People often write in and ask us how to use a cellphone abroad without roaming. Roaming can be insanely expensive. We don’t recommend you do it. But what should you do? The answer depends on what type of cellphone you have.
T-Mobile & Cingular/AT&T: You have a GSM phone. Some GSM phones can be unlocked and used in Europe, for example, while you’re traveling. You’ll first need to unlock your phone by calling your provider and asking for the unlock code. They will be very reluctant to give you the code if you are still under contract with them.
Then you can purchase a local SIM card and talk to your heart’s content for far cheaper than the cost of roaming. For more information on how to unlock your phone, click here. Not all GSM phones will work in all areas, however. You’ll have the best luck with a quad-band phone, but a tri-band might work. To check your equipment visit Cingular’s world travel guide. If your phone won’t work, you can rent one.
Verizon, Alltel, Sprint: You have a CDMA phone. CDMA phones are not compatible with GSM phones, and are less likely to work outside the US. If you have a CDMA phone you can rent a GSM phone, like a Motorola V3. Or simply buy an unlocked one from a third party.