Tales abound of cellphone bills in the double-digit thousands from customers who got snagged when traveling overseas. But there’s a bunch of easy ways to make sure that your cellphone bill doesn’t outpace your airplane ticket when gallivanting internationally.
NYT reports that the big one to know about is to use an unlocked cellphone that works on other carrier’s networks and buy a prepaid local SIM card when you land. These are chips that determine the network on and your phone number. You can just slide these in and out of your phone, and feel like you’re cool like Stringer Bell in The Wire.
When using SIM cards, AT&T and T-mobile customers have better luck as the signal their phones operate on work with more carriers overseas. Verizon and Sprint customers, on the other hand, are usually better off buying a basic unlocked phone in the country they’re traveling in.
The difference between using a local card or phone is the difference between paying pennies a minute and dollars a minute. There is also something to be said for being less contactable.
“When I arrive in the foreign country I buy a cheap prepay, at the airport or shop, then email or txt my temporary number to a couple of emergency contacts,” Consumerist commenter Mr Grey writes, “I go on vacation to get away from everyone i prefer to not be bothered.”
Local SIM cards mean you can’t use your own phone number or you might have to pay for pricey international call forwarding — unless you were smart and gave out a Google Voice number as your primary number which you can then forward, for free, onto any phone.
If you need to bring your regular cellphone with you for emergencies, your best bet is to keep your phone powered off and remove the battery. I’ve heard stories of phones that were turned off, but they still racked up pricey charges. The phone still kept trying to connect to nearby towers.