Not all cellphones are created equally in their ability to work overseas. The best option is to have a phone that operates on the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network. While a tri-band phone will technically work, a quad-band mobile is your best bet. Before you leave, call your cell carrier to ask if your phone is a GSM model and how many bands it has. If it is, ask them to unlock the phone so you can access the other mobile carriers where you are traveling.
If your contract is up soon and you were considering moving to a new carrier, now might be the time. Some mobile phone companies offer plans that include international data and texting options at no extra charge; this eliminates the hassle of trying to unlock a GSM network and worrying about international fees. For example, T-Mobile has the Simple Choice Plan for all of its phones that includes unlimited international data and texting in over 120 countries and destinations. So, if you can get by with texts and social media over phone calls, consider getting a new phone and a new plan at a carrier like T-Mobile.
Purchase a SIM Card
If you need to make local calls to fellow travelers or to restaurants and museums to make reservations or schedule a tour during your vacation, you may want to buy a SIM card that gives you a temporary local number and local rates. Before you leave, call your cellphone company about unlocking your phone, and verify that the new SIM card will work. Once you arrive at your destination, you should be able to find the SIM card pretty easily; most airports, hotels and newsstands sell them now.
Search for Hot Spots
If you plan on sending a lot of photos or using your phone for other things that use a lot of data while you are away, you should turn off your data roaming feature and look for free Wi-Fi hot spots to avoid overage fees. The Wi-Fi option lets you make calls and send texts as well as upload pictures, email and post to social media. Before you go, download a WiFi Finder app to help you find hot spots abroad. This app uses your phone’s GPS to locate over 145,000 free Wi-Fi locations around the world, so there is sure to be one near you.
Although you will want to stay connected to family and friends back home, don't forget to put down your phone and enjoy your vacation, too. Smartphones are great for taking pictures and keeping in touch, but there's nothing like fully immersing yourself in a new place and culture. Bon voyage!
(Photo by dharder9475 via Flickr)
Article written by Debbie