How To Navigate Europe With A Smartphone and Keep Data Usage Low


Whether you’re planning to go backpacking across Europe or just spend a week exploring one of its cities, you’ll need a reliable way to navigate from one point to another. You may be accustomed to using your smartphone’s GPS and apps like Yelp that help you find local attractions. But when you’re traveling abroad, you can’t always count on having cellphone service – and even if you have service, you run the risk of racking up hefty data roaming charges, if you’re not careful about how you use your phone.

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Read on to learn how changing the way you use a smartphone can save you big money while you travel Europe.

Service Options

If you want to use your phone to access the Internet when you’re in Europe, you’ve got a few options:

  • Get a local pay-as-you-go SIM card. Unless you’re really tech-savvy, this option may be more trouble than it’s worth. You have to get a new temporary SIM card in Europe, have an “unlocked” and GSM-capable phone and find a carrier that operates on the same frequency.
  • Get a Wi-Fi hotspot.  Several European companies have Wi-Fi hotspots available for rent. Expect to pay around $15 a day for unlimited data, or around $60 weekly for data usage under 500 MB.
  • Rent a phone. You can rent a 3G-capable cellphone for around $8 a day and pre-pay for your data services.

Download Maps in Advance

Before you leave home, check Google Maps to see what maps you can download on your smartphone. You should be able to download a map of a small area – maybe the several blocks surrounding your hotel – but you won’t be able to download an entire road in a single map. However, having a handy map of your immediate surroundings can be helpful, and because you downloaded it in advance, you won’t incur data charges when you look at it.

European Navigation Apps

While Google Maps can show you just about any route in the world, there are some advantages to Europe-specific navigation and travel apps.

Sygic Europe for iOS has some great features for drivers:  Sharp curve warnings, dynamic lane guidance and speed camera warnings. It also has pedestrian navigation, a compass and stopwatch.  This app operates solely on your phone’s GPS, so you won’t incur data charges when using it.

Desnav for Android also operates on GPS, and when friends install the app, you can chat in real-time via Desnav messenger. Helpful features include a route planner that allows you to include as many attractions as you want, and lightning-quick route recalculation.

Travel Safely

Because you’ll be spending a lot of time exploring Europe, it makes sense to budget for international medical insurance before your trip. It’s a minor expense, when compared to the potential medical bills that can arise from a traffic accident.

If you plan to drive and use navigation apps while in Europe, you should travel with a friend. That way, you always have one person focused on driving and one who can follow-along with navigation.

Have fun on your European adventure, and find an app that’ll help you hit the road with confidence.

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