How to Technologically Survive a Snow Storm and other tips for travellers
It is 5am. Just landed in Istanbul in Turkey after a already to head off on a connecting flight to Antalya for the Samsung Africa Forum. Three hour of sitting on the plane on the tarmac and a bus ride later we are back at the airport which has been shut down due to severe snow storm.
We are going nowhere as all flights have been cancelled, snow is falling heavily, taxis refuse to drive, highways are shut down and 30 000 people are essentially stuck. In these situations it is good to have several Travel Tips up your hand-luggage.
Technologically Survive a Snow Storm
Connectivity is King:
When travelling internationally, most people disable international roaming as the cost is too prohibitive and no one needs a R15 000 cell phone bill to add to their holiday experience. The reason the bill is in the insane-region is when you receive a call whilst travelling abroad, the caller pays for the local call to your mobile phone and you pay for the international connection from South Africa to where you happen to be. Up until now, the solution is to purchase a local SIM card in the country and then hand out that number. Whilst this works it is not practical (or professional) to send a “please call me on this number” to everyone beyond family members.
So what do you do if you would like to receive calls? You need to check out Know Roaming. Essentially it is a sticker (not a typo) that you stick onto your existing SIM card which converts the SIM into a dual-sim. The Know Roaming app is installed on the phone and you load credits in US Dollars onto your account. In the app you tap on the Reach Me option and you get assigned a local South African number which costs $4.50 per month. All your calls are forwarded to that number in SA and for that you pay a local call using your regular contract or pre-paid minutes. That call is routed to your handset wherever in the world you happen to be. Instead of paying the full brunt of the international call, you are charged a lesser rate which comes off your Know Roaming credit. Each country has its own rates but the app has a Rate finder so you are always in control. A powerful feature is that you can be enabled this feature even when abroad which is very useful if you forgot to enable it before leaving home or if you didn’t think you needed it but then discover you do.
The additional benefit of Know Roaming is that it also provides you with Data. This for me is critical as international roaming rates can be an absurd R120 per megabyte (again not a typo). With Know Roaming you follow a set of instructions which sets an APN on the device. Once this is active you have an Internet Data available and charged a lesser rate than the roaming rate. Again the rate is listed in the Rates button in the app.
In my experience, Know Roaming is a must-have if you are expecting calls whilst travelling. There is no better solution. If you are only using Know-Roaming for data then is really depends on your flexibility and the patience level of the group you are travelling with. I tend to purchase a local Data SIM card in the country which works out cheaper then using Know Roaming. HOWEVER, this is not a simple process and requires time and usually patience as you explain to the non-English speaking salesperson what you are looking for using allot of hand gestures. A SIM card in the local country also does mean that men-options are in local language too therefore working out how many megabytes you have left is challenging not to mention working out how to add additional credit to your account. Also note that in most places there is a difference between a SIM card for a cell phone and a SIM card for a Router/ MyFi/ Personal Hotspot device. Oh and you can not use your cell phone as a hot spot in most places either. What is great about Know Roaming Data is that it is there immediately. A bit finicky to get to grips with it at first, but once you enable Data Roaming and Data and disable WiFi, then it works like a dream. So Know Roaming is more expensive than local SIM card, but a lot less hassles and far cheaper than International Roaming Rates from South Africa. Finally, upon returning back to South Africa, simply disable the local number so that you are not charged an additional $4.50 for month that you are not travelling.
All the connectivity options are useless when the battery meter starts to flash. Being stuck in an airport or a taxi on a snow bound highway with a non-English Speaking Taxi driver requires a working phone that has access to Google Maps (to make sure you are heading in the right direction) and Google Translate (when the taxi driver’s only command of English is “Good” and more worryingly “BIG Problem”).
Always travel with at least one but preferably two fully charged Powerbanks. Also remember that Powerbanks begin losing their power so you need to keep them plugged in or remember to top them up before heading out on a trip.
Take a pic of docs and not jus the Tourist Sites:
Airports are stressful enough and add cancelled flight, foreign language and lots of screaming and yelling and things go from bad to worse. What is useful is to use your mobile phone to snap photos of your Passport, Boarding pass and more importantly the Luggage Tag. These are critical bits that you need to have with you at all times whilst travelling especially in a situation where flights are cancelled and you are separated from your luggage that somehow managed to get to the destination before you do.
I also suggest taking a pic of your luggage before checking it through. This is helpful for the airlines in the event that your luggage is misplaced they register a lost-luggage on their system and this will help them classify it correctly.
There is a Travel App for that:
It is advisable to download some apps specific to the country you are travelling to – especially if they are non-English speaking countries. Apps like TripAdvisor are great for finding information on attractions and sights and especially the cost you should be paying. Having World Lens allows you to translate certain languages into English by simply pointing the mobile phone at the sign and even works in off-line mode with no Internet. It is also advisable to use the airline’s app to check-in as well as check on flight status. If you are going to access banking or other secure sites, it is advisable to use a VPN software that encrypts your data so that people can not snoop on your information. this is critical especially in a WiFi zone.