You cannot assume that your popular cellphone will work internationally, or that your current plan will cover the costs of using it. If you insist on using your own phone overseas, have your carrier set up an international plan. Even then, you need to wary of costly surcharges and exceptions that affect phones when they leave the country.
Even if your cellphone will work outside of the country, your service provider may charge you outrageous fees or surcharges to use it. Even companies that advertise global access may have hidden costs that only become apparent when you receive a bill for usage. Contact your provider and go over the details of what you need to have available when traveling abroad, and get the facts in writing.
Beware of Data Rates
You may have unlimited data usage within the United States, but those rates seldom follow you other countries. Be sure to look at the current rates in your destination, and schedule or restrict your usage accordingly. Be sure to turn of automatic updates before you leave on your trip.
Data rates apply to many categories, including:
- Phone and App Updates
- Streaming Media
- Web Usage
Plan for Power Needs
AC power in the United States is different from the default power available in other countries. Make sure you know what is coming out of the outlets in your destination, and buy the necessary power adapters to fit your cellphone. American standard connectors will probably be useless when you visit foreign lands.
Like in the US, cell phone reception around the world varies greatly. If staying in a hotel that’s far enough outside a city where reception is weak, a good cell phone booster for travel that’s rated for international frequencies can mean the difference between good reception and no reception. As always, do your research to make sure the unit will work outside the country by visiting various reviews sites such as this one.
Understand Your Plan
Even if you have the broadest domestic plan, it may not work for you abroad. Roaming charges are one example where a domestic plan can turn into a financial nightmare overseas, and you could find yourself paying upward of $1.00 per minute on a plan that is usually free to use.
Verify Your Cellphone
Just as the power and data options are different in overseas locations, the phone you use may not work either. Very few countries still use the cellphone networks that Americans think of as state-of-the-art. Even the SIM card in your phone may be incompatible with services in other countries. To overcome this and most other problems, consider buying or renting a phone once you arrive at your destination. If you do this, be sure to make a written copy of the numbers you may need to dial so you can enter them in the new phone.
Use WiFi When Possible
Instead of relying on your cellphone, it might be more affordable to leverage the power of WiFi. Take along a laptop or netbook, and use Internet cafes or free Wifi. By logging in to free WiFi along the way, you can avoid data charges, network compatibility problems and data plan surcharges.
WiFi can be used for most cellular communication, such as:
- Internet Surfing
- Magic Jack to Mimic Landlines
- Skype or other VOIP Communication
- Social Networking
- Video Conferencing