International Calls – You can use your phone for voice and internet when out of your home country. There are a number of options available but most are extremely expensive unless your company from home offers one. For us, TMobile did offer one but the cost was over $100 a month and we can use that $100 much better.
With Skype Why Would You Need A Phone
For voice we always use Skype. Our U.S. phone number costs $9.99 every 3 months and we add minutes as need them for around 5 cents a minute. However, we run a business and while Skype is convenient for talking to friends and family it is not a good business phone to use. We need to talk to business clients on a daily basis. That is how we run our day to day business operations – so a phone is a necessity.
A working phone number in the country I am visiting is a huge help. You can call for directions if you need it from your hotel or hostel. I can use the app for local taxi companies and that is far preferable to just jumping in a taxi. They are the scam artists of the world and with a company like Uber, Taxify or Bolt you know what you are paying in advance.
International Calls With You Home Plan
If you are only going on a short trip and do not travel full time then the best bet is to just use the international roaming from your local provider in conjunction with Skype. You will probably never have to pay a cent in roaming. If you like you can still get a local sim for a few dollars for just a few days in most countries.
Do not make these your source if you plan to make calls, you might get home and have a huge phone bill from the international roaming rates. Both Verizon and AT&T charge extremely high rates.
When overseas with a sim from home keep your phone in Airplane Mode to keep from being charged large Mobile Data fees.
Contact your provider before you leave home and make sure of the rates you will pay to plan your best choice.
Is Your Phone Unlocked?
In the United States, almost all phones are locked to the provider you purchase them from. If you are going to be on the road a lot be sure to get a phone that is GSM unlocked. You can use sim cards locally and save a huge amount of dollars. You can get these phones unlocked but it will cost a lot and might ruin your phone as I found out in Thailand.
You can buy a second unlocked GSM phone for use overseas for a small amount of money at your local Walmart or a like store.
International Calls Cell Phone Service
There are a number of new companies that provide global roaming but they are not cheap and can cost you as much as your local provider or even more. These international or global sims allow you to use your phone worldwide in most cases. The cost is high but new programs like the one from Vodaphone that lets you use their sim in every EU country are good. They will not, however, work in all countries in Europe or EU members.
Here is a list of some of the new global carriers you can check on. The cost is on an average $15 to $25 per gigabyte for data and you can get local data sim cards usually for $2 to $3 per gigabyte or less.
These companies work by securing service from major carriers in different countries and charge a surplus fee to provide that service to you and I would advise against them.
Global sim cards or mobile hotspot rentals are best for travelers but don’t get them at the airport. They are always much higher than in the local stores. Just ask your hotel or hostel which company is best and where to get a sim card for them when you arrive. You will save far more in taxi fares than the sim card will cost by using the local transportation apps.
The Local Sim Option
When you have an unlocked phone you can get any sim in any country and it will work. As mentioned above simply ask your hotel or hostel for the best local provider to use in any country.
This is always the cheapest option and you will be shocked at just how cheap this is in many countries. Once you have the card you can recharge at any phone location or you can buy a recharge card much like a prepaid calling card at many local convenience stores. I use Ding.com and can have my recharge credited to my phone online in just a few minutes.
Data is almost always 4G and is usually much faster than wifi at your lodging. We find ourselves using our phone as a mobile hotspot in most countries is much faster than the wifi we are provided with.
Data speeds with a local smartphone plan are always very fast. Use 4G LTE where available.
What’s My Current Setup?
At the moment I travel with a factory unlocked Note 9 I bought without a contract. The phone was purchased through Amazon for less than I could get from a local provider. Just be sure that when you buy a Samsung you use it for at least 30 minutes in the country you purchase in to create the unlock. Some sort of security Samsung implemented and if you do not do it then you will have a lot of trouble getting it unlocked at the next location.
Every country will have its local cell providers and a little research online can give you a good idea of what sim to purchase and what rates to expect. If you run out of minutes just use wifi and contact Ding.