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Tips for Cellular Service When Traveling Internationally

By April 23, 2012 No Comments

Smartphone usage continues to transform our lives and is becoming the norm for most business travelers. Their usage has transformed from a simple mobile calling device to text messaging capabilities, information retrieval, sending pictures or videos, entertainment and staying connected with family, friends and business associates. However, as with any technological improvements, mobile devices do come with associated costs, especially when traveling abroad.

Recently, Wall Street Journal writer Scott McCarthy’s shared a few ways to save money on voice and data charges when traveling internationally:

  1. Rent a local-country phone. If you’ll be in one country for an extended period, you may want to get a local phone, either before you go or after you arrive. TravelCell Inc., for example, will rent a phone for Israel for $19.99 a week with free incoming calls and text messages and 100 free minutes of outgoing calls to the U.S. After that, it’s 34.9 cents per minute for calls and 19.9 cents per text message.
  2. Skype. This service offers free video calls over the Internet and cheap voice calls to phones. But be careful: If you use your phone or tablet computer, make sure you’re not running up cellular data charges. If you have access to free or cheap Wi-Fi, though, you’re all set.
  3. Turn off apps, data roaming, fetch data and automatic synching functions on your phone’s settings. Look for anything on your phone that looks like it’s automatically updating and turn it off. Make sure Facebook isn’t automatically updating or that you don’t have apps checking stock quotes or sports scores constantly.
  4. Get a local Wi-Fi adapter. Renting your own hot spot can be a lot cheaper than hotel Wi-Fi rates, or worse, data charges from your cellular carrier.
  5. See if your cellular carrier has an acceptable plan. AT&T, Verizon and others offer global roaming plans that require a monthly fee but give you reduced rates. Those rates, however, can still be expensive. Instead of $1.39 in France, for example, you might pay 99 cents a minute for voice calls.
  6. Work incoming calls to your advantage. Cellular plans often have discounted rates for incoming calls and hotels often don’t charge for incoming calls made to rooms. So arrange to have people call you from home rather than calling them.
  7. Purchase a removable SIM card that works in an unlocked phone. You can sometimes get the code to unlock your phone from your cellular carrier, or buy, or rent an unlocked phone. For example: Telestial Inc.’s Passport SIM card comes with a U.S. and U.K. phone number, with roaming in 180 countries at 49 cents a minute for outgoing calls. Data cost 49 cents per megabyte in 135 countries and incoming calls are free in 75 countries. The card costs $19 but includes $10 of airtime.

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