It can be incredibly useful at times to have a functional phone when you travel. That way you have access to Google Maps, can call your accommodation if you’re delayed or can use apps such as Google Translate so you have a clue what’s going on around you (much less fun in my opinion but a choice many prefer to take!).
Having a functional travel phone was incredibly helpful to me in India where, as a solo female traveler, you have to be really careful about taking transport alone since it allowed me to follower each driver’s route on Google maps and take a picture of their license plate to send to friends (one of the top safety tips for traveling India as a solo female).
The perfect travel phone is not the same as the perfect phone for whilst you’re back home however. Here’s the essential criteria to look out for in order to find the perfect travel phone
Finding the perfect travel phone
Does it fit a normal size SIM Card?
Although smartphones are pretty much everywhere nowadays not everyone has the latest smartphones so the prevalence of micro and nano SIM cards is less. I have yet to be in a place which didn’t stock full size SIM cards though.
I brought a phone that fits a full sized SIM card with me on this trip and everywhere I’ve gone I’ve therefore been able to buy a SIM card quickly and easily. If I’d had a phone which only allows for smaller SIM cards I would have had to wait for weeks in some instances.
Because of this criteria I ended up with a much less fancy phone than I used to have for my travels which is beneficial in other ways too.
Is it so valuable that it would be a desirable object to steal?
My phone is worse than that of almost every other person I know, local or foreign, where I am at the moment. It’s not the phone a thief’s first going to go for. Now obviously theft doesn’t always work like that but since my phone is so basic I really wouldn’t mind if someone did steal it. It would be a little bit irritating because it would cost me about £40 ($60) to replace it and I’d have to go to a shop to find a new phone but the actual loss of the phone wouldn’t matter. Since it’s such a basic phone I have no photos on it or items of sentimental value saved to it that I would lose as a result of the theft which is usually the biggest issue when something like that happens.
If I had a £600 iPhone that I stored all my photos on I wouldn’t want to take it out in the evening as that’s when a lot of handbag/pickpocketing theft takes place. My crummy old phone however? Sure , that can come along anywhere.
Does it allow apps?
If you’re taking my advice and getting a more basic phone you’re not going to be able to download every app in the world to it like you would with a more recent smartphone as the phone’s just not going to be able to handle it. You do need to make sure your phone will allow you to download a few apps though. The most important of which being Google Maps. You may also want other apps such as Google Translate (if you like knowing what’s going on around you), Uber, Skype and a messaging app like What’s App or Facebook Messenger. Check before you buy your travel phone that it can at least manage a list of apps like this.
Is the screen plastic?
Glass screens might feel nicer to touch the buttons on and make the screen clearer to view however how’s that screen going to be doing if the phone falls off the top bunk of a hostel or train bed? If you use your phone as an alarm clock that’s a risk factor really worth considering.
And the most important of all…
Can it be unlocked?
Your phone has to be unlocked in order to allow a SIM card from another network to work in it. The best way to do this is to get your network provider to unlock your phone for your travels. There are unofficial ways to do this too however it’s much better to get the network provider to unlock the phone properly if you can.
Having a travel phone that fits this set of criteria has been so incredibly useful to me. I thoroughly recommend you get yourself one too and make your travels a little bit easier.
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