Traveling Without a Cell Phone: Alternatives to Staying in Touch

Written By: jeff

Posted On: May 19th, 2011

career break travel, travel advice, travel world, long-term travel, world travel tips, internet while traveling

In my previous posts, I told you why you need to ditch your cell phone carrier, how to get an unlocked cell phone, and compared the costs for you to show you how much you can save. Of course, all that assumed that you will be traveling with a cell phone. But, if you want to leave it behind altogether, that is a perfectly acceptable option too. In fact, for the first part of my career break, I didn’t have a cell phone at all. Truth is, I didn’t really miss it. Once I settled back in Buenos Aires for months for the final leg of my Spanish studies, I decided to get one again.

Here are some other options to staying in touch on the road.


Want to talk to your friends and family back home for free? Then, get on skype. You can use either its audio or video function. Many internet cafes around the world offer skype too. The exceptions I saw were in countries where internet service is capped or metered like South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.  But, in South America, Europe, Turkey and Egypt, I saw skype available in several internet cafes.  Alternatives: iChat and Google Chat, MSN Messenger

iPod Touch and iPad: With its wifi capabilities, built in browser and email catcher, you can stay in touch online using either an iPod Touch or iPad. On my career break, the Touch was a great companion and allowed me to have my basic communication needs met. Plus, with access to all the apps in the App Store, I could have my other connections with me. Plus, you will likely be traveling with some music, so the iPod Touch can serve double duty for you. While I’m not convinced of taking an iPad with you on your long-term trip, I know of many travelers that do and are happy with it.


It seems like the whole world is on Facebook these days. Chances are you are too…and so is your mom, boss and librarian.  So, use the technology that ¨everyone¨ is using already. You can set up a private group or a fanpage easily and people can keep up with you there.

Simple email

Why is that email communication sounds so retro to me? With a simple gmail, hotmail or yahoo account you can stay in touch and you can keep it simple.


It’s pretty simple and cheap these days to set up a basic travel blog for your friends and family. You can post your stories, photos and videos and leave messages for your peeps letting them know where you’re heading and if you’ll be out of touch for a while.

What are some of your favorite ways of keeping in touch?

If you like this post, sign up for our newsletter or subscribe to our RSS feed to keep up with Career Break Secrets’ career break and travel advice.

Tags: ,

2 Responses to “Traveling Without a Cell Phone: Alternatives to Staying in Touch”

  1. segacs says:

    I never used to travel with a cell phone — in fact, I considered people who did take them along to be in the same category as those who traveled with hairdryers or makeup (gasp!). Lately I’ve started taking mine. I’m Canadian, so as you know, we have the world’s worst carriers and plans, but I bought a cheap unlocked phone and now I buy local SIM cards for any trips longer than a few days.

    And the thing is, it isn’t about keeping in touch with home at all. I use the methods you described for that. It’s about logistics on the road. With a local phone, I have a way to reach local friends at my destination or to get in touch with people I meet along the way. I can phone ahead for hostels, train tickets or information at my destination. They’re for calling the airline when your flight gets cancelled and you need to rebook, or calling your couchsurfing host for directions back to their place. I used to rely on pay phones for all of the above, but they’re increasingly rare and hard to find. They’re also useful for having a local number to local friends at your destination, so you’re not all paying ridiculous long-distance charges.

    So now I take the phone with me. And I use it a little. I’ve also graduated to taking my netbook to use WiFi and log on most anywhere and everywhere. It’s just less time-consuming and less expensive than seeking out internet cafes. If that makes me a flashpacker, so be it.

    Oh, and word to the wise: Texting at 3am in a dorm while people are trying to sleep is NOT cool.

  2. jeff says:

    My path was very similar. First traveled with no phone and eventually decided to get one. For the most part, I didn’t miss it. Thanks for sharing the perspective of your experience.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge