furthermore, Google Fi operates in over 200 countries, making it incredibly convenient for frequent international travelers.

When you arrive in a foreign country, simply disable airplane mode and use your phone just like you would at home. You’ll enjoy unlimited free texting, and data costs the same as when you use Google Fi within your home country. The only potential additional expense is phone calls. Whether you’re contacting loved ones back home or reaching out to a hotel in a neighboring country, you’ll be charged 20 cents per minute for international calls.

#2 Use a New SIM Card

When you arrive in a country where phone service is incredibly affordable, it’s smart to take advantage of the low prices by purchasing a local SIM card. A SIM card, a small chip that fits inside your phone, enables you to make calls and use the internet. To make this option work, ensure you have answered “yes” to the first two questions above.

In certain countries, like several in Southeast Asia, you can get a generous amount of data, calls, and SMS texts for just $10 to $20. Typically, you can find kiosks at the airport selling SIM cards, and the clerks there can assist with installation. This service allows you to keep your phone in a language you can understand and ensure it’s functioning properly before you depart. You can also purchase a SIM card from a local phone store. These SIM card plans usually include the option to top up your balance if you exhaust your data before your trip ends. Prices and availability may vary, so it’s advisable to check travel forums specific to your destination for the latest advice.

#3 Prepare Enough Free Space

Think about how to use a phone internationally. Do you want to take a lot of interesting photos and videos, will you be active on social networks and want to install useful applications? Start with the iPhone memory cleaner. Here’s how to clean up your iPhone using the app. Install the app to clean up photos, log into it, and run a search. In a second you will be able to clean up duplicate pictures and similar videos, and there is also a compression function. Another useful feature is the secret space. To access it you can set a different password. The CleanUp application is useful both at the stage of preparation for travel and during active tourism.

#4 Customize your Lock Screen

Customize your lock screen by adding your name, an alternate phone number, and maybe an email address. This ensures that if you happen to lose your smartphone, the person who finds it can easily contact you and help return it. Just remember not to make the text overly large, so no one can read your information by glancing over your shoulder. Instead, make it just big enough that someone can easily read it when they hold the phone up close.

#5 Understand Data Roaming Terms

Before you travel, make sure to find out the varying data roaming costs in each country. Countries like Canada, Egypt, and China have particularly high data roaming expenses. There are numerous other places where using smartphone data can be incredibly costly. To prevent any surprises, reach out to your cellular provider and inquire about the roaming costs for your destination country. If that’s not possible, you can save money by purchasing a temporary SIM card upon arrival. Another option is to disable data on your cell phone while you’re abroad.

smartphone preparation for international travel

#6 Download Entertainment

You can avoid data charges for large downloads while traveling by preparing your music and entertainment purchases in advance. Check if your airline offers good in-flight entertainment; if not, having a few episodes of your favorite show can make coach class more bearable. If your hotel room has an iPod player, consider adding a new album or two to liven up your stay. Additionally, nothing beats a diverting and fun new playlist to improve a long cross-country rail trip or an interminable wait at the airport.

#7 Download Offline Maps

When you travel, it’s common to forget to download offline maps beforehand. However, navigation becomes crucial when exploring new places. Just search for your destination and download the offline map in advance. This guarantees access to maps and directions even without an internet connection, making navigation effortless. Additionally, I usually save numerous places I want to visit using Google Maps.

#8 Pack the Right Accessories

When you’re traveling, it’s important to have the right tech to keep your phone running smoothly. Here is the list of essential items you should pack:

  • Traveling often means using your smartphone for various tasks, which can drain your battery quickly. A compact and lightweight external battery pack is a must-have as it can charge your smartphone twice.
  • Pack at least three power cables. Include one cable that stays in your hotel room, another to carry with your battery pack, and a third cable specifically for charging your battery pack.
  • Check if you need a plug adapter. Some countries have power outlets that are incompatible with your plugs. Research the power outlet type at your destination and purchase a plug adapter kit.
  • Don’t forget a SIM card ejector if you plan to use a foreign wireless carrier’s service. This small metal pin-like device allows you to swap out your SIM card for the foreign carrier’s.

#9 Install Travel Essential Apps

When you’re in a foreign country and need to download apps from the Google Store or Apple Store, it can get complicated due to data roaming limitations and possible blocks. To handle both situations effectively, a VPN can be incredibly useful. But the best approach is to prepare your phone’s applications beforehand before you hop on the plane.

Before you travel, take some time to consider all the apps you’ll need. For instance, if your hometown has Uber but the country you’re visiting only has Bolt, make sure to download the Bolt app.

There are also other handy apps to consider, such as Google Translate, Airbnb, Booking, Skyscanner, or similar alternatives. If you want to make the most of your free time, go for gaming or music streaming apps like Spotify or Apple Music as excellent options.

#10 Prepare Backup Copies of Documents

On your travel checklist, include this tip for using your phone to prepare for your trip rather than preparing your phone. Make a digital backup in case of lost or stolen identification. Use your camera phone to take photos of your passport or driver’s license, and email them to yourself.

Also, consider photographing the contents of your checked bag in case it is lost by the airline. These photos will be useful when filling out a claim form to document your missing belongings.

Take advantage of your phone’s camera throughout your trip to capture anything that could serve as a helpful reminder, such as your airport parking spot or hotel room number.

#11 Write Down your Phone’s IMEI Number

If a sneaky thief swipes your phone, you’ll find yourself in a tricky situation. However, you can mitigate this by noting down your phone’s unique IMEI number (somewhere other than your phone). Doing so will aid in confirming your identity with your network and prompt them to promptly block any unauthorized use.

To determine your IMEI number, simply dial *#06# on your smartphone.

smartphone ready for international travel

#12 Backup your Contacts

Before you start your adventures, it’s a good idea to backup all your phone and WhatsApp contacts on your Google account. Not sure how to do this? Don’t worry, we have a simple guide that will help you.

#13 Prepare Messaging Apps

Stay connected using a messaging app. SMS text works well for communication within the same country or mobile network. However, chatting across different countries is more affordable and convenient with a messaging app. WhatsApp has been a popular choice for a long time, while Signal has gained attention for its robust security and encryption.

Another great option, given its wide user base, is Facebook Messenger.


There are too many things that depend on your smartphone when traveling to ignore it. Through it, you can communicate with locals, book hotels, get directions, make quick transfers, and much more. But what’s the point if you’re not prepared and your device is dead?

Preparation is the most important part of the journey and these tips will help you get through it with dignity.

Violeta Matei