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(Data) Roaming the Globe

October 14, 2009


iphoneMost of us can’t live without cell phones.  So much so that when we leave it at home we feel naked – they have become that important. This probably means that when you travel you want to bring your bedazzeled cell phone with you, and bringing your cell phone does have it’s advantages. Besides staying on top of SportsCenter (or Gossip Girl for you ladies), it allows you to stay in touch with family and friends – not to mention it can be used in case of an emergency. But with international roaming and ridiculous data plans, do you simply just bring your everyday mobile with you abroad?  I present you with three different options when it comes to using a mobile phone outside of the USA…

Option 1: You can contact your cell phone provider to get your phone ‘unlocked’, which will allow your cell phone to use a different sim card.  You then can purchase a prepaid sim card for the country you will be visiting. What I did was unlock an old cell phone, which I strictly use for traveling now.  You might want to check out for more information on this option.

Option 2: When I go to Vietnam, I will be using Skype on my iPhone. I prepaid $10 USD for calling home (USA), which includes unlimited messaging when I have wireless Internet access and apparently cheap(er) phone calls.  There is a list of 40 countries where this option allows to you make free calls, sadly Vietnam did not make the cut so I will let you know how that goes. The only downside to this option is that you need access to wireless Internet to make calls, but in my case wireless Internet in Vietnam is supposed to be widely available.  My boss did this last month while she was in Eastern Europe and said it worked very well; however, if you bring an iPhone – or any smart phone for that matter – be sure to turn off your data or you will end up being billed a fortune.

Option 3: Depending how long you will be in the country you can buy a pay as you go cell phone.  This is only worth it if you will be in the country for awhile and need to contact family or friends back home as well as locals in your new place of residence. I used this option once in Spain and it was about 40 Euros to buy the phone, which you can return once you are finished.

I prefer option 1, it is time tested and proven, but I will soon discover how option 2 works and hopefully it doesn’t cost me an arm and a leg.  Alternatively, you can always stay in touch through E-mail using Internet cafes and choose to leave your cell phone at home.  Sure, you won’t be able to look all cool in a foreign country – Tweeting from your nifty iPhone – but if you happen to be visiting somewhere like Japan, they’d most likely laugh at your primitive technology while they put their Optimus Prime-like mobile up to their ear!


2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2009 1:26 AM

    For those of you who travel south of the border often, consider getting a cell phone from Movistar, one of Mexico’s two biggest cell phone companies (the other being Telcel, which is more expensive). For about 300 to 400 pesos (just under US$30 – $40) you can get a decent phone with plenty of prepaid talk time. Once you run through all your minutes, just add some more pesos and you’re set.
    According to my cousins in Mexico, Movistar not only gives you more for your money, but calls to the US are significantly cheaper.

    • darrenbrazil permalink*
      October 14, 2009 9:46 AM

      That’s been my strategy when traveling abroad too… get a cheap mobile and just pay as you go. I actually kind of combined Jon’s first and third options… making sure the inexpensive phone I buy can support various sim cards, and I’ve used it since, swapping sim cards when needed based on where I’m going and then adding minutes when I run out, also known as topping up (usually I just set it to automatically add when it reaches a minimum amount).

      Jon’s recommendation to use is good – they are cheap and you can pretty much find a great plan for any country; however, their sim cards are janky. Often times when making an outgoing call you have to call the number, only to have it disconnect on you, and then call you back 30 seconds later, ringing as it finally calls your desired destination. I’ve also experienced a good 3-4 second delay using their cards, which makes for frustrating conversations. So if you plan on being abroad for an extended amount of time I highly suggest you spend a little more for a better functioning product.

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