With today’s technologies staying in touch by phone while you are traveling overseas is incredibly easy compared to what it used to be like not all that long ago. However, if you aren’t careful about how you go about doing it you can rack up some horrendous charges really fast. Here are some ways to try to keep the phone line open without needing to take out a second mortgage to pay off the bill when you get back home.
For several years people have been using Skype on their desktops and laptops to make calls for free to others who likewise have Skype and for like 2 or 3 cents a minute to those who don’t. And more recently smart phones can also easily access this same service. The only major downside is that you have to have access to wi-fi (or an expensive overseas data plan) in order to use it. So although it’s not a perfect solution for everybody, if you use it only via wi-fi it sure is an inexpensive and easy one if you have sufficient internet access while on your trip.
Caveat: Whether or not you plan to use Skype, if you take a smart phone make sure you turn off data roaming or select airplane mode until you have access to wi-fi. Otherwise your phone could easily start racking up massive roaming fees as it randomly accesses your email and other internet applications. I’ve read many stories where people have come home to $1000+ phone bill surprises.
Local Sim Card In An Unlocked Cell Phone
If you don’t have a smart phone or if you do and you don’t think you will have sufficient access to wi-fi for your needs, then the least expensive way to have access to cell phone usage is by purchasing a prepaid local SIM card that can be used in an unlocked cell phone. Ask your carrier if your phone can be unlocked. People with AT&T or T-Mobile phones may have some luck here. However, if you are on Sprint or Verizon then there really isn’t much point in even trying, because the technology on those phones tend to not be compatible with overseas carriers. If you don’t have a proper phone that can be unlocked, then you can easily buy a basic one on eBay pretty inexpensively or you could even wait to buy one when you get overseas.
Either way you can buy a SIM card when you arrive, pop it in, and make calls at lower, local rates. As an added bonus, usually incoming calls are free. The major downside to this solution (hey, nothing’s perfect) is that you will not have the same phone number as you have back home. You’ll need to let others know what your new number is as soon as you can. One way to do this is to change your voice mail message on your home cell number saying that will not have access to voice mail on that phone for whatever days and giving them your new temporary number that they can reach you on. You might need to ask someone back home to help you make this voice mail message change, since you’ll already be overseas. And although people will incur international call charges when they call you, those rates are likely to be way lower than what you would have had to pay if you had used your home cell phone plan for the call.
An International Data Package
If you really want or need to use your own cell phone without the need to have access to wi-fi, then you should really consider adding an international data package to your service. It won’t necessarily be cheap, but the upside is that this will be much less expensive than incurring those horrific international roaming charges on your domestic cell phone plan that I warned you about earlier. However, before you sign up for anything like this you should inquire as to whether or not your phone has the right kind of technology to work in the specific country or countries that you are going to. Again, AT&T and T-Mobile users will likely have better luck here. Likewise, make absolutely sure that the country that you are visiting is covered by their international data package. If it’s not, then you will most likely end up getting slammed with a horrible bill when you get back home. And if you do end up buying an international data package you still will need to monitor your usage. Overages tend to get very expensive very fast.