Kiplinger.com outlines options—some new—for lowering the cost of using your mobile phone when traveling internationally. Here are their suggestions along with some tips from SmallBusiness.com users.
Add an international plan to your phone
It may not save money on calls, but it will often save money on the time you spend setting up other ways to save. And in many cases, because they recognize the competition of some of the other suggestions below, U.S. carriers are making their international deals more appealing. (Note: Some older phones can’t be used in these plans. And by the time you read this, these plans may be out of date, so be sure to check with your carrier for their most recent plan update.)
T-Mobile | Offers a bundled plan that offers texting, data and $0.20 per minute calls for travel in 145 countries.
Sprint | Similar to T-Mobile
Verizon | TravelPass is a service that lets you transfer your domestic plan’s talk, text and data allowances to more than 65 countries for a small daily fee ($2 for Canada and Mexico, $10 for all others).
Use WiFi and a free app
In many countries, public WiFi is near ubiquitous—especially in hotels that cater to business travelers. (However, you need to be aware of the associated WiFi security risks and take precautions.) If your calls are primarily outgoing, you can save money on phone calls by using WiFi and the audio features of apps like Skype, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. They let you call, text and send photos and videos to other app users at no cost. Some (Skype, for instance) even let you call mobile numbers or landlines for a few cents a minute. Google’s Hangouts Dialer offers most calls to the U.S. and Canada for free.
Go local with a SIM card
You may want the security of knowing you can call, text or look up directions on your phone at all times. If you’re visiting a single country, you own an unlocked phone and you plan to make mostly local calls, popping out your SIM card and substituting a local SIM card upon arrival can be economical. Prices vary widely, but Dave Dean, founder of TooManyAdapters.com, a travel technology website, says you’ll generally pay between $10 and $50 to get a month’s allotment of calls, texts and data. (This is difficult to do in some countries, so you need to do research on your specific destination.)
Go local with cellular WiFi
If your phone is locked or you want to keep your U.S. phone number for calls and texts but avoid data roaming charges, you can buy or rent a mobile hotspot device, a pocket-size gadget that creates a personal wireless connection. Services like XCom Global charge around $14.95 per day to connect up to 10 devices. (Remember to keep your phone in airplane mode.)
Get a Free Google Voice phone
Google Voice is an amazing service, but it can be a little confusing to set up and take advantage of all its features. It provides you with a phone number that will ring all of your devices at once, transcribe voicemails, tracks missed calls, lets you dial international numbers cheaply and more. You can even set up a local phone number in a different city if you plan on being there for an extended period.
Do you have any more tips about saving money on mobile phones while traveling international? Add your comments below or email [email protected].
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