Travel Planning. Expert Advice.


July 3, 2013

Discuss: Are Cell Phones a Necessity When Traveling?

One big trend that I’ve noticed recently is that more and more travelers are taking cell phones with them when they take a trip. And, with the ease of getting a local sim card in most countries and the proliferation of travel apps available, I can certainly understand why. However, is a cell phone really necessary when traveling?

Last year, I traveled for 6 months, covering over 11,000 miles on my overland journey from Singapore to Istanbul. During this time, I carried an iPod Touch, capable of accessing wi-fi, and a computer I could use Skype on, but I never carried a phone.

Do you know how many times I found myself wishing I had a phone during those six months? 2, maybe 3. However, in those rare cases where I needed a phone, I simply made do or asked a local if I could borrow theirs. Ultimately, I never felt that I was in a situations where the only solution was my own phone.

So, as you can guess, I think that having a phone is unnecessary. That being said though, there were times when having accessible internet was very helpful. However, being connected all the time keeps you from experiencing everything. It takes away the element of surprise and exploration in a destination, and it distracts you from what’s going on around you.

So, while having a device that can access the internet is a must in my book, having something that’s connected 24-hours a day isn’t necessary either in my book.

What about you? Have you ever traveled with a cell phone? Do you think it’s a needed travel accessory, or do you think they aren’t necessary? Let me know in the comments section below.


  1. I traveled for years without a phone but now find having one is a bonus. More having access to the internet and apps than using it as a phone though.

    • I had an iPod Touch when I was traveling and definitely found internet helpful at times. I can definitely understand why you would want to have a phone for internet and apps.

  2. Cell phones are more like an obsession, also when travelling. People get addicted in them just like with coffee, smokes and alcohol.

  3. They are not a necessity and I think we all have become over-obsessed and dependent on them. When I travel I turn off my voice & data plan for the duration of the trip. I do use them via With-Fi for email, as an alarm clock, and they are good for pics when I go out at night. So they are a nice to have…but not a necessity.

    • Definitely agree with you, Steve. I used my iPod touch for exactly what you mentioned. I don’t get why cell phones seem to make everyone’s list for must-have items when traveling internationally.

  4. Cell phones aren’t necessary, but it makes my travel more efficient. I can use maps, I can discover places through apps, find restaurants, take photos..

  5. I always had a basic cell phone. So basic! An old flip phone with a keypad to dial numbers and no wifi or data. When I travelled solo for the first time in 2007 I left home for 3 months and left all my gadgets at home. It was the best feeling ever to disconnect from the world. Not even via internet cafe. I got my first smartphone a year ago and only because social media and blogging have become my full-time job. Unless it’s your livelyhood, I think it’s still possible to live a life with a cellphone or internet connection 24/7.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *