What Should I Do With My Phone When Traveling Internationally?

If you have read through some of the other articles that we have on the site you know that there are a lot of different things that you could do with your phone while traveling internationally. Certain options are going to be a good fit if you want to save money. Others are going to be a better fit if you are looking to stay connected. These options could be great for business travelers. Especially if you can put that excess amount that will be coming in at the end of the month on your phone bill as an expense. That is going to be paid for by a company.

As you can probably guess we are going to say things like, “It really depends on your situation”. That is really the beauty of this whole thing. There is no one right answer. This can frustrate a lot of people. Yet, that is exactly what we are here for. To try and make sense of a complex situation. Here are the topics that we are going to cover in this article:

  • I need as much coverage as I can get
  • Buying a local sim card vs paying the international fee
  • Is buying a phone abroad an option?
  • Should I consider not even taking my phone with me?
  • Where you travel is really important
  • Contemplating all of the added costs
  • Is the fear of losing my information real?

I need as much coverage as I can get

There is no reason to sugarcoat this. If you are looking for unlimited data and coverage virtually everywhere then you are going to have to pay for it. A simple SIM card with a relatively small amount of data is not going to be enough. Most service providers are going to give you the option to pay a 10 dollar fee for you to have service just as you would locally. We have talked about this in some of our other articles. This can be the easiest option. Especially for example, if you have AT&T as your service provider and you are traveling to a country where AT&T has local service. With T-Mobile and Verizon, along with other service providers, they may have to tag along with a local service provider to even be able to give you coverage. This is not the type of problem that it once was though.

Buying a local SIM card is a great option if you want to have service pretty much everywhere you go. Now, there are certain places where even local service is going to be sketchy. The jungles in South America are not a great place for cell coverage no matter what you do. Before you make any decisions it may be a good idea to check the type of coverage that you can expect in the area where you are going to travel. This can help you get realistic expectations. In other words proper perspective on what you can expect to find.

Buying a local sim card vs paying the international fee

There are some people that are super in favor of SIM cards and so what they are going to do is push you to buy them. There is a downside to doing this though. Especially if you are going to be using your regular phone. We are going to try and paint a clear picture. Just on cost alone, you are probably going to be better off buying a local SIM card. Even if you end up buying one that comes with a whole bunch of benefits. Your fee per month on the international plan for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon is going to right around 300 dollars. Sprint is going to charge you 200 dollars.

While a pretty decent local SIM card even in the UK where things are more expensive could cost anywhere from 70 to 120 euros. Why is there even a debate to be had here? Well, with your international fee from your regular service provider you are paying per day. If you are staying just a week you can pay 70 dollars without the hassle of getting a SIM card, getting your phone unlocked and things like that. You just use it like you normally would. Now, there are certain places in the world where buying a SIM card is a lot cheaper than in the UK. So, it could be a good idea even for shorter stays. If you don’t mind the hassle.

Is buying a phone abroad an option?

There are certain reasons why buying a new phone entirely while you are abroad could make total sense. The number one reason could be that it is a great way to protect your data. You won’t have to worry about having to unlock your phone. This is something that we are going to get to later on though. Another good reason is that you are not putting it in harm’s way. There are certain places that you can travel across the globe and literally have a blast. Yet, they don’t happen to be the safest places in the world. Going around with iPhone that costs around a thousand dollars may not be the best idea.

Especially if what you are going to be doing involves swimming and other types of activities. Where you could also lose your phone very easily. As you can see not all of the reasons have to do with you spending money or not. At the end of the day, you may be able to get a great deal on a phone locally. Heck, some SIM cards actually come with a cheap phone included.

Should I consider not even taking my phone with me?

For most people, these days spending one day without their phones could seem like something that is just unbearable. So just the thought of leaving their phone when traveling internationally could seem outrageous. There are a couple of reasons that suggest though, this could be a good idea. How well do you know your current contract with your regular service provider? Some providers operate in a gray area when it comes to using your phone abroad. While there are the 10 dollar daily plans out there, these sometimes have to be activated. If you don’t do this process correctly you could be charged way more than that. Even if you just turn your phone on for a couple of minutes every day. This is something that you shouldn’t fear, but you should probably look into a bit more.

Now, you are going to be able to use most of your phone’s features, besides calls, of course, just running on wifi. So, the idea of just leaving your phone completely behind may not be as doable as it would seem. Especially with the amount of information that each carries around in their pocket these days. Leaving it then, fully behind may not be an option. A good idea though maybe to make sure that you only activate it with wifi. Shut off your regular cell coverage so there is no chance that you get one of those over the top charges. Of course, this is what you could do if you are not keen on paying for the 10 dollars a day plan.

