This coming September I’ll be heading to Europe and North Africa for a couple of weeks. This is part vacation with my family, and part business research trip. The latter being good, since it allows me to mix business with pleasure and have reasonable write-offs. When I’m not writing about consumer electronics and the latest news and happenings in the world of mobile technology, I write about military history and hence I’m visiting Italy, Egypt and Israel to do a bit of research.
And while it is still about six weeks before I venture out, I am planning ahead to stay connected. This is a bit daunting since I’ll essentially be traveling to several nations spread across three continents (Europe, Africa and Asia). This is going to be a challenge, and I’ll be putting the “world phone” experience to the test. In the weeks leading up to this trip, I’ll be looking into several issues in the world of mobile technology.
The biggest issue, of course, is whether a single mobile handset will do it all given the places I’m going. Obviously as a tourist being out of touch for a day or two isn’t the end of the world. However, I also have to factor in that I’ll be on a cruise ship part of the time, which further complicates matters. In this case because practically no mobile phone will work while the ship is at sea. This will make posting to the blog, checking in with editors and the like a little difficult. That’s not say impossible, but difficult.
One option is to see how the ship’s Wi-Fi rates compare. As with many European hotels, I’ve found that the advertised broadband is readily available to passengers on liners, but it isn’t always free. For the days that I’ll be sea I plan to work, rather than soak in the rays. If I can get online at least, and if I can get online I’ll turn off the mobile phones and rely on Skype and IM instead.
But even on dry land, the issue of communication remains difficult for the digital traveler, and I’ve experienced this before. So this week begins the first step in preparing for my research trip. And the first step includes:
- Determine the networks available in the countries I’ve visiting—most should be GSM, but I need to know ahead of time.
- Secure at least one or more GSM world phones, and see if I can find out how easy it is to buy GSM sim cards for the handsets to make the calls more affordable than international roaming. Of course, the flip side is that if you’re only in a country for a day, it might be cheaper to make the calls with your existing plan. Just keep the calls brief of course.
- Determine the rates for IM vs. calls, which is especially good for anyone traveling with a small group. Often times internationally it can be around $1 for a minute long call, but 50 cents for each IM. Something to consider if you’re having problems meeting your party. A one minute phone call can say a lot more than several text messages.
- Make sure those aforementioned GSM world phones are unlocked. Otherwise using a local GSM sim card isn’t going to be easy!
- Find out if international calling cards are available in the countries I’m going. In my case I’m traveling with my wife, and parents and a calling card is a good alternative should one lose, misplace, forget the phone, etc.
- Purchase disposal battery chargers for the handset(s). This way I can ensure that I’m not carrying around a paperweight all day.
I’m sure I’ll come up with more issues beyond obtaining an Egyptian visa for example. While the cruise line has promised they can provide such a visa, I’m in New York and a visit to the local consulate will ensure I don’t waste time. The key to travel of course is about planning ahead.