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August 16, 2018

5 ways to stay connected

Prepare your phone for overseas travel with this handy checklist

BRYANT CHAN

SMARTPHONES have made travelling incredibly easy. The all-in-one devices help you look up recommendations, navigate unfamiliar territory, and stay connected with friends and family back home (and maybe even nagging bosses).

Here’s what you should do to get your phone travel-ready before setting foot on the plane.

1. Make sure you are connected

Arguably, the most important thing is to ensure you will have Internet access abroad. You can do this by purchasing a data roaming package, a prepaid SIM card from an overseas network, or by renting a portable Wi-Fi hot spot from a vendor like Changi Recommends.

A Wi-Fi hot spot will give you one extra device to charge at the end of the day, but it could also be the most economical way to give a travel group Internet access.

If you are getting a SIM card, buy the right size: Most smartphones use either micro SIM cards or nano SIM cards. Nano SIM cards can fit into micro SIM trays with the use of an adapter, but micro SIM cards will have to be cut to fit nano SIM trays. 

2. Save some offline maps 

Google Maps allows you to save large sections of a map so they can be accessed offline for up to 30 days. This helps when you either have a low data limit, or plan to travel in areas where there is no Internet access.

There are three caveats to this. First, these maps only have a 30-day lifespan. Second, depending on the dimensions of the sections you save, you could run out of space very soon. This is less of a concern if your phone has a slot for expandable storage. Third, maps of some regions cannot be downloaded for offline use. 

3. Download a translation app 

Translation apps help significantly when you travel. It’s always good to know stock phrases, like “where is the toilet”, but for more complex requests to shopkeepers or service staff, it’s easier to type out what you mean in English, and show them the translation. That also sidesteps any pronunciation errors.

Google Translate is a handy app. It can translate audio and words from text in images, as well as play translations out loud.

If you like a challenge, you could simply download a language-learning app. Got a long flight to somewhere like Germany or Russia? Pass up on the in-flight entertainment and brush up your linguistic skills instead. 

4. Bring a SIM card ejector

Nowadays, most smartphones use internal trays to store their SIM cards. Getting these trays out of the phone can be a finicky process — an ejector pin is needed to release them.

If you are lucky, the shop you buy your SIM card at will have an ejector pin you can use. If not, you could try your luck with a safety pin or straightened paper clip. 

5. Stay powered up

A smartphone becomes an expensive — and not very effective — paperweight if it runs out of battery. Make sure you carry a powerbank with you.

But power means nothing without the right connections. While USB-C is fast becoming the industry standard, many devices still use micro USB connections. You need to have the right cables for the job — for iPhones and iPads, this means using Apple’s proprietary Lightning cables.

Depending on your destination, you might also have to use a travel adapter to charge your devices at wall sockets, so always keep one handy.

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