Technology is supposed to make our lives easier but travelling can sometimes complicate the matter. There are some dos and don'ts to remember when balancing tech and travel.
It all came together in Koh Samui, Thailand. Staying in a remote part of the holiday island for a couple of days, I found myself in my villa deciding to watch a movie.
With an in-house selection dominated by the words Van Damme and Seagal I turned to the iPad.
Despite a patchy internet connection (though it was just as reliable as my home internet connection in Subiaco) I went into my Netflix account, picked a film and sank into my king-sized bed.
A beach villa, Singha beer on the bedside table, watching Pulp Fiction on a screen — between breaks for a dip in the pool — it doesn’t get much better.
These days, we can do that. And in these instances technology is beautiful. But it can also get real ugly.
Keeping it simple
Too much of anything is never a good thing. It’s the same with tech. When you’re packing, choose your devices with simplicity and practicality in mind.
Is it necessary to bring a tablet, laptop, smart phone and camera? Short answer, no.
These days, most things can be done on a smart phone. I don’t even bring a laptop when working any more — I write everything on my phone. And I only bring a tablet, sometimes, when I know I’ll be somewhere where I can sit down and watch a movie.
Keep everything compact and ask: do I really need this?
A few years ago, checking Facebook on your phone while in another country resulted in a ridiculous fee. Thankfully the telco companies have stopped the exorbitant charges and now offer competitive overseas plans.
Depending on which telco you’re with, most allow you to keep your mobile phone number and use it overseas.
Vodafone is probably the best value for money with its $5-a- day roaming in Europe, the US, most of Asia and Brazil (it’s also free in New Zealand).
Telstra’s are not exactly value for money but they are better than what it had in the past. It has three “zones”, with data limits but unlimited calls and texts to standard numbers, which are local or international fixed-line and mobile numbers.
- Zone 1 in New Zealand starts at $15 for three days of use. A month is worth $150, with prices ranging in-between.
- Zone 2 is Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand. Three days is $30, a month is $300.
- Zone 3 is most of Europe and the US, where it costs $45 for three days and $450 for a month.
Optus has an “easy-to-use roaming rate finder” which you can access on its website.
Many other companies offer alternatives but practicality is an issue.
If you want value, be smart about it. Buy a SIM card in the country you’re travelling in and post the number on Facebook if people need to contact you.
Also, WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and Facetime; these guys are your friends. If you have a wi-fi connection, you have a phone line (and you also have free data).
Apps have a role to play. Where would we be these days without Google Maps? The problem with apps is practicality.
Personally, I tend to consult with the oracle that is Google for all my questions but, if you want to get all organised, the following are the basics:
- XE Currency: It is great having a currency converter readily available and this one is the world’s most popular.
- Citymapper: We don’t have it in Perth yet but this app offers more detailed journey planner information than Google, including real-time departures and disruption alerts, as well as Uber integration and cycle routes.
- Duolingo: We’ve all been there — that awful moment when you are staring at someone speaking in another language. Duolingo is the world’s most popular app to learn a language and it’s fun and easy. But if you need something on the spot, Google Translate is your friend.
- Splittr: Another situation we’ve all been in is the awkward who paid for what? Splittr helps you to split costs and is actually super easy to use (I know from experience). You add expenses as you go and the app will tell you who is next to pay and who owes whom how much. Easy. All currencies are supported and you can even mix them — and the app doesn’t need to be online to work.
- Everythere: This start-up from Perth was created by Stuart Kidd after his partner went on a team-building exercise where she and her colleagues rushed around the city collecting clues at different locations. “It was a sort of treasure hunt but along the way she learnt about different locations. When I heard about it I instantly thought that it could make for a great app,” he told Travel Club. Fast forward to today and the app is here. It is a location-based self-guided tour platform allowing you to take tours through your phone.