Whether you are the veteran globetrotter or you’ve traveled outside the US while carrying your smartphone at least once, then hearing “international roaming” surely puts you into a cold sweat.
With mobile phones being used less and less for cellular calls and more and more for texting and keeping up with our social lives in the digital realm, travelers nowadays have to worry about the significant costs driven by data roaming.
Luckily, there are some simple precautions and widely available resources one can rely on while leaving the comfort of the homeland that will make the return much less painful.
1. Turn off data roaming
It is such an easy step that it is easily overlooked and often only requires you to access your phone settings and disable the roaming functions. But just to be on the safe side, you might also consider contacting your provider to have all roaming options disabled.
2. Invest in an international roaming plan
Salvation may come from carriers that go easy on roaming charges. Searching the internet, it seems that among the local carriers, T-mobile’s Simple Choice plan is a safe bet. Haven’t tried it personally, I am taking other people’s word for it. They offer international text and data roaming at no extra charge and do so, without a contract. You could then purchase the plan just for the duration of your trip abroad.
3. Buy a SIM from the place you will visit
My favorite option when traveling was always to buy a local prepaid SIM card as soon as I land at my destination. Recently, I discovered that services such as TravelSIM or Telestial allow for travelers to acquire overseas SIM even before getting into the plane.
Of course, there are at least two prerequisites for this strategy to be effective. First, you must have a phone that is not carrier-locked, and second, the phone must be compatible with the radio frequencies in use in your target destination.
4. Rely exclusively on Wifi
However, with the emergence of smartphones worldwide and the increased availability of Wifi Hotspots, owning a smartphone could actually save you a whole lot of roaming trouble. I recently traveled to Mexico and realized that most zocalos (local public places), hotels, hostels and restaurants provide free internet access via Wifi. From there, all I needed was a VOIP solution to stay connected with my loved ones. There are so many apps readily available for free: You could always try Viber, Rebtel or Skype for calls or just rely on Whatsapp if you are a text freak like most of us.
5. Contest the King’s ransom
If, for some reasons, you neglected to follow these simple tricks and are faced with a large roaming bill, you could always call your provider and complain. Although I doubt you will actually get away with not paying the whole bill, you could always get a reduction. It is worth a try.
And you, what is your strategy for dealing with global roaming?
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