international mobile roaming
How-Tos & Tutorials

Using Cell Phone Abroad: A Complete Guide to International Roaming


Thanks to our phone, we can meet friends, avoid getting lost in unknown areas, buy our next flight ticket or watch our favourite series. Every day that passes, we are more convinced that we are nobody without our phones. Being connected 24 hours a day in our country is getting easier every day thanks to the flat rates offered by mobile companies and the growing proliferation of public WiFi networks.

But what happens when we travel abroad? One of the things that most worry those who go abroad is paying for roaming to make international calls or access the internet through mobile data. The mobile phone during a trip can be handy.

In addition to helping us find information about the destination or locating a place of interest, it will allow us to carry out some measures or resolve incidents. Incidents like contacting the insurance assistance for trips abroad to go to a hospital, being informed on the airline’s website of changes to our flight, etc.

Before you travel, read this guide: Best Travel Apps to Ease Your Next Trip

Therefore, if you travel abroad and do not want to be disconnected or have surprises on your bill, this is all you have to know about roaming, mobile data use, and international calls.

How Does Roaming Work?

International roaming allows our device to connect with local companies outside of the country. Therefore the ISP’s (Internet Service Provider) infrastructure of the country we are travelling carries out all the operations.

This service does not come by default. You can activate it by calling the cell phone provider’s sales centres in your country. Generally, such activation by itself has no cost.

Another generality is that if we are already away and we want to have the service, it is also possible to request it through a call.

In most cases, we indicate the date we want to activate it, or it can be done permanently, always with the imperative that the charges apply if and only if we carry out international consumption.

Get Your Phone Ready for Travel

Suppose we are going to make a trip abroad. In that case, the first thing we have to investigate is whether the country we are visiting is within the international roaming coverage of the company with which we have contracted our mobile services. You can do that easily from the customer service phone.

Downloading Google Maps

Google Maps is a great tool to get us to our destination, but what happens if we can’t access the internet? Just in case, let’s download the maps first.

All of the solutions Google offers have an offline mode, and no matter how good our provider is, the unexpected can happen. However, almost all the products Google offers are for online use, including Android and mobile devices.

In the case of Google Maps, no matter how good our Internet access is, sooner or later, we will find an area without connection, with poor coverage or where it is expensive because it is in another country or geographical location.

To solve these unforeseen events, we can anticipate before starting our trip and download maps to our smartphone or tablet.

Download Maps in Google Maps for Android

Use an Android phone or tablet to download a map or several. You will have to open the Google Maps application, have your Google user account configured, search for a specific place where you need a map available, and click on Download once open.

You can find the downloaded maps in Menu> Offline areas. In addition, if there is no connection, the downloaded directions and maps are on display if we search for them directly in the Google Maps search engine.

Offline maps include text and voice directions for driving, but not for public transport, cycling, or walking. For obvious reasons, it does not show the traffic state either.

Download Maps in Google Maps for iPhone and iPad

The process to download maps in Google Maps from our iPhone or iPad is similar to the Android version.

Once the Google Maps app is open and with the Google account activated, we look for the place where we need a map and, once it is available, click on the Download button.

Maps will tell us the amount of data that the map will occupy and, as in the case of Android, if we want to download with mobile data or, better, via WiFi.

Downloaded maps are accessible from Menu> Offline Maps or when using the application offline when we search for a previously downloaded route.

The maps include all the available information. It is updated when there is WiFi access. For obvious reasons, it incorporates the directions of routes by car, but not the directions of public transport, by bike or on foot, or traffic information.

If you travel to another country and use your smartphone as you would in your home country – several times a day to access maps, check email, or send text messages to your children – you could end up paying a lot in fees. To connect abroad cheaply, you need a strategy. These are the most straightforward options:

Downloading International Calling Apps

Put your phone in aeroplane mode. Use it (in addition to features like the camera) only when you have a WiFi connection. Some phones and apps download data automatically when the phone is on and connected, resulting in charges, even if you’re not using it to make calls.

