How to get the most out of your smartphone while travelling

Smartphones make ideal travelling companions. They can assist you with navigation, take pictures, and help you stay in touch with loved ones back home. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your smartphone while on holiday. 

1) Buy an extra SIM card 

Alexander Spiel from computer magazine c't advises travellers to get a SIM card from a local provider, especially on longer trips. "Prepaid cards often cost a few euros for a few gigabytes of data – but it's important not to let yourself be talked into a contract," he says. 

There is also the option of a dual SIM smartphone, a convenient solution that allows you to operate the foreign SIM card alongside your home one. 

2) Use WiFi 

Free WiFi is increasingly available at many tourist spots. The service is often included at hotels and restaurants, and many public spaces also have freely accessible hotspots. 

However, Chris Wojzechowski from Germany's Institute for Internet Security advises users not to enter sensitive information while surfing at public hotspots – so give online banking a miss, for example. Users can never be sure who is operating the router behind the WiFi or whether data is being recorded. 

3) Save map data 

At more remote travel destinations, you may find yourself without either WiFi or phone reception. But anyone intending to use their smartphone for navigation can download offline maps beforehand. 

Google offers maps that can be downloaded and used offline in the Google Maps app. Spiel also recommends the OsmAnd app for Android or iOS, which includes maps of ski pistes and even nautical maps as well as basic road maps. 

Many tourist centres also offer their own apps, which often include local tips alongside the maps. Navigation apps like Citymapper and HERE WeGo also offer free offline navigation. 

4) Stay charged 

Most smartphones are charged using USB cables, which are identical worldwide. But not every plug fits into every socket internationally, so you may need to bring an adapter. You can find out what you need online, for instance at A universal adapter covers various socket types at once, making it a good choice for a world tour. 

If you're travelling by car, you can use the 12-volt power supply in the cigarette lighter to charge your phone. These are also identical all over the world, and you can get a suitable and inexpensive USB adapter online or at a car accessories dealer – where you can also get a universal smartphone holder, if you're planning to use your phone as a sat nav. 

For backpackers, power banks are a good solution. These portable chargers come in a range of sizes. Spiel explains: "For a power bank to be able to fully charge a smartphone, it has to be around 25% more powerful than the phone's battery." To fully charge a battery with 4,000 milliampere-hours, you need a power bank with 5,000 milliampere-hours. 

Charging capacity is not the only thing to consider. Airlines may object to power banks that are too large because of the risk of fire. And of course, a large battery in your backpack also adds to the weight. 

5) Protect your device 

Smartphones can't handle every climate, so protective covers might be a good idea. Waterproof covers can keep rain, snow and sand away from your device, and are available in both hard and soft varieties. 

It's a good idea to test the cover without the phone before using it – a piece of blotting paper inside will tell you if it keeps out moisture, for example. 

6) Pack camera accessories 

Many smartphones have excellent cameras, and users can expand their photographic range by attaching small lenses. Fisheye, tele and macro lenses can give your pictures a completely new perspective. 

While clip-on lenses may not be able to replace a professional-grade camera, they are lots of fun and are fairly affordable from online retailers. — dpa


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