How to Use Your Phone Abroad Introduction To The Site

The idea for this blog came as a result of years of personal experiences where there was just not enough information on how you could use your phone while traveling to other countries. Over the years in my personal experience, things have not gotten easier even if they have certainly gotten better. What I mean by that is, that there is still not enough information to be able to sort of easily know what to expect when you take your phone abroad. A lot of the customer service people at major providers are really not well informed enough to give you clear cut answers of what you can expect.

That being said, there are plans these days that at least allow you to use your phone. There are apps that are going to make your life easier. Even though, it is still not an inexpensive experience. I was one of those people that got home after a trip only to find that my cell phone bill was just way off the charts. This was way back before smartphones even. Things have changed since then. These days most people are looking for data abroad and not really for ways to call abroad as much. So, what we are trying to do is answers as many general questions on the topic as possible.

  • Can I use my phone abroad?
  • What is the simplest way to use my phone abroad?
  • What is this going to cost?
  • The whole sim card ordeal
  • Where you travel really matters
  • Which top service provider offers the best deal?
  • Can actually buying a phone abroad be a better deal for me?
  • What is a good estimate of the overall cost?
using your phone abroad

Can I use my phone abroad?

The short answer to this question is going to be, of course, a yes! You are going to be able to use your phone abroad. It is just not as cut and dry as one would hope things would be for this day and age. There are a lot of factors that are going to come into play to determine what you are going to have to do to get your phone to actually work. Also, what the cost of you actually using your phone abroad is going to be.

That is what we are going to try to cover. Bear in mind though that there are just a ton of things that could come into play. This article is intended as, kind of an intro to the idea of using your phone abroad. It is going to be tougher to actually look at every specific situation. Even the type of phone that you have could play a role in you being able to use your phone abroad or not. It is not always going to be your mobile service provider or someone else to blame.

What is the simplest way to use my phone abroad?

The simplest way to use your phone abroad is to buy a plan in your home country that is going to include the coverage or allow you to purchase “extra coverage”. What this means is that you can actually buy roaming services that may have not been previously included in your plan. That could actually be a better option than having a plan that “includes” this service. The reason why one could think that is because when you are buying something that you know is extra you know how much you are going to have to pay for it. When it is “included” as a service, but there is fine print in your contract that says you are going to have to pay extra for these features the bill could surprise you.

As I mentioned before this is exactly what happened to me on a trip to Central America. Basically I had great coverage throughout the trip there was seemingly no problem at all. That was until I got the bill the next month. That is when you wish that they told you how much you could be expected to pay if you actually use some of the services that are included. Still, this is the simplest way to use your phone abroad as you are not going to have to go into technical details or having to buy a new phone or sim card wherever it may be that you are going.

What is this going to cost?

Another word of warning this could totally depend on what you do to get your phone to work. It can also depend on who your service provider is. Let’s start with a base price though. This is probably the most expensive that it is going to get. Both AT&T and T-Mobile have an option that is called a day pass. This basically means that you are going to have to pay for every single day that you are abroad and you want to use your phone. This “day pass” costs 10 dollars a day. It basically includes unlimited data, if that is the type of plan that you have. It may seem like a good deal when you read about it and they tell you that you are paying a low fee. Ten dollars a day though can rack up a pretty hefty bill over a vacation that lasts a couple of weeks.

Even if you are thinking I am going to Tijuana for 2 days it is still 20 dollars added to your budget. Of course, that may not be the best example as the rates for Canada and Mexico are usually lower than Europe or any other destination overseas. To the point where you are probably not going to need the day pass. Again, this is something that we cover in-depth in some of our other articles. So, we will stick here with saying that arguably the highest price that you could pay for using your phone with your own service provider abroad is 10 dollars a day. Now, there are other options out there. Which, could see you spending less money.

The whole sim card ordeal

If you have been researching this whole using my phone in another country or using my phone abroad deal you probably are familiar with the concept of a SIM card. For those of you who have always had long term plans and never had to even worry about your SIM card here is a quick review of the situation. The sim card is basically your phone’s soul. Without a SIM card, you don’t even have a phone number. The SIM card is usually given to you by your service provider and it is the way that data enters your phone and you are able to use it. I know this is a very rough explanation. It is just that this is not the actual purpose of this article.

One of the options that you are going to have when using your phone abroad is to buy a local SIM card. This way you are going to have access to a local number that is going to allow you to use your phone as if you were in your home country. Most service providers offer prepaid plans along with a SIM card so that you can pay basically for the data or minutes that you need for the duration of your stay. Without the need to get into a contract type deal that is only going to bring you a lot more trouble than you probably bargained for. The trouble with this technique is that not all cell phones are set for you to be able to switch out one SIM card and put in another. Therefore this option is not technically open to everyone.

