8 Crucial Things You Should Know Before Travelling Abroad With Your Phone, Tablet, Or Laptop

shutterstock 105346532 travel with tablet 300x300   8 Crucial Things You Should Know Before Travelling Abroad With Your Phone, Tablet, Or LaptopIf you’re about to go international with your smartphone, tablet and/or laptop there are a few things you should know before you go. You might need extra peripheral devices and plugs, entertainment and maps pre-downloaded, a new SIM card for data, and to prepare for a few important security scenarios.

Wherever you go and whatever your trip will involve, these tips will prepare you for things as best as possible. The last thing you need is to lose a smartphone full of data with no way of protecting yourself! Here’s what you need to know.

Work Out What International Plugs You’ll Need

Since the standard electrical socket type is different wherever you go in the world, it’s handy to have the right plugs for the places you’re going. There are useful websites you can use to find out which type of socket to expect though, like PlugsMap. Also, remember to pack your USB charger and car charger into your cabin bag as you can sometimes find places to charge devices on the plane or in airports.

Ensure You Don’t Use Expensive Wireless Data Plans

When you’re travelling internationally it’s worth noting that your regular data plan will probably cost you a fortune. Turn 3G off, disable notifications and push services, then do not touch it even for a minute unless you know you’ve got a good deal. Most people are horrified at how expensive international data costs are.

If you’re travelling through lots of different countries, you might consider getting an international data SIM. If you’ll spend most of your time in one country, it might be better value to get a data SIM for that one country or rely on a local hotspot network. Ask your current provider if they have any preferred partners in the country you’re heading to as you could get a better rate. Whatever you do, hunt around for the best deals before you choose your method.

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When considering your SIM choice, don’t forget to get the correct size SIM for your device! The iPad and iPhone 4 use a micro SIM, while most other devices use a full size SIM. You may also want to bring along any custom-made tool you need to remove your SIM.

Another data-conserving tip is to download as much as possible to your devices while using free Wi-Fi. Use apps like Instapaper to save websites you want to read in advance, while also adding music, movies and books to your device well in advance.

Plan Ahead & Get Offline GPS Maps

There are a huge range of maps available for smartphones and tablets. Ideally, what you need is one which allows you to get the maps you’ll need in advance and then find your location using GPS, without data access, later. Google Maps is very good at this, but there are plenty more you can consider too.

Bookmark All The Best Travel Deal Sites & Tourist Info

When you’re in a new area, apps like Foursquare can be a great way to find out about the best restaurants and bars. But most tourism offices have applications these days too, so do some research and get hold of them if possible. If there’s no application, they may at least have PDF versions of travel guides you can download and read while in transit.

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You might also like to check out these great sites for hotel deals and other useful travel information:

You May Need Wireless Peripherals

If you’ve tried to cut down on the amount of luggage you’re bringing and are therefore travelling with a tablet, you may think you don’t need a keyboard or mouse. But what happens if you’re suddenly required to do a few fiddly things for work or to make a Skype call? Would your tablet keyboard and microphone be good enough? Maybe it’s worth packing a few peripheral devices in your main luggage just in case. I also like to carry a headphone splitter so that I can share the sound for movies or music I’m enjoying.

Travelling Tablets Need Protecting

You might not need a case for your tablet for everyday use, but once your travelling things are different. You need free hands to go through airport security and carry luggage, so those tablets are going to be shoved into bags and possible handled by people other than yourself. Get a case if you want to protect your tablet properly.

Extreme changes in temperature may also affect your tablets, as it allows condensation to form inside the device. Also, extreme cold may affect the battery life of your device. For best results, keep your tablet insulated when travelling in extreme weather.

Protect Yourself Against Theft Of Your Devices & Data

Travelling will take you to busy places, some of them more notorious for crime than others. Regardless of the area, as a traveller you are a prime target. There are several things you can do to protect yourself against device theft or to help in the aftermath:

  • Carry your devices near your body.
  • Don’t get too distracted when using tablets or phones in public spaces.
  • Purchase insurance for your devices (and make sure you are covered internationally and for potential work usage).
  • Keep your devices locked when not in use. You might also consider the risks of leaving your applications logged in on your device.
  • Don’t log into sensitive accounts while using public Wi-Fi.
  • Back up your devices before you leave and when staying with friends while travelling.
  • Keep back-ups on-the-go by syncing with web storage like Dropbox or Box.
  • Install applications to help you retrieve a lost phone or tablet – or to delete the data remotely (for iPads, enable the “Find This iPad” feature before you go).

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Also note that many border security agents have the power to examine your devices and sometimes to ask for you to decrypt partitions. If you’re security paranoid, it’s best to bring only devices with clean installs and no personal data on them whatsoever (definitely nothing illegal!). This goes double for workplace devices.

