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Avoid International Cell Phone Roaming Surprises

February 29th, 2012 by The JetSetter Team | Comments Off on Avoid International Cell Phone Roaming Surprises

. There are a lot of legitimate mail-order pharmacies in this country.

We’re not kidding here. Even with comparatively light air time usage, Mr. Grunski ended up incurring an $800 cell phone bill through his carrier T-Mobile. Too bad he didn’t realize there are a few simple ways to avoid sticker shock when traveling outside the United States. The first thing an international visitor should be aware of is the chance their cell phone will work fine in many exotic locations without any sort of adaptation at all. The problem, as Grunski discovered, is that a radically different rate schedule often applies. That makes our first bit of advice this: contact your carrier and ask what the rate is for incoming and outgoing calls in your destination country. This way, at least you’ll know what you’re getting into.

In the event you run into a Tanzania-at-five-dollars-a-minute scenario, don’t panic. There are reasonable cost ways around the issue. One option to consider is buying a temporary SIM card in the country from which you’ll be calling. It’s a simple matter to trade out your American SIM for a foreign one, then switch back at the end of the trip. A temporary SIM card provides a local number for the duration of the trip and effectively lowers the rate for both local and calls back to the United States. If Mr. Grunski had switched to a temporary SIM for the duration of his trip, his cell phone bill would have been $184 instead of $800.

There are two basic types of technology that carry the world’s cellular talking traffic. The most widely used, GSM, serves as the infrastructure for about 82% of all cell phone calls made. The other major system, CDMA, is incompatible with GSM (of course). Sprint and Verizon customers have the misfortune to be stuck with CDMA, which means your cell phone only works in about 26 countries overseas. Luckily, you can rent a GSM phone, good in more than 100 countries, for about $70 for two weeks,

and per minute calling rates that will probably fall between $1.99 and $4.99. Cheap? Not by a long shot, but it at least gets you a working cell phone for your travels.

Keep in mind that owning a GSM handset doesn’t mean you can breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to calling internationally. The fly in the ointment is that GSM technology operates on different frequency bands and – depending upon your global location – there might be a problem. For example, the United States and Europe use different wavelengths. If you have a triband or quadband phone, you should be covered almost anywhere. Otherwise, you’re out of luck.

Also keep in mind that most major carriers put an electronic lock in place on your cell phone that prohibits international calls. Done to protect against fraud, the lock is easily taken off but you’ll need to call your cell company to have it done. In most case, this should not be a big hassle.

If you think the cost of international roaming is high for voice calls, wait until you get a load of the charges to download data whilst surfing the Internet or sending images remotely. If you expect to be doing more on your phone than voice calls and texts, explore buying a plan that allows you to transfer a specific amount of data per month at a prearranged rate. Otherwise, a rate of two cents per kilobyte will likely apply. A kilobyte is tiny, especially if you’re in the habit of sending uncompressed vacation pictures back home to friends and family. If you decide to sign up for a data plan, pay attention to the point during the billing cycle at which you add it. Most cell carriers prorate the cost (and number of megabytes available!)

The big picture, when it comes to traveling internationally with a cell phone, is to spare the few minutes it takes to call and ask your carrier the appropriate questions before you go, and have a game plan in place. Don’t make the assumption that everything will simply work out. When it comes to international roaming, ignorance can be very, very expensive lesson indeed.

The Jetsetter Show Team






Flickr / compujeramey

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