Traveling abroad for business or vacation no longer means losing touch with family and friends or using those expensive in-room phones in
hotels.  Mobile phones provide convenient access for emergencies, confirming travel plans and for local activities.  Cellular providers offer supplemental services and plans to enable customers to bring their cell phones outside the United States.  Other options include using local SIM cards to make calls while traveling or residing in another country.  Here are some basic guidelines and tips that can help you cost-effectively use a cell phone abroad.


Step 1

Do you take your phone or rent one?

Contact your cell phone provider and determine what type of international calling is available.  Some carriers like AT&T will offer temporary plans without a contract.  Others, like Verizon require a new plan altogether.  Note: some mobile phones are not compatible for use on networks outside the United States.  In addition, some providers may charge a fee for an international calling plan or phone rental.

If you don’t wish to carry your primary phone overseas, renting an international cell phones may be a better option.

There are phone rentals available everywhere from Walmart to online merchants.  Who’s reputable?  Check with several providers and contact them directly.

Some providers have unlimited calling plans, others require you to reload minutes after you run out of your initial block.  Every country carries a unique rate plan.  The bottom line?  It pays to do your research.

Here are a few websites we’ve researched that you may want to try:

Cellular Abroad

AT&T International Roaming

Planet Fone

So, take time to check your options well before your trip!

Step 2

Check the voltage requirements for the desired country and bring a power converter for the phone charger, if necessary.  Power converters are available at most cellular stores.

Step 3

Type frequently used telephone, emergency contacts, hotel and transportation numbers on the phone and save them in the address book.  Make sure to enter the telephone numbers using the international dialing format: for example, call to the U.S. should be entered with the prefix ‘+011’ followed by the area code and telephone number because calls made abroad will initiate from the local phone carrier.

Step 4

If you’re using a smartphone such as a BlackBerry or iPhone, be sure to turn off the online data function for emails, internet, etc.  Instead, change the email settings to “Manual” to reduce data roaming charges.  During your trip you can choose when to check for email messages when you’re connected to a free, wireless Internet connection, such as in the hotel lobby or Internet cafe.

Step 5

Consider signing up for Skype and activating a Skype to Go number or downloading and installing the Skype mobile application for smartphones.  A Skype to Go number is a local number that serves as a gateway to call outside the country.  You save money on roaming charges using a local number for calls to be forwarded to your cell phone.  The Skype Mobile application uses the smartphone’s data plan or wireless Internet connection for calls to Skype member or other telephone numbers.

Forward your home phone and mobile phone to your Skype number or to your international cell phone, if available (long distance charges will usually be charged for these calls).  International mobile providers may not post charges to your local mobile provider immediately.  Consider keeping your international calling plan activated for an extra month in order to reduce premium charges for calls posted late (providers can charge fees based on the date the local company charged the fee, rather than when the call was made).


Keep your cell phone secure at all times while abroad because you may be liable for usage fees for lost or stolen cell phones.  Skype services are not designed to call local emergency numbers (such as police).

Take time to check you options well before your trip!  You’ll save money, avoid fees and connect more easily overseas.







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