Protect Against RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) Skimming

Here’s another travel tip for the technically minded. When you’re in a busy place like an airport carrying all your most vital identification and credit cards, you’re at risk of having that information stolen by RFID skimmers. Many passports and credit cards these days have RFID chips in them, which are vulnerable to being read by identity thieves who are carrying a portable card reader.

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It’s possible to buy an RFID blocking passport protector from places that sell anti-theft and travel security goods. It’s also an idea to put your credit cards in there while you’re in busy places.

More Great Travel Tips

Since you’re a techy who loves travelling, you’ll probably appreciate these articles too:

What are your best travel tips for travelling with tech gear?

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52 Comments -

0 votes

Edgar Meixueiro

Thanx for the ideas.

0 votes

Lee Ham

Do we still have to worry about US Export Controls. Once upon a time you could not export software that had any encryption technology, certain related software, or “high performance” computers. There are still export controls and lists of countries that are prohibited or permitted. If someone knows the facts, please comment

0 votes

Angela Alcorn

That sounds like it’s worth knowing more about. I hope someone knows for sure!

0 votes

Truefire_

Don’t forget extra rechargeable batteries! Energizer now sells them with chargers that can restore power in 15min!

0 votes

Angela Alcorn

Good plan!

0 votes

Jonathon

Just be careful what country you take them to, or pack them underneath the plane. My rechargeable AA’s were taken when I left Georgia (the country).

He did ask me to put them in my under plane baggage, but I would have had to go back through airport security to do so.

0 votes

Angela Alcorn

Wow – never heard of AAs being confiscated before. Crazy!

0 votes

Frederick Doe

I would highly recommend subscribing to a commercial VPN for secure internet access. If you don’t plan on doing data-intensive activities, you should look into PrivateTunnel. They charge by the gigabyte, and credits you purchase from them never expire, so the $12 you pay for 50GB is going to last you a loooooong time if you don’t stream media.

0 votes

Angela Alcorn

Great idea!

0 votes

Kaashif Haja

Next year i’m planning to go abroad!
These are good tips!

0 votes

Karen

I recently spent a month inEurope with my iPad. The only problems I encountered we’re making sure we could get and maintain Internet connections. Hotel Internet sucked. The only other issue was the plug difference and I knew that going in so it was no biggie. No issues at any airport at all. Breezed thru security with no problems. I did back up everything before I left. Most of all, don’t get so worried abt this stuff you don’t enjoy the trip……

0 votes

Angela Alcorn

Great advice. Some people do stress about things a little too much. :)

0 votes

Sebastian Hadinata

Nice Tips for traveling.

0 votes

April Eum

thanks for the tips and advice, definitely a good way to travel

0 votes

muotechguy

I would suggest also removing music, movies and pR0n. Customs in various customs can and will check your laptop randomly, and you have a legal obligation to give up any passwords. This includes music on iPods etc. If you’re going to be moving data, then I suggest a two-level hidden TrueCrypt partition to give you plausible deniability – just put some home movies and photos on the first hidden partition with a dumb password in case they ask. Seriously, people have gone to jail over this.

My solution: make a disk image and backup to the internet. Format, then redownload and re-image once you get across the border.

0 votes

Angela Alcorn

If your movies and music are legal it shouldn’t officially be a problem. Proving they are legal might be tricky though.

The two-level TrueCrypt partition would be difficult to pull you up on, but if you’re going to be asked to decrypt then the people asking will probably be looking out for people doing this, even if the second level is difficult to detect.

Your last suggestion I love. I think going through customs with a newly formatted drive is the best option, so having a backup disc image ready once you cross the border is fantastic.

0 votes

Ravi Lamontagne

wow, now i need a checklist

0 votes

Tabatha

Remember if you are going to any government locations (and some old landmarks) – you may be required to “check” electronics such as mobile phones due to security issues – lock them in the hotel safe if necessary (check ahead).

It used to be suggested you have a document from US customs declaring the valuables you have so that they will not be taxed going and/or coming back. This would be in lieu of receipts to prove you didn’t buy them abroad (thus having to pay duties).

Be careful with what you connect to the internet in hotels, cafes, airports, airline lounges, etc. It is pretty easy to scam passwords.

While this isn’t necessarily electronic – carry a copy of your passport in a place other than where your passport is, i.e. – different bag – and leave a copy at home in the event that your passport is lost or stolen.

Be cautious where you use your debit card if you use it at all. Also check to see if your destination allows use of credit cards (lots of countries do not).

0 votes

Angela Alcorn

Some great tips here – thanks!

0 votes

Irfan Ahmed

very nice article. thanks.

