Smartphones have made so many aspects of travel easier. In our pockets, we hold a device with maps, transportation schedules, a way to call a taxi, order food, book a hotel room, pay for things — the list is seemingly endless. But as we depend more on our smartphones, we depend on having access to the internet. The easy way is using Google Fi wireless service. Or, you can research and buy a SIM card or a personal wifi device.
I’ve been a Google Fi subscriber for several years and taken my Fi phone with me. While you can always seem to find free wifi when out and about at restaurants and hotels, I’ve depended solely on Google Fi on the rest of my adventures in Germany and Austria.
Connected Travel the Old Way: SIM Cards
For most travelers, a trip abroad means buying a SIM card once at their destination. By replacing the SIM card in your phone, not only do you change your phone number but your phone service. When traveling, this means you can use a local telecom company for calls, text, and data at, usually, a much lower rate than that offered by your wireless service at home. But there are lots of options in buying a fixed SIM card. How much data do you need? How many calls? You have to know it all.
But to use an external SIM requires that your phone be unlocked. Although at one-time unlocking was actually illegal, it’s now possible to do but can be complicated and intimidating.
Connected Travel the Old Way: Personal WiFi Device
Another alternative, if you don’t want to or can’t unlock your smartphone, is to use that SIM card purchased abroad in a personal wifi device. These can be bought or rented. It’s essentially giving you your own personal wifi router. It’s convenient for long trips with heavy mobile usage if, say, you’re working and depend on connectivity. But it isn’t the most convenient for checking a train schedule when you’re lost. Plus, you’ll be broadcasting a wifi signal so security precautions need to be taken.
Travel International with Google Fi
While neither a SIM nor a wifi device is overly difficult, I’ve found the seamless transition with Google Fi to be unbeatable. When I get to my destination all I have to do is: nothing. As long as your device has international settings enabled, Fi’s network recognizes I’m abroad and does whatever needs to be done to get me on to the network there. And while roaming charges are usually very expensive, Fi’s international rates are extremely reasonable.
Fi supports service in over 135 different foreign countries and destinations. Calls get a little more expensive at twenty cents a minute. Data connectivity is at the same rate as at home. Plus text messages are at no extra cost.
But there’s another added benefit with Google Fi that can potentially bring your bill down even further. Fi allows you to make phone calls over wifi. That means, if you’re connected to a wifi signal, it uses that network to make your call. Frankly, as a user, you won’t know the difference as to whether your call is using wifi or not. But it allows you to save a little extra money for souvenirs on your travels.
There are so many things to worry about when traveling. Making sure that you don’t come home to a gigantic cell phone bill shouldn’t be one of them. And you shouldn’t have to run around an unfamiliar city trying to find a SIM card just so that you can order an Uber or book a train ticket.
Give Google Fi a Try
Give Google Fi a try. After 30 days, you’ll get a $20 account credit. Fi have some associated terms and conditions.
(Prior to 2018, Fi was known as Project Fi. Since then, Google has promoted the one-time “experiment” into a full-fledged service.)
This post is not sponsored and contains affiliate links.