Why you should use WhatsApp when you Travel Abroad (and how to use it)

What is WhatsApp?

If you have not heard of or been using WhatsApp when you travel, or even if you do use it, you will want to read this (and it’s time to get out from under the rock by the way!)

WhatsApp is one of the most downloaded apps in the world, yet only about 12% of Americans use it. Compare this to around 80% of users in Europe who not only use WhatsApp but use it as their primary messaging app. The percentage of US users of this useful app will undoubtedly increase as historically, the US has lagged behind most of the world in cellular service and use of cellular apps.

Here are a few interesting stats:

More than 2 billion minutes of voice and video calls are made on WhatsApp daily.
More than 65 billion text messages are sent through WhatsApp daily.
Even if WhatsApp charged just 1 penny per minute for calls and 1 penny per text, their revenue would be 670 million USD per day!

Why Should I use WhatsApp?

So why exactly IS WhatsApp so popular in most countries? One very good reason is that the app is 100% free to download and free or almost free to use – and there are no annoying advertisements. In addition, WhatsApp transcends operating systems meaning, an iPhone can send a message to an Android, and vice versa, something that is not the case with iMessage. There are also lots of other things that you can do with just this one app and hence no more having to toggle between one app to make a call, another to send a picture, and yet another to send a text. Here are some more reasons that WhatsApp is, rightfully so, such a popular app:

Easy to use
You can make phone calls on it
You can send pictures
You can send videos
You can send sound bites/voice messages on it
You can send files and documents on it
You can send group messages

You can do all of these tasks on the above list with almost anyone in the world who also has WhatsApp for free or basically for fre.

Where Can I Use WhatsApp?

You can use WhatsApp while traveling almost anywhere in the world. There ARE a few countries where WhatsApp is blocked including China, North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Syria and the UAE. Supposedly, the reason it is blocked is because of WhatsApps’s strong encryption features, meaning, the government cannot easily snoop in on your conversations. In fact, some governments actually use WhatsApp to conduct sensitive conversations.

Update! One of our customers in the UAE reached out and conveyed that in the UAE, WhatsApp does work. Not only does it work but the “country runs on WhatsApp” meaning, that everyone uses it. The only caveat is that you cannot use the calling feature. Messaging, location sharing and other functionalities do work however. (Thank you D.F.!)

If you use Wi Fi, you can use this app for free and subsequently call or send messages across the globe 100% free of cost. While free is good, most people are willing to spend a few bucks for the convenience of not having to hunt down a café, hotel or other location to send a message. A better solution is to opt for an International Data SIM card or the Talk Abroad SIM card. Both solutions allow you to access data anywhere you are and not just in your apartment, hotel or café. WhatsApp uses very little data. In fact, with just 1GB of data, you can call for about 85 hours or send about 1 million texts.

What are the Downsides?

In sum, WhatsApp, due to its ease of use, tight security and low or free cost is considering one of the best apps around. If there is one negative aspect about WhatsApp is that telecoms have lost billions of dollars in roaming revenue. Cellular Abroad has also seen a substantial decrease in revenues – until we began offering these fantastic deals on data SIM cards. If you are planning a trip, be sure to check out our Data SIM page.

How Do I Install WhatsApp on my Phone?

Installing WhatsApp on your smartphone is as easy as downloading it from the Android’s Google Play Store if you have an Android or from the Apple App Store for your iPhone. WhatsApp will ask you to enter the verification PIN that they send to your cell phone number. When and if you put in a different SIM card into your smartphone, your WhatsApp number will stay the same – unless you want to change it.

Where Can I Get the Data I Need for WhatsApp?

Most smart phones will work worldwide for data and most carriers offer some type of international roaming plan. Some countries, take Cuba for example, are still very expensive for data if you use your US or Canadian provider – literally a couple of thousand dollars per GB. Even in most other, less expensive destinations, you will be either still be paying too much or will be getting data speeds that are so slow that you will end up being aggravated and either give up in frustration or paying your carrier for the upgraded speeds.

Verizon and AT&T, at least for most destinations, charge $10 (plus tax, so closer to $13) per day for unlimited, albeit with restrictions, data. There certainly are much less expensive options which include swapping out their SIM card for a more affordable on, like Cellular Abroad’s Data SIM Card.

T-Mobile and Sprint offer unlimited data at 2G speeds for most destinations. 2G is actually fine as long as you are not trying to have a WhatsApp voice or video conversation which will inevitably time out. A better solution is one of Cellular Abroad’s Data SIM cards or our international roaming SIM, the Talk Abroad SIM.

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About Sebastian Harrison

Founder and President of Cellular Abroad and travel writer.
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