Tips for Using Mobile Phones and Phone Plans While Traveling Abroad

Jonah Andersson August 21, 2012
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Mobile Phone

Even if you have used your cell phone throughout North America without problems, heading abroad for a business trip or a vacation will certainly complicate matters. You could end up without reliable service, or you might return to find staggering phone bills due to roaming charges. While having a mobile phone is a great way to stay connected and feel safe while traveling, it is important to consider your options before you go. Here are some tips for using mobile phones around the world as well as advice for choosing the right plan to meet your needs and still stay within your budget.

Contact Your Current Provider

In most cases, it will be easiest to use your own phone while traveling abroad. After all, you already own the device, know how to use it, and have all your contacts and information stored on it. Contact your provider to find out if it will work in the country you are headed to, and be sure to ask about the costs involved. Verizon is known for having high traveling fees, while Sprint offers travel packages with a daily fee for unlimited use.

Turn Off Data Roaming

Since smartphones are more popular than ever, there is a good chance that your phone can connect to the Internet in order to check emails or visit websites online. While this can be a handy feature when traveling abroad, it is perhaps the single most expensive cost to do with mobile phone usage in a foreign country. Whenever possible, turn off the data roaming on your existing phone and don’t access the Internet unless you are aware of the costs and can afford them.

Unlock Your Phone

Most phones purchased in the United States are locked, meaning that they can only use the SIM card that is installed within the phone. In Europe, most phones are unlocked and can have SIM cards of any kind installed in a matter of minutes. While in Europe, consider paying a small fee to have your phone unlocked so that you can buy a local SIM card and enjoy affordable phone communication throughout Europe on your own device.

Buy a Pay As You Go Mobile Phone

If your existing phone will not work in your destination, or if you are concerned about the potential for large phone bills on your return, invest in a pay as you go phone purchased in-country. These phones are both simple and inexpensive. You will need to pay to install local currency onto the SIM card, which can then be used in the phone until the money is gone. If you will be traveling throughout several European countries, then an unlocked pay as you go phone may be a better choice, as you can remove the SIM card and install a new one in each country you visit.

There are many reasons why travelers want to have a mobile phone. You can contact friends and family to let them know you are safe, call hotels and restaurants for reservations, and feel protected in the event of an emergency. By following these tips, you can also keep expenses down while using a phone abroad.

Darwin Christensen is a globe-trotting freelance blogger. Darwin recommends getting a phone and contract from if you plan on traveling in Europe.

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