Before charge caps and anti-bill shock methods were introduced by mobile carriers, I used to live a life abroad on airplane mode. If I am overseas for 7 days, for example, my mobile phone is also locked to airplane mode for the same period. This way I’m assured that there won’t be extra charges. I would then be dependent to my hotel’s wi-fi for limited internet.
As apps make travelling so much easier, we don’t have to live like this.
I know you have your own reasons on why should you roam. After a recent travel to South Korea, I listed mine below!
1. Subway apps are godsend
I like subways and trains. I like looking into the complex maps of Tokyo and Seoul subways and then successfully fixing your route without getting lost. It is already a travel achievement in itself.
But relying on signages may not work for others. Some sudden end-of-the-line stops can still be confusing. There are times that you will be asked to transfer, even if the train map did not show that it is actually the end of that line already. Say hello to train apps.
Not all countries with subway system have their own mobile app. However, Seoul has a pretty reliable one. Conveniently called the Seoul Subway App (downloable on IOS and Android), the app calculates which route is faster and easier from your starting train station to the nearest train station of your destination. It will also tell you which exits to go during transfers. That’s super!
Of course, you can’t enjoy this without consistent internet. Train stations in Seoul have excellent internet connection. But what if you were outdoors planning for your next route? Do you really have to wait for you to reach the train station before you can start planning?
2. Access to Rome2Rio and Google Maps
I’m not sure if you have encountered the website already but Rome2Rio healed all my anxiety on learning the ever so complex train system of Tokyo. If the subway app will just tell you the direction from one train station to another, Rome2Rio tells you the most effective transportation outside subways. From buses, to airplanes, cabs and Uber to taking it by foot, Rome2Rio has everything estimated in terms of cost and time of travel.
Sometimes, it will also make you realize that the closest train station suggested by subway apps and travel blogs may not be the best train station to get off. It will measure the exact distance of your actual destination, from one train station to the other.
Your work doesn’t end after getting off the train, right? Attached to Rome2Rio is Google Maps which you can open if you need directions street by street, turn per turn, from the station to your actual destination. It’s amazing!
It will even be more comforting when you can stalk yourself moving closer and closer to your destination. You can only do this, of course, when you’re always online!
A chicken rice omelette is one of the best meals one can get while on top N Seoul Tower, says popular website Lonely Planet.
3. Check out Lonely Planet and other blogs on great dining places
After a day of touring, the best way to heal a sored feet is to eat! Lonely Planet and several blogs are generous on providing information about the best restaurants and cafes in a foreign city.
Most of us forget listing down dining places in our iterinaries. So, while you’re on the road and about to feel hungry and tired, roaming works wonders if you can just snap your phone out of your pocket and google, for example, “where to eat in Myeong-dong”.
4. Money converters
They say that no matter what happens, don’t convert. I do. Even if I have extra money to spend, I still budget.
Converting is the first phase of approval. You have to find out if the food you’re about to order or the shirt you’re about to buy would be similar to how you purchase things at home. For those who are on a budget, sight-seeing may not necessarily mean splurging. You can only save when you know that stuff’s value on a currency you’ve been using all your life.
Of course, there are things you can only buy in that country. Knowing how much you have invested on it puts more value in it. A memorabilia from Bali may cost more than your expected price but if you really want it, go for it. Knowing its price, on a monetary value you are so familiar with, makes the possession more special.
Money converters also make shopping more reasonable. There are things such as haggling and window shopping which allows you to get the best price at the best location. You can always use a calculator and memorize the exchange rate but converter apps makes budgeting more up-to-date.
Mei, also a solo traveller from Guangzhou, China shared laughs with me for a brief moment while we took turns in taking photos of each other in Common Ground in Seoul. Mei speaks good English but not everyone you meet along the road is like her.
5. Don’t be lost in translation
Extending greetings to locals in their language is better than greeting them in universal English. It puts more trust and it also breaks the cultural barrier easily.
Sure you can memorize or prepare an iPhone note with basic greetings and phrases but you might run into situations that require more than the basic. A handy online translation is a good idea.
6. Social media postings and Instagram stories as real-time as it can be
Snapchat, Instagram stories or Facebook stories (wherever you are most active on) is becoming more engaging. Continue to inspire your friends to see the world or keep your parents updated about your safety with your social media updates.
You don’t want to spam the moment you reached the hotel with the deluge of beautiful photos and snaps you collected that day just because that’s the only time you can connect to wi-fi. Aside from better social media planning, real-time uploads are more genuine. Nothing beats an emotional and honest caption while you’re there, actually experiencing something great for the first time.
7. Facebook Messenger and Viber to cure a little homesickness
I have been travelling alone lots of times but I can’t say that I am already used to it. There are still some lonely moments that will just appear especially after the fifth or sixth day of being alone.
With roaming, you can just message a friend anytime just like how you make each other laugh at home. A warm “hello” is essential in making you appreciate your next stops for that trip.
Travels are less exciting without Instagram. So, here’s to exciting IG stories moments!
8. Spotify for dramatic train rides
Music will always and forever be the ultimate mood setter. Listening to Kygo in downtown Dubai or Chainsmokers on you flight to Australia make the process more memorable.
Spotify has this great feature of allowing you to download your playlist so you don’t have to be online each time you listen to it. But what about that great song you just heard on a coffee shop in Taipie. There goes your travel theme song archived successfully by roaming.
Also, this is great for people who didn’t have the chance to update their playlists before their depature due to their busy schedules.
9. Netflix and wait
Like Spotify, you can also download some of the episodes and movies on the Netflix platform so you can also watch it while offline. That’s good if your memory has more than 64 GB. That’s also good if layover is only 2 hours. That’s good if the airport has stable internet. If not, we go back to roaming.
You have to remember here though that there are shows and movies that are being offered only on certain countries. Train to Busan, for example, is available in Netflix Korea but you can access it here in the Philippines. The Story of the Life of Princess Diana (I love watching documentaries) is only available in the Philippines and not in Australia. So, while at home, it would be good if you can start downloading the features you want.
Took a not so popular route in Yangsu, a small town 1 hour away from Seoul. Going there from Seoul Station takes three train transfers, one bus ride and 15-minute walk. Thanks to online apps and Google Maps for taking me to the right place.
10. Work emails — FOR URGENT THINGS ONLY
Try to not work when you’re on vacation. That’s the best advice someone can get in the ideal world. However, for someone working for social media, some things can’t be planned and can’t be delegated to an officemate. Roaming makes less trouble when it comes to how fast you can reply to work emails.
Then again, try not to work when you’re on a holiday!