0 votes

James Graham

If you do decided to go with a carrier in the other country…check what frequencies their 3G run on. I have a Nokia from Australia that works great on Rogers/Fido…except I can’t get better than Edge speeds because the bands it run on is just off what the carrier uses.

0 votes

Angela Alcorn

Oh yeah – great tip. Thanks for adding it!

0 votes

AP

A great deal of common sense.

0 votes

Ellen Odza

This is AWESOME! I’m a university professor and am teaching a course with a “study abroad” component next term. I think if you don’t mind, I may require all the students in the course to read this before we board the plane.

0 votes

Angela Alcorn

We don’t mind! Tell them to read the comments too as there are some great tips from readers being added!

0 votes

fizzbin88

Great info! Very timely. I am traveling to the UK next month and was wondering about all of this. I am only interested in accessing the Internet. I have heard of buying or renting a Wireless Hotspot in England. You can order these for rent and pickup at Heathrow. Anyone have any experience with these devices? Thanks!

0 votes

Angela Alcorn

I haven’t personally, but it sounds like a great idea.

0 votes

Andrew G

I like how there’s no mention of how you have NO 4th amendment right when it comes to anything on any of your smart devices. Prepare to have hard drives and SD cards gone through. Truecrypt ftw (well, so far anyway).

0 votes

Angela Alcorn

It wasn’t specifically mentioned because it’s not just the US. Many border security agents will expect to be able to read all the data on your devices. Technically, they can ask you to decrypt partitions too if they notice they’re there. If it’s well hidden then you might get away with it.

0 votes

David Leggott

re the anti-RFID protection, you’ll spot stainless steel wallets now appearing on ebay, got one, they are quite nest. Hopefully they do the trick. There’s also some passport protectors there made from thin stainless steel threads too. Also can’t speak highly enough of the idea to photocopy all passport / drivers license stuff 2 or 3 times. Always keep some at home or copies in Dropbox. And always have a spare set of photocopies with you while traveling.

0 votes

Angela Alcorn

I do this too – there’s always photocopies of my docs in every bag I carry just in case something gets stolen AND on Dropbox AND on a USB key.

0 votes

taztiger

Everybody should read and follow the points outlined if they want a stress-free inter-country experience.

0 votes

Abhi

Great and very useful information

0 votes

Kieran Colfer

One big thing missing here: If you’re coming to Europe (or anywhere else really besides japan) from the US and you’re planing on bringing your phone, make sure you’re bringing a phone that can actually use the local network. AFAIK a lot of phones in the US are CDMA phones (especially on Sprint, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular) whereas pretty much everyone else uses GSM for their networks. The reverse doesn’t really apply, as the US has enough GSM providers to allow european phones to be able to connect to someone while roaming.

0 votes

Angela Alcorn

Someone else mentioned that too – Really good tip. Thanks!

0 votes

Emmanuel Olalere

Excellent tips, will adhere when i travel soon

0 votes

Andrew Jordan

My do’ & don’ts
Get an American extension cord cheap & light with say 4/5 outlets.When you plug it in via the converter you will need it for accessories hair driers etc.trust me.
I like magic jack because I can plug into the computer and via a head set call in the USA as if I am in the USA., like free dude! just the cost of the mj which I use at home anyway.
Last time I went to the UK I bought I used cellphone and a top up plan (pay as you go)and it worked out cheaper than any of the rent from the airport cell phone crowd. Plus I still have the phone and will re-activate it next time. It was neat going in the gas station and buying a top up for the phone and the gas.
Wi-Fi yes some hotels have it but when I was there 2008 it was bit like thomas Edison asking if they had heard of the telephone.Oh yes we have Blue tooth in the rooms. Strength was not good , if it went out they had to wait till the repair man came, 2 days after I checked out.My best bet I found was McDonalds free and good. I haven’t checked but at that time it looked like getting into T mobiles hot spots would be a good idea as tehy were everywhere.

