Travelling with your iPhone – how to unlock your mobile before you go


When going abroad travelling, or studying for any length of time you are probably going to want to keep in touch with other people, even if it is just incase of an emergency. This will not only include people you meet in your new destination/s but your loved ones at home, and we are extremely lucky in our technological era to have the opportunity of keeping in touch with friends and family who live abroad, via a multitude of free apps and social networking sites. (for more info on recommended apps and social network options please see “how to stay in touch with your special people for free”).

The best way of keeping in touch with everyone, is to have a mobile phone with you on your travels; a mobile allows you to download and utilise the free apps, or to call and text friends nearby (and those still at home). Not only can your mobile get you out of a sticky situation in an emergency, but if it is a smartphone it has so many other functions available, such as: maps, e-books, a camera, internet access and a music library. All of those things in one tiny device will save you space and cut down on weight in your bags. Winner!

There are various options when it comes to travelling with your mobile abroad and it will depend on not only the duration of your trip, but also your location. The three main choices are:

  • Taking your own mobile phone and staying with your current provider, by purchasing a travel “add on” through them (If you normally live in the EU and are travelling in the EU, check out this option)
  • Taking your current phone and purchasing a SIM card that will work in your specific destination (or getting an international SIM).
  • Buying a new phone when you get there.


When I began to personally look at these options for my backpacking trip in Australia, I decided that I would take my old iPhone 4 with me and get a SIM card that will work in Oz. It was by far the cheapest option for me, as I will be out there for a year with my (WH)visa and I suspect that will be the cheaper option for many of you who are reading this.

Unfortunately, the phone that I will be taking with me was previously on a monthly plan with Vodafone, meaning that it would only take Vodafone SIMS. Vodafone can be found in Australia but this wasn’t an option I looked at, due to the reviews saying that out of the 3 major telecommunications companies (Optus, Telstra and Vodafone) they had the worst signal coverage. I am also unsure as to whether it is exactly the same company or a sister company, although I could have checked this with Vodafone in the UK. To use an Australian SIM and save my pennies on expensive bills it was necessary to unlock my phone, so I thought I would share the steps that I went through with you all. Please remember that these are specific to the Apple iPhone and will be different for other brands.


How to unlock your mobile phone

 1) Contact your network provider

I went into my local Vodafone shop to request the unlock, as I had a few other queries that I needed to sort out. You don’t have to go into one of the shops, if you prefer to request the unlock online then that is also possible. For Vodafone users log in to your account at My Vodafone  to make the request.

When in my local shop, I found out that with Vodafone they could unlock my old iPhone 4 and my current one (4s) for free as I am on a contract which is over a year old. The customer service assistant helping me explained that it normally costs £19.99 to unlock one handset if the phone is on a contract which is under 1 year, so please take into account that there may be a charge depending on your circumstances.We filled in the necessary forms in the shop and she gave me a receipt of the request. I was told that it would take 48 hours to be completed and that I would receive an e-mail confirmation.


2) Check e-mails repeatedly!

One week later, a confirmation e-mail came through saying that the phone had been successfully unlocked. I don’t know whether there was a hold up with Vodafone or with Apple, but please be prepared for it to take longer than they say, don’t leave it until the last minute before you go!

48 hours
3) Complete the process

With the iPhone you have two options for completing the unlock. I actually ended up doing both, option 1 with my 4s and option 2 with my iPhone 4, using my new Australian SIM card (I’ve unlocked both incase the 4 I’m taking dies/gets stolen, so my mum can post me my 4s if necessary). I found my name badge pin (from work) was very useful for poking in what I’m going to call the “SIM card release hole” on the side of my iPhone!


Option 1: If you already have a SIM card from another provider, you are able to put this straight into your phone. You will be asked for your Apple ID password for this to work, so if you can’t remember your Apple ID password it may be worth just going with the option 2.

  •  Turn off your phone
  • Use a pin to open the SIM card slot and insert the new SIM card. Close it back up.
  • Turn phone back on again
  • Attach your phone to your computer/laptop and log into iTunes
  • Sync phone
  • Once sync has finished, safely disconnect phone from the computer and turn your mobile off
  • Turn your phone back on and go into Settings–> General–> About and check to see if the carrier has changed
  • If the carrier has changed, do a happy dance and congratulate yourself. If it hasn’t go to option 2!


Option 2:

  • Connect your phone to your laptop/computer
  • Log into iTunes and create a backup to your computer
  • Once your phone has finished backing up go into Settings–> General–> Reset–>Erase all content and settings (yes, this is why we backed up first)!
  • Your phone will now think it is a brand new iPhone
  • Connect it back up to your laptop/computer and log back into iTunes
  • Click on the little phone symbol on the left of the top toolbar in iTunes and click summary in the column on the left-hand side

phone symbol

itunes summary

  • You will then need to chose the Restore iPhone button and allow iTunes to do it’s thing


  • Once finished, safely disconnect from your laptop/computer

I then turned off my phone and put in my Amaysim (Optus network), which I purchased here. When I turned my phone back on, it was indeed showing that the carrier had changed. Success, HUZZAH!

If you want to know why I have already purchased a Simcard please read “Why buy a Sim before arriving in Australia?” If you decide to purchase an Amaysim and need any help activating it, you can find a step by step process here.

Now I am fully aware that this article is not the most technical and I’m sure it doesn’t necessarily use the right jargon,  I’m sorry to admit that I am not the best with gadgets and technology! I wanted to create a post that would perhaps help others, who have absolutely no idea about where to even start when it comes to mobiles and unlocking them/changing provider.

If you found this helpful, or if you have any other top tips, please feel free to leave them in the comments below,

Hannah x


**please note: I am not affiliated with any of the companies/brands mentioned in this blog post and I receive no money or commission if you decide that you wish to purchase their products. Any advice or recommendation is purely from personal experience of using the product/services.**

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About The Author


Creative unicorn ninja; Travel vlogger/blogger. Green tea enthusiast and lover of dance and art. Currently be found back in England planning the next adventure! Southeast Asia Odyssey coming very soon!

Where I can be found: UK

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