Where you travel is really important

Where you travel is literally going to be what determines what you pay for phone coverage. No matter what method you decide to use. For the most part, international plans on your average phone company is going to include coverage in Canada and Mexico for a smaller fee. For Verizon for example, what you are going to have to do is going to the settings on your phone and activate roaming. Keep in mind that you may have to restart your phone after doing this. The cost per day in Canada and Mexico is going to be 5 dollars. So, that is half what you are going to have to pay for all of the other countries which is the 10 dollar charge that has been talked about.

Also, the cost of SIM cards is going to differ from country to country. Which, is going to make the dilemma of paying the 10 dollars a day more relevant or irrelevant. Depending on what it is going to cost you to buy a local SIM card. Another tip could be to buy SIM cards outside of the tourist area. This goes for any place that you will visit. A lot of times the prices for tourists tend to go up. Some merchants are not as kind to tourists as we would wish they would be.

Contemplating all of the added costs

Most sites that you are going to find that talk about these particular topics want to push people into buying local SIM cards. It is not that we are better or worse, but we are one of the few that like to consider all of the options. If you take into account that you are going to be able to use your regular device without wasting your data with wifi, then you really have to take certain things into consideration. Such as, how long are you actually going to be outside? If you are taking a business trip and you know that you are going to be indoors where you are going to be able to hook up to the wifi, it may even be a good idea to get any extra plans. Especially if your trip is going to be just a couple of days long.

The fact that you may have to mess with your phone’s settings to be able to get service from a local SIM card could prove more costly down the line. At the very least you are going to have to spend time on your trip trying to get your phone to work on a local SIM. You could have to spend some time back home trying to get your phone where it was. Buying a cheap phone with a cheap SIM for just a couple of days could be another one of the decent options that you are going to have. If you use it correctly, even a cheap SIM with 2GB or less could be a great option for you. In this case, though, your habits may have to change. Use your regular phone with wifi while you can. Then just use the other phone as a back up to make certain quick calls or make sure that you are not lost!

Another cost that you could have is going to be on voltage converters. This is something that you are going to need if you travel to Europe. Your phone charger is probably going to run on a different type of voltage than the one that they have in Europe. There are two options for you here. You can buy a voltage converter and use that to charge your phone. Over the years a lot of people have reported battery failure after trips to and from Europe. This is probably one of the main causes. On the other hand, you could just go ahead and buy a local charger that is going to run on the local voltage. If you have an iPhone that is not going to be a great idea though.

This then could be one of the other top reasons why it is a good idea to buy a phone abroad. It may be costing you more money when push comes to shove. Yet, in a lot of ways, this is going to allow you to sleep a lot better at night. Certainly, money is not the only thing that should be taken into consideration in this whole process.

Is the fear of losing my information real?

Devices have certainly evolved from what they once were. So, adding a new SIM card to your device may not be as harmful as it once was. Actually newer versions of the iPhone come with a built-in capacity to handle 2 SIM cards. So you won’t have to live with that fear of losing your information. Not all of the devices have that capability. Actually not all of the devices on the market today are going to be able to run on a foreign SIM. So this is another one of the things that you should keep in mind. Not all SIM cards are exactly the same size either. This is one of the reasons why if you have not checked that out on your phone it is better that you get help from people who know a bit more on the subject. If, of course, your idea is that you are going to go ahead and buy a SIM card.

Again, the reason why we talk about the international plans that T-Mobile, Verizon, and company offer as a real alternative is just how easy it is to activate them. You are not going to be putting in anything into your phone that you normally wouldn’t. Plus, you are not going to have to spend your time looking for a decent place to buy a SIM card. There are a lot of scams out there for tourists with these types of things. Especially if you are buying right off the street. In a place where you just don’t know the language. At times the extra monetary cost could be worth it.

The Final Verdict: What Should I Do With My Phone When Traveling Internationally

The first thing that can be said is that pretty much any option that was explored here could be valid. To be fair, certain things are going to cost more in some countries than others. So, it is really hard to just come out and say that there is one winner. With all of the different things that were considered one of our favorite options is to actually by a cheap phone and SIM card. While taking your own phone and having it run exclusively on wifi. Here are a couple of reasons why we think this is a good idea.

You are going to be able to pick and chose where you take your phone and where you don’t. This could be really comfortable when you are going on some major adventures. You are avoiding some of the higher fees that you could pay for just using your phone normally. You are also avoiding any potential information loss on your phone from unlocking it or putting in another SIM card. In a sense what you are doing is getting the best of both worlds. You are going to be able to control also how much you actually spend with the SIM cards. you can use them as a prepaid plan and just pay as you go. We could make the argument that the easiest thing to do is just to pay the international fee. At the end of the day though, this is going to be incredibly expensive. So after a lot of deliberation, the best idea is to buy a local phone with a SIM card.