Strip out every non essential from wallets,briefcases and purses. before reassembling photocopy all and put copies in each different piece of luggage esp what you carry.
Have $100 and equiv in local money secreted on your person at all times.In 4 x $5 & rest in $20 bills in diff places.Spare Credit card you are not carrying as well.Sounds bizzare but after 9/11 all the ATM stopped working, if you are mugged you have enough to get a taxi back to the hotel, if you are robbed throw the $5′s out and run. Don’t show the whole bundle of $20′s to a guy you are trying to get a hotel room after being mugged.
Men get a foldable small wallet to go in front pocket not back. Women that purse is Dollar signs and you are used to being stupid with it. You are not going to Russia they have everything you need wherever you go.Imagine you are meeting Prince William and you would take a sexy little purse with you.That’s what you bring.Put your money somewhere else, be prepared to let that purse and all of the contents go, your life is more important.
Sorry to go on about all the security but nasty things do happen and wherever you go as a tourist you are the fish and it is fishing season all over the world. There is nothing like the sick feeling of being robbed and then what seems like the indifference of the local police and the emotional upset.
I also put all my documents etc in different big plastic folders, like the job folders that the mechanics use at the auto shops.
One will be Itinerary, then Tickets, then Hotel, Car, Important Docs which includes passports etc. That way I can bring them out and produce the needed documentation, put it back, keep it in order and if I want to double check see through the clear laminate.Saves me a lot of worries.
I see nobody has mentioned a Kensington Lock and a chain. These are used to secure to a point in your laptop and then secure it to a desktop. The idea being you could be working , then secure it while you went to the bathroom. Never appealed to me but the extra long chain wrapped around the airport chair supports, and me and my luggage while I doze does.I can drift off and nobody can walk off with my suff.
Last thing thieves spot the type of people who are eassy to rob. Are you one of them? They look for people who are not self aware, and will take a moment to realize what happened and won’t fight back.
Relax, the airport is full of worries but you will get there. So start looking at the people around you.Look them in the eyes.Let them know that you are alive and aware and would spot them. Before looking up at the Eiffel Tower look around to see who is looking at you, waiting to see when you will be distracted. When you get to your hotel room check the locks on the door, put your stuff in the safe or the safe at the check in desk.Sleep with a chair up to the door. Check the windows and locks.
The laws are not like the States, all those rights in the Constitution , forget about it!, Call the Embassy Good Luck! You are on your own.
Travelling is supposed to be fun, so strip out all the crap and the unnneccerry by doing your homework and then you can enjoy. Don’t start talking loudly to people if they at first don’t respond to you. they may be trying to understand you, they are not idiots and don’t treat them as such. Europeans as a whole don’t care for the hearty Hi how are you approach. In the UK there are 60M people living in an island the size of New Jersey. Everybody has to have their little bit of space and quiet and obey the unwritten rules of good manners for it all to work.Good hearted Americans are sometimes like the Bulls in a china shop.

0 votes

Angela Alcorn

Some fantastic tips in here – thanks for taking the time to add them all!

0 votes

Iqbal Fazal

Very informative and useful!

Reference para:

++++++++++
When considering your SIM choice, don’t forget to get the correct size SIM for your device! The iPad and iPhone 4 use a micro SIM, while most other devices use a full size SIM. You may also want to bring along any custom-made tool you need to remove your SIM.
++++++++++++

The SIM tray in my iPad2 is jammed.

Can you please furnish details of such tools? Alternatively any article which shares experiences of successful removal of SIM from iPad2.

0 votes

Angela Alcorn

You might want to ask this on MakeUseOf Answers.
http://makeuseof.com/answers/

I was referring to tools that came with devices when you purchased them. I have heard rumours that an unfolded paperclip is useful when getting SIMs out of iPads, but you’ll want to find a good tutorial before you go trying it. Good luck!

0 votes

Sarit

For data access abroad I’ve used a rental MiFi solution on my trips to Europe. It cost me about 100$/week but it serves up to 5 devices (I would have paid my provider in Israel about 1500$ for the amount of data I used!!).
That’s a great solution for me because my android tablet doesn’t come with internal 3g support. I used Skype as and WhatsApp/Gtalk as my main communication methods. My provider’s “plan” is strictly for emergencies. Worked great.

0 votes

Angela Alcorn

That sounds a little expensive to me, but if it worked for you then great!

0 votes

Laga Mahesa

If anyone’s looking for an offline iOS map, I recommend Sygic’s products. I’ve been using their maps since my Nokia N95 days and they’ve saved my bacon a few times, like driving back from a beach at night to a hotel.

0 votes

Angela Alcorn

Thanks for sharing this!

0 votes

VS Vishnu

nice tips…

0 votes

Tom Bogan

One thing to remember, if you are a US citizen and are returning back into the US, you may have to surrender your laptop or tablet. Best bet if you have some material that may be questionable (racy pics, bootlegged tunes, etc.) you may want to consider encrypting the drive before your return, just don’t loose your key.

0 votes

Angela Alcorn

Yeah, this can happen in other countries too. Best to have a clean install, if you ask me! :)

0 votes

Louwra Preyser

Really good tips. Definitely turn of 3G settings!

0 votes

Chris Coppenbarger

Thanks for all the tips….I’ll keep these in mind the next time I go overseas.

0 votes

Reý Aetar

nokia maps
google translator
dictionary
and cash
thats all :D

0 votes

Muhammad Ahmad

Did not know about RFID before this post. Thanks for increasing my knowledge.

0 votes

Bewar’of Codingdevil

Great post! Never thought there was so much to care.. :-)