Use apps like WhatsApp (which is also great for sending photos to friends), FaceTime, Skype, Google Voice, Viber, and Facebook Messenger to make calls.

Bonus Read: Best International Calling Apps

Restrict Your Data Usage

Suppose you are going to travel within the European Union. In that case, you do not have to worry about hiring anything because there is no roaming in these countries, and you can continue using your mobile phone as usual. Of course, there are many countries where it is not, and you may have to choose a specific rate for international calls or travel.

Use aeroplane mode and free WiFi. If you do not want to contract a specific rate, deactivate your calls not to receive or send any because they will charge you. Also, avoid using the internet and take advantage of WiFi connections to make phone calls through WhatsApp and communicate with your family. Look for public networks whenever you travel, and thus you can save a lot of money abroad: in bars, cafes, hotels, stations.

How to Reduce Roaming Charges

If you travel from your country of residence to another EU country, you do not have to pay additional charges for using your mobile phone. This service is known as “no-charge roaming” or “roaming like home.” Calls (to mobiles and landlines), text messages (SMS) and data services are subject to the same rates as calls, SMS and data in your country of residence.

The same applies to calls or text messages you receive while abroad: you will not have to pay any additional cost for receiving calls while roaming, even if the person calling you uses another mobile operator.

Roaming (especially data) outside the EU can be costly. Before travelling, ask your operator about the cost of roaming outside the EU to avoid excessive bills.

Do not ruin yourself when you’re on a travel. Seeing the world is excellent, but seeing your phone bill through the roof after returning from a trip is not so great. Avoid unnecessary charges when travelling abroad by using aeroplane mode. There will be no distraction or excessive use of the phone possible.

When this mode is ON, you will cut the extra cost derived from international roaming. The option is to use WIFI connection points and sacrifice the possibility of receiving calls.

Turn Off Roaming

When it comes to using the mobile phone abroad, perhaps you think it is easy to control spending if you only use it precisely. But smartphones often use the internet without the user touching anything, such as checking for new emails or displaying social media notifications. And all that is consuming data.

If the trip is not long, perhaps the most sensible option is deactivating the mobile data. This way, you make sure that you don’t spend an extra euro on data roaming. In Android it is done from the menu “Settings”> “More”> “Mobile networks”; and on iPhone from “Settings”> “Mobile data”.

Eliminate Non-essential Apps

If you choose to leave the data connection active, you should know that it is possible to set a consumption limit. Telephone operators are obliged to put a limit of 50 euros on the use of mobile phones abroad if the client so requests.

In this way, you can avoid an excessive expense on the bill. To do this, you have to contact the operator and activate the limit before starting the trip. You may also be able to do it from the operator’s official website or app.

A less drastic option is to restrict data only in apps that are not strictly necessary. For example, you could leave email and WhatsApp active to communicate with the family during the trip and deactivate everything: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Spotify, etc. Both Android and iPhone allow disabling data for specific applications.

Avoid streaming.

Reduce Unnecessary Phone Calls and Texts

Aeroplane mode disconnects you from the world at the click of a button. All your applications – and the consequent cascade of notifications – are deactivated. You’re free! You can prepare for an exam, finish the master’s thesis, enjoy a whole album, get lost in the middle of nature, a mountain, a beach, etc. All without that constant pressure of having to read all your messages or emails instantly or having to turn off the phone. This minor action will reduce unnecessary calls and texts you did not want.

Get a Local SIM

An increasingly fashionable alternative, especially in very distant destinations such as Japan, is to use a local SIM card with a data rate. For a fixed price, these prepaid cards provide 500 MB, 1 GB or more to surf the internet at the vacation destination without worrying about extra expenses.

You can purchase them in telephone stores and supermarkets and, in some cases, order by mail to be sent home days before leaving for a trip or receive them at the hotel on the day of arrival. The vital thing, in this case, is to make sure that the terminal to be used is free, that is, you can use SIM cards from any company.

Roaming Bonuses

For those who depend so much on mobile that they do not consider deactivating the connection in any way abroad, another option is the roaming bonuses offered by mobile phone companies. With these vouchers, not only is connectivity guaranteed, but the price is low, and there is a guarantee that the bill after the holidays will not be an unpleasant surprise.

Suppose you plan to make intensive use of your mobile during the trip (consult maps or travel guides, for example). In that case, it is worth investigating this option on the operator’s website or contacting their customer service.


Summer is coming, vacations and travel. If you have decided to leave the country this year in the summer, there are some things you should prepare on your mobile phone. You can show off your smartphones wherever you go as long as you keep a few minor details in mind. So you can prepare your mobile to travel abroad.

Travelling is a great pleasure that we do not want it to damage by an error in our phone, that it breaks or gets scratched or that we cannot use it. It would be best to prepare your mobile to travel abroad before summer begins.


How Can I Activate International Roaming on My Phone?

In addition, each telephone company offers the blocking and unblocking of roaming from their operator settings. It is usually enough to use their mobile application or website (you must have a password and username), but you may have to contact their customer service. Ask directly about roaming or roaming.

Now is the time to travel and, of course, we prepare the suitcase and everything that we are going to take with us, smartphones included. In general, you do not have to worry excessively about your mobile since it usually works without complications in a foreign country.

Most smartphones are compatible with international frequency bands (there will always be exceptions, you have to ensure compatibility in the technical characteristics of the telephone). However, there is a critical obstacle when using the mobile in a different country: your company will not have direct coverage.

How Does International Roaming Work?

While you’re abroad, you can make and receive calls, send text messages, and browse the internet using International Roaming.

Roaming means the same as data roaming. This service allows us to use our cell phone (Calls, SMS and mobile data) when we travel outside of Mexico, and it is possible due to the agreements made by our mobile company with other foreign operators.

However, keeping roaming activated outside of our country could make our telephone bill more expensive when receiving or making calls and browsing the internet while abroad.

How can I save on International Roaming costs?

You can save a lot of roaming charges by simply deactivating it. The main reason to deactivate roaming on your phone is to avoid extra charges to your bill. When you are in another country,  the network you usually connect to does not reach that place.

However, some mobile phone companies have plans to contract packages with international roaming.

If you make sure that the country you are travelling to is included in your mobile rate, you can leave the roaming or roaming button active: they will not charge you more for its use (it will be limited depending on your country travelling). Otherwise, we recommend that you deactivate roaming before even travelling, both on your mobile phone and in your operator’s application. You can even remove the SIM card when you are at your destination, so any connection that gets lost can make a significant hole in the bill.

Why Is International Data Roaming so Expensive?

Since the operators focus on the coverage of the countries where they operate, they all establish agreements to continue providing coverage to travelling customers.

This service is called roaming or ‘roaming’, a service through which the user does not have to worry about coverage abroad. Yes, you will have to worry about the cost of such roaming. And a lot.

How Do I Turn on International Roaming on My Android?

Before travelling, it is convenient to know how to activate and deactivate roaming, something straightforward on Android.

To check the roaming status on your Android mobile, you must do the following:

  • Access your phone’s settings and look for the mobile network settings.
  • Check whether data roaming is active or not and choose the option you need.

How Do I Turn on International Roaming on My Iphone?

It is essential to activate this option if you do not want to get a scare on your bill. In addition to having it added to the device, we must confirm that our operator has activated roaming.

Once we have confirmation from our operator on the iPhone, we must follow these steps. If we have an iPad with a SIM card, the steps to follow are the same.

  • The first thing to do is access the Settings of the iPhone or iPad.
  • Once in Settings, click on Mobile data.
  • Now we must enter Options.
  • Within Options, we have an option to activate data roaming.

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