Traveling internationally this summer? I’ve been in Beijing for almost 3 weeks and I thought some of the lessons I’ve learned here might help inspire you to be prepared for your own travels. I decided to bring all of my iOS devices with me and have found them to be valuable assets along the way. Here are 5 things you need to know.
- T-Mobile is the only carrier that gives you free data and texting in over 100 countries. All of the rest charge you expensive rates and require an additional monthly fee just to activate international service. Since I am staying 5 weeks in Beijing I opted out of using cellular services completely because I knew I would have Wifi in my guesthouse at the university and I had a plan to handle all of my other travel needs. I had a lot of hopes for Skype WiFi, which promises access to WiFi in countries all over the world, but I haven’t been able to get it to work in China. Boingo is on my list to try this week, and it promises over 2000 hotspots in Beijing alone. If you plan on skipping cellular data then go to Settings > Cellular > Roaming and turn it off.
- Since I don’t have access to data and cellular coverage I have to find other ways to accomplish what I need. The first issue is finding my way around, and since I don’t have access to maps that require an active connection, I had to download an app which let’s me have offline maps. My choice is an app called Pocket Earth, which allows me to download a map of Beijing that includes information about stores, restaurants, and public transportation. Even without cellular data I can still receive GPS location information which allows me to track where I am, save locations for returning later, and find critical services. I have used this app almost more than any other while exploring the city.
- One unique challenge I face in China is that a lot of sites are not accessible. I can’t check FaceBook, watch YouTube, or use Google. Luckily my work has a VPN service I can use which allows me to access the internet as if I am in the States, but there are also paid VPN services you can subscribe to while traveling for a fee. In some countries you have to be very careful with this type of service because it may be considered illegal, but I only use it to check email and access banking information.
- When I am in my room I have an internet port that I connect my laptop to, which allows me to share my internet to all of my other devices. Even though Hotspots are coming to OS X this fall, there is already the ability to share an online connection via the sharing settings in the System Preferences. This is a great way to update apps, download maps, play WWF, and post to Instagram.
- Last but not least the most important thing I want to share is that I learned that it’s okay to leave my devices in their cases while I enjoy the sites around me. I primarily use my iPhone for taking pictures and my iPad for Skyping with my kids, which means the rest of the time I have been 100% more ‘present’ with the world around me. While I am not going to give up my connected lifestyle, I am certainly enjoying my time abroad, and it is definitely enhanced by iOS.
[all photos via my iPhone 5s]