What do I need to know about international mobile phone use?
- If you are planning to use your phone to make regular phone calls, you need to make sure your phone will work in Europe. It will need to have multi-band GSM capabilities. ATT and T-Mobile operate with a GSM signal, Verizon and Sprint do not. However, some smartphones (iPhones, for example) have built-in GSM capabilities. The easiest way to find out is to ask your mobile phone provider if your phone will work in Europe. If it will not, see the last paragraph below.
- You will need an international roaming plan. There are several ways to do this.
- The easiest way is to get a plan through your mobile phone service provider. T-Mobile ONE and Sprint’s “Global Roaming” add-on are free and include Unlimited International texts and data. Phone calls to and from the US are 20¢/ minute. AT&& has the AT&T Passport and Verizon’s “Monthly International Plan” are $40 for 30 days with differing amounts of call time, text and data.
- Get a Global SIM card. You put this in your phone after you leave the US. It gives you a new phone number from another country, and sometimes a “toll-free” US number as well. (That means anyone from the US can call you for free, but you pay for the incoming call). Mr. Fink has used the International SIM card from Telestial.com for a number of years and it has been very cost effective. (With the International plan, incoming calls and texts are free, and there is no connection charge for outgoing calls or texts.) There are other plans offered by Telestial, and there are many other companies that offer international roaming plans like goSIM and World SIM.
Read the fine print carefully, as there are often connection and other charges. Also beware of companies like OneSimCard that give you an Estonian number – the rates for using your phone in Europe will be very cheap, but anyone calling you will be making a very, very expensive call or text. Search on the internet for “global sim card.” Also, make sure it will work in all the countries we are visiting. Some providers are very inexpensive in one country, (e.g. Lebara in France), but expensive if you use it outside of that country.
VERY IMPORTANT – most of the plans allow you to use data (for using GPS, surfing the net, checking Facebook…) but using data can be VERY EXPENSIVE!!! (There are many stories of people running up bills of several THOUSAND dollars in data cost!) Some plans charge $20/MB – which could set you back $40 just for checking you email and downloading a picture! Always read the fine print about rates. It’s probably best to turn cellular data OFF while on tour.
In order to use an international SIM card, you will need to have your phone “unlocked”. Ask your mobile phone carrier to do this for you.
If your phone cannot be used internationally, most of the SIM card providers will also sell you an unlocked international phone with the SIM card at very low prices.