How to Use iPhone Internationally for Tourists: iPhone Settings While Abroad

Learn how to set up and use iPhone internationally for tourists, the correct way to stay connected without spending too much. 

How to use iPhone internationally

If you are planning a trip abroad, make sure your iPhone is set up correctly for international travel to avoid any communication problems. A crucial step is to check if you have an international data plan or not. If not, it is important to have one beforehand. Otherwise, you may end up spending too much on getting the Internet or even find yourself not being able to connect to any local network at all. Hence, staying connected without breaking the bank by preparing your iPhone for international use.

In this guide, we will cover: 

  • First step: confirm your iPhone can be used internationally
  • How to set up your iPhone for international use
  • How to get internet for your iPhone securely

I. Confirm if your iPhone can work abroad

Most iPhones have the capability to work internationally. To confirm it,  ensure you know whether your iPhone is locked or unlocked so as to determine its compatibility with different carriers abroad. 

  • If your iPhone is unlocked, it is not associated with any specific network carrier. This allows you to use it with any carrier, whether it’s local or international.
  • If your iPhone is locked, in contrast, it is linked to a particular carrier and can only be used with that carrier while you are in the country where the carrier provides  coverage. 

Now, we have 02 cases happened:

  • if your iPhone is unlocked, congratulations, you now can turn on data roaming on your iPhone, then browse the Internet, or make calls, send text messages. However, be noted that roaming services are expensive, so you had better consider some alternatives. Below we will give you some suggestions about it.
  • If your iPhone is locked, you need to unlock it. The most warranted way is to contact your network carrier to unlock it before traveling. The process of unlocking your iPhone will vary depending on the carrier, but it is generally a simple and quick procedure.

▶ Find out 4 tested ways to check if your phone can work abroad.

II. How to set up your iPhone for international travel conveniently and securely?

How to set up to use iPhone internationally

If your iPhone can work abroad, you need to execute other settings to prevent you from consuming too much data when using roaming services. 

1. Set up iPhone for international use

To set up your iPhone for data usage abroad, take these steps:

  • Go to the Settings menu > Cellular > Cellular Data Options
  • Select to switch on Roaming 

If you do not want to use your iPhone abroad, repeat the process but switch off Roaming service. 


  • Remember to back up your iPhone before traveling abroad so you can protect your data in case there are any unexpected things happening to your phone. 
  • Charge your iPhone. Bring a portable charger or use a power outlet to charge your phone while traveling. 

2. Other actions to take when using your iPhone internationally

After setting your iPhone for international use correctly, you can take some actions to use your iPhone internationally the smart way.

  • Update your iOS, apps and browsers to ensure the best performance and security of these functions
    • Check the iOS version by: Settings > General > software update. 
    • To update your apps: App store > Update > select the apps you want to update
  • Backup your data to avoid losing important data during your trip.
  • Free up storage space to prevent performance issues. Do it by deleting apps or backup to clouds or external storages.
    • To check your iPhone’s storage: Settings > General > iPhone storage
    • To check and empty the storage: prevent full-storage cause message 
  • Download applications to use offline (before traveling) or take advantage of a WiFi network. This will reduce your data consumption. Some apps allow you to download resources offline, such as google maps, taxi, delivery, and translation apps.
  • Turn off iMessage and FaceTime. These two apps consume so much data, so you should turn off them to save money. You can still get them back after coming back home.
    • To turn off iMessage: go to Settings > Messages > turn off iMessage. 
    • To turn off FaceTime: go to Settings > FaceTime > turn off FaceTime
  • Turn off useless notifications and cellular data usage to save your data. If you do not want to use certain apps with mobile data, turn off the toggle next to the name of applications.

III. How to get Internet on your iPhone while traveling abroad?

To stay connected throughout your trip abroad, it is crucial to have the Internet on your phone. Because data roaming is costly, you need to know other alternatives to get Internet access abroad.

There are various options to access mobile data while traveling abroad, including buying a prepaid eSIM, a local SIM card, a portable WiFi or using a data roaming plan from your carrier. However, it is recommended to use a prepaid eSIM for your iPhone while abroad because of its affordability and convenience. 

Why use a prepaid eSIM for travel internationally?

eSIM is a digital, virtual SIM card embedded directly into the mobile device’s motherboard. It functions as a physical SIM card but does not require you to insert a SIM card. 

However, not all devices can work with eSIM. If you have a newer iPhone model, you will likely be able to use one. 

You can check if your iPhone supports eSIM by yourself or scan our updated list of eSIM-compatible devices

eSIM can be bought and installed remotely in several minutes.

Best option to get Internet on iPhone while abroad

To buy eSIM, you have two options, either buying from a local mobile internet carrier with eSIM services for tourists or from a reputable eSIM reseller. It is recommended to buy eSIMs from reputable eSIM providers such as Gigago, through online stores, because it eliminates the need to register your personal information as part of the registration process (which is a must with the earlier option).

Just visit the online store you choose, search for the eSIM of the country you travel to, choose the plan that suits your needs, make a payment and follow the guidelines. That way, you are ready to use the Internet abroad with your iPhone.

Other options to get Internet access on your iPhone as a foreigner

As mentioned before, apart from the eSIM, you can also use other alternatives to access the Internet while traveling abroad. Each has pros and cons.

  • Buy a physical SIM card from local carriers. But it can be challenging for you to find a carrier with a suitable plan for your needs.
  • Use Portable WiFi. This option is rather complicated because you usually have to rent a device and put it back after finishing your trip. The rate is also expensive. 
  • Use free WiFi. Nowadays, it is easy to find free WiFi in public places like airports, cafes, train stations. However, they are not secure and can be slow. So, you should use it only when you are in an emergency. 
  • Use data roaming plans from your home network operator. This is the most expensive option for using your iPhone internationally. But it suits those who want to remain their primary phone number while traveling.

What is the best option to get the Internet for your iPhone?

The answer depends on your specific budget and needs. 

If you have an iPhone with eSIM technology and want to get the Internet instantly and conveniently, choose an eSIM.
If you have a locked phone and already have an international data plan with your home carrier, choose international data roaming.

If you have an unlocked phone and do not mind finding stores in a new country, choose a physical SIM after arrival. 

If you occasionally use the Internet, choose a public WiFi (it is cheap but risky).

IV. FAQs about How to use iPhone internationally

Can I use my iPhone overseas?

Yes, most iPhones can be used overseas

How do I set up my iPhone for international travel?

Ensure your iPhone is unlocked and consider obtaining a prepaid data eSIM or using a local SIM card.

How can I avoid excessive charges for data usage while traveling abroad with my iPhone?

Use Wi-Fi whenever possible and consider purchasing a prepaid data SIM card or eSIM.

What is the difference between a locked and unlocked iPhone for international use?

An unlocked iPhone can be used with any carrier worldwide, while a locked iPhone is tied to a specific carrier in a particular country.

Can I use a local SIM card in my iPhone while traveling internationally?

Yes, if your iPhone is unlocked, you can use a local SIM card while traveling internationally

How do I check if my iPhone is unlocked?

Contact your carrier or check the settings on your iPhone to determine if it is unlocked. Or, visit our guide here to check it by yourself.

What are the benefits of using an eSIM in my iPhone while traveling abroad?

Using an eSIM allows you to add a local data plan without needing a physical SIM card.

How do I buy and activate an eSIM for my iPhone while traveling?

You can purchase and activate eSIMs from local carriers or reputable eSIM resellers.

Are there any specific settings I need to adjust on my iPhone for international use?

Adjust settings such as data roaming, language, and region settings to optimize your iPhone for international use.