Travel planning

Phone Photographing a castle

Back in the day, traveling abroad meant being disconnected from family and friends at home, maybe call them via payphone, and sending post cards. Technology has changed this drastically, and the advent of smartphones has made it merely a matter of deciding whether to use your own plan, purchase a local SIM card, or disconnect. Below are some tips and considerations for when it’s time to get your smartphone fit for travel.

The most common options to stay connected while abroad are either to rely on WIFI and accept limited connectivity, or look into options that have you use your phone independently of WIFI hotspots.


If you opt to rely on WIFI, keep in mind that you won’t be able to make calls, send messages or check the internet while on the road.

International data plans

Adding an international plan through your cell phone operator can be a good option to allow for connectivity away from WIFI with the convenience of using your regular number. Downsides are that international coverage plans can be quite expensive, may offer limited or slow data and messaging – and even though considered temporary, may need to be de-activated after your return home. To find out what data and calling options exist for your plan, reach out to your cell phone provider. Rick Steve’s post about this topic is very detailed and helpful.

If you happen to already have a Google Fi plan, you can pretty easily switch to international coverage for the time you are traveling. This plan is quite convenient as it lets you use your phone as you would at home without having to switch to a temporary local number.

Local SIM cards or eSIM cards

Oftentimes, the cheapest option is to purchase a local SIM card after arrival to your destination. The downside is that this requires extra work, e.g. going to a phone store, inserting or even switching the SIM card if your phone does not accept dual SIM, and dealing with a local number that your family and friends at home do not have yet.

A good alternative to this option is to obtain an international eSIM, e.g. Hubby. CNN has a review that might help you decide if this option is for you.

If you are planning to use your phone to navigate via the RideWithGPS Experience provided by us, no data plan is necessary as tracks are downloaded in advance for offline use. If you wish to use the GPS function, we recommend turning your phone on airplane mode to conserve battery life.

While GPS-tracks are included in the Experience feature, they are not necessary to navigate on Classic, Expedition and Bike & Boat tours. No data plan is needed to access the downloaded Experience on your phone while traveling. Using the App and the Experience feature is entirely free.

There are many options to make calls while you are traveling, e.g. via Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, or, if you are using any of the international plan options, your own mobile number. They all follow one basic scheme for dialing.

You’ll need to know the International Access Code (IAC – sometimes called Exit Code) for the country from which you are calling. This is also the case if e.g. you are using your US-cell phone in Europe. Next, you need the country code for the country that you are calling (CC), followed by the local number (LN).

European local numbers can vary in length; whatever digits follow the country code is the telephone number. For more specific information on how to make phone calls in the country you are traveling to, please check our country-specific instructions via selecting your destination country on the Travel Planning page, and the information on making phone calls shared with you on the RideWithGPS Experiences 14 days prior to your tour start date.

In most locations throughout your trip (exceptions apply for Cuba), local internet and WIFI hot spots will be available in cafes, hotels and restaurants.

Most of the hotels we use on tour have WIFI, although at times it may only available in common areas. We will note any major limitations on your hotel itinerary (accessible to you via RideWithGPS Experiences about 14 days prior to your tour starting date).