Where you travel really matters

This is something that few people really talk about. It is actually one of the most important things about using your phone abroad. You see as we mentioned certain plans that you can buy in the United States will allow you “easier” use in Mexico or Canada. The reason why we can’t say, yes everything is super easy, is because it is just not. Unless you have a plan that gives you clear instructions on what you can or cannot do. Most of the plans allow you to call and sometimes use data, but you won’t be getting incoming calls. Which could be a real bummer. In Mexico and Central and South America, prepaid phone deals are super cheap.

This means, that the SIM card option that we previously talked about is going to be one of the best deals for you. In Mexico, for example, you can buy a prepaid sim card from the country’s top service provider and have data and minutes for around 10 bucks a month. If you don’t want to mess with your phone even buying a cheap phone here and using that plan is an option. When traveling to Europe the 10 dollars a day offer from your normal service provider can actually look a lot better. SIM cards there can go for 40 dollars for only 15 days of service. It really depends on what you are looking to do.

Which top service provider offers the best deal?

Just as a disclaimer we are talking about the best international deal. Now, in T-mobile and AT&T you are getting the typical 10 dollars a day deal. Another tip, make sure that you are accepting this deal if you really want it. You may need to block your device from getting a signal if you are not ok with paying the price tag. If you don’t do that you could find yourself paying a whole lot more money than you bargained for. Now, back to the original idea, sorry about that, Sprint actually has a bit of a better deal. They still charge you the 10 dollars a day rate that you are going to be getting from the other mobile providers. Their rate for a week is 50 dollars. So you are going to be let off the hook for 2 days with this deal.

Another disclaimer, we try and keep the content as up to date as we can. Especially as far as specific prices go. This is of course, at times harder than it could look! So, the Sprint deal is one of the best deals at the writing of this article. Things could change, but that is something that is probably not likely. Sprint is actually trying to keep their prices a bit below AT&T and T-Mobile.

Money Is Not The Only Thing To Worry About

This is kind of a side note, that we want to make sure does not go unnoticed. A lot of times everyone can get lost in thinking about what the price tag, but not really worried about coverage. In America, and especially in the big cities losing coverage is something that seems super 2000’s. The fact is, in many countries coverage is not going to be great in some areas regardless of the type of plan that you have. Most of the top service providers are going to rely actually on local service providers and piggyback on their satellite coverage and things like that. This should be something that you are going to want to consider before you pay those 10 dollars for the day or whatever it is that you are going to want to do.

This is especially true if you are on a camping trip, or you are out on a trip visiting ruins. For some reason a Machu Pichu, trip in Peru sort of came to mind. If you are expecting great coverage because you paid topped dollar for it in the middle of the ruins or on top of period or while riding an elephant or whatever it is that you like to do sorry, it is probably not going to happen. This is not meant as an indictment of the third world or to mention how bad things are. This is just trying to be as real as can be. If you are taking a visit to the main city of the country you are not going to have an issue. You may not be getting 5G coverage, because there literally is none in the country, but you are going to be getting coverage. If you are out in the middle woods or the jungle you are probably not getting coverage. Again keep that in mind while you shop or you do what you think is best for your phone needs.

Can actually buying a phone abroad be a better deal for me?

This topic ties in with the whole SIM card situation where you are getting to be getting a local number and local coverage. There are a couple of things that you are probably going to want to consider. At this point, if you are thinking about buying a local phone you have mostly chosen to take the SIM card path. For longer trips it is something is absolutely worth it money-wise. Even if you end up paying around 60 or 70 dollars for a month or just 15 days of coverage.

Now in buying a phone money is not the only concern. Let me explain this a little bit further. Removing the SIM card from your everyday phone can seriously mess with the data on your phone. If you don’t want to take the risk of that happening or actually taking the time to find someone to unlock your phone just go ahead and buy one. It is going to be a bit of an insurance policy if you think about it. You are not going to be putting any of the data that is on your regular phone at risk. If you are going to be doing a lot of traveling a lot of moving from place to place it is easier for you to lose your phone in one way or another. If you buy a cheap phone you are going to be able to take it with you on some more adventures without fear of losing it or anything like that. For those reasons alone it may be a better idea to buy a phone and put in a local SIM card. The truth is you really never know what could happen on a switch.

What is a good estimate of the overall cost?

We have gone over some of the ways that you are going to be able to either use your phone or have a phone that you can use abroad. The costs are actually going to contemplate just data usage on the phone. As call rates could increase the cost of a lot of plans.

The Cost of using your own phone with your regular service provider an area where they provide coverage abroad for a one week stay is 70 dollars with AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon in Europe. It is actually 14 dollars on Verizon for Mexico and Canda. Sprint is going to charge 50 a week on their international plan.

If you choose to buy a SIM card in Canda you are going to be spending around 70 dollars a month without your phone. In Europe, you can spend around 30 dollars on a SIM card per month with 5GB.