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Staying in touch while traveling abroad


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Just an offbeat topic…nothing to do with storage or virtualization, but might come handy if you were traveling outside the US for business. This post may just help you do your business better, help you stay connected to people, give you means to collaborate and provide full access to your information (either corporate or personal) while traveling abroad.

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The Pleasure of flying on the A380

Staying in touch

These days it has been quite easy to stay in touch with people here in the US while traveling abroad. Our dependencies are typically around mobile (smart) phones, Wi-Fi connections for laptops and being able to stay connected with family, friends, work and social media.

If you were traveling to the typical G20 nations, things may be easy with connecting back home, but it always presents a challenge. Traveling outside these countries may present a bigger challenge with being able to connect through your fingertips. Some of these challenges would be around finding Wi-Fi hotspots, making international phone calls, staying in touch with social media, etc.

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Mobile Smart Phones

One of the best options at least based on what I have experienced in the past 3 years is being able to carry a Verizon Global Phone (e.g. a Blackberry 8830 or a Blackberry Tour or a Blackberry Storm) and subscribe to a Global Roaming plan (which typically includes Voice and Data) and works in about 160 countries around the globe.

With only a fractional addition to your current plan, you will be able to keep the same phone, same phone number, installed apps, address book, calendar, emails and connect back to your Blackberry corporate server, either from a CDMA or GSM network whether be North America or EMEA or Asia Pacific with constant access to your data and voice through your global roaming plan.

To get in touch with you by a person in the US or a person located overseas, its merely dialing your US phone number and all calls independent of where you are, will be forwarded to you through the global roaming capabilities. This feature comes quite handy when you are traveling and you will not need to give 2 or 3 different phone numbers to people that would typically try to get in touch with you.

Though at times in some countries inbound calls on your cell phone may not display the name and number of the caller and may show up as a private number or a blocked number, you are guaranteed to receive all calls.

These days I have also seen the iPhones (AT&T versions) being able to practically do the same with global roaming when it comes to voice, but data plans while traveling are super expensive, which means, you may not be able to upload or download any data to your phone, apps, emails, etc.

Typically with Verizon global phones, as you land at an airport and turn on your cell phone, you get a welcome txt message along with all the prefix numbers that you will need to initiate a call to the US and for any calls locally in country.

Verizon Wireless is able to provide these global roaming facilities through its 45% ownership by Vodaphone a UK based cellular giant.

Again if you have any other options (even outside of Verizon Wireless) to get a global roaming phone, I would highly recommend it. Its just a not very convenient thing to buy cell phones, buy SIM cards, getting them topped with minutes, at times not being able to make calls and foremost staying without a data plan while traveling.

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Twitter and other social media apps

If you have an twitter app installed on your phone that allows you to stay in touch with your twitter followers, followings and friends, it should work just fine as you travel from countries to countries or continents to continents.

Other Apps you may want to have on your cell phone may include Weather, Facebook, Flickr, Maps, etc

Again anything that you are known to run on your phones locally in the US, should work while using the same phones overseas.

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Question

Though I wonder with China’s Internet policies, would one still be able to browse the content on an international global roaming phone when that phone is locally using the Internet in China to connect to the world?

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Skype

Not a bad idea to have your family and friends connect to you through Skype while traveling internationally, quite a bit of savings, amazing voice and video quality. So if the laptop you are carrying allows you to install Skype, go for it…

Also install Skype on your smart phones, which will help you make international calls very cost effectively. The latest word I hear as of couple of days ago, Verizon Wireless has given a node to have Skype on all the smart phones that are offered under its plan. That will enable people to make Skype calls locally and internationally.

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Internet Connections

Finding free Wi-Fi connections to use in your hotel rooms or lobby is next to impossible. The cost of Internet (physical or Wi-Fi) connections is pretty high in rest of the world. There are times where it’s likely you will not get an Internet connection.  Though I have found that staying with a US based hotel chain typically is a bit helpful when it comes to electronic communications.

If there are a few people that travel overseas from your organization at the same places, it may not be a bad idea to purchase a few USB broadband Internet connections for a monthly fee, which will enable broadband (wireless) access in those countries.

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Chargers

Most of your electronic equipment will just survive fine with using power adapters (verify they are 100v-240v capable & 50/60 Hz capable, which most of them are these days). Best practice carry one adapter and one power extension cord (US) and that will enable you to plug all your US devices with just one international adapter.

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Prepare before you leave

Make sure you have things prepared before you leave. For a casual traveler it may be second nature to travel within the US, but traveling internationally does present a few challenges. Verify you have power adapters, power extension cord, mobile global roaming, provisions for Internet connections, apps installed on your phone, etc before hand. It may not be very convenient to go hunting for these things the same day you land after a long flight.

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Cost

Yea this is where it gets interesting, Internet connections for one day might range as much as 30 to 60 US dollars in some countries, again do not expect it to be free.

Regarding your cell phones, consider the cost of purchasing a new phone, topping the minutes on the SIM, purchasing a SIM card, paying a fee for international calling, not having full access to your contacts, emails, calendar, etc are just a few things to consider.  Not having data plans typically hurt as well.

If you are carrying any cell phone and are not aware if it has global roaming, please refrain from using those, I have heard stories about people being charged USD 10K for using international roaming voice minutes and data kb thinking it was all covered because the phone was working.

Verify with your existing wireless subscriber as to what services are included as part of your global roaming and how they charge for each used minute and each used kb of data in the countries you plan to visit.

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Demographics about the country

If you are going to a country for the first time, it may not be a bad idea to read up a few things about that country on Wikipedia or on CIA’s Demographics page.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Demographics_by_country
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/xx.html

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Notes:

Sorry, this post is only talking about traveling from the US to other countries, I don’t think I would be able to think of everything that one needs to prepare to come to the US.

Though one thing I would absolutely say, if you are traveling from overseas to the US and need any electronic gadgets or computers etc, it may not be a bad idea to stop by at a FRY’s or BESTBUY or APPLE stores to see if you can purchase them cheaper here.

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Disclaimer: I do not own any shares in Verizon Wireless or Vodaphone or FRY’s or BESTBUY or APPLE or Blackberry, neither have I received any free products from them. This blog post is purely based on my experience traveling internationally and what I find convenient to have and necessary to have.