Tips for using your Phone Abroad

Whether you’re making plans to travel extensively on Remote Year or taking a trip for a week or two overseas here are some tips and tricks to use your phone abroad.

The biggest thing I stressed about before leaving the states for my year abroad was my phone and how I was going to work and live without always having access to my phone.  In the 21st century, we are attached to our phones. Good or bad, we use our phones constantly for making calls, texting, or taking selfies; our phones are our lifelines. So how can you continue to use your phone when your provider wants to charge you an arm and a leg to use it out of the country?

Here are a few options:

  • Buy a local SIM card

If your phone is unlocked, you can replace your current SIM card for a local SIM.  Local SIM cards are relatively cheap and you can make local calls and use data.

Pros: You can call local restaurants and hotels to make reservations.  Data for browsing the web and ordering Uber’s/Taxis without looking for WIFI. You can cancel your US number and plan and save some major $$. Fun Fact: The average American shells out an average of $110/Month on their cell phone bill. The average SIM card in Europe is $30.

Cons: You forfeit your US number for a local number.  Not all SIM cards are created equal.  Sometimes you’ll have great service everywhere you go and other times, like at home, your bars are limited or nonexistent. Data & Minutes run out, so you need to make sure you buy enough.

Who is this good for?

Anyone who doesn’t need their US number to travel.  Developers, Designers, Social Media Influencers.

  • WIFI

If you need to keep your US number and you plan to use a workspace or your Airbnb has strong WIFI, then you can use the old and mostly reliable WIFI method.  Europe has WIFI in most restaurants, some cities are connected and allow free access, or you can pay for WIFI if available.

How To: Create a Skype account and buy minutes to call unlimited throughout the US (Go to Settings, Phone, Call Forwarding, Switch On and add your Skype Number)  This will forward all your US number calls to your Skype account for Free.

Pros: You keep your US number for clients, work, or family calling you.  Disconnecting from your phone when not in WIFI and enjoying your travels.

Cons: Consistently searching for WIFI.  Unless you are connected to WIFI your phone is basically an expensive camera.

Who is this good for?

Anyone who needs their US number for clients or their business. Personally, as a recruiter, I use this option.  My consultants and Back Office can call me at my current number and reach me anytime during office hours without issue.  It’s less confusing for my clients and unless I tell someone I’m in another country they’d never know.

  • T-Mobile

Keep your US Number with T-Mobile. Pros

Unlimited international data coverage and texting are included with a qualifying plan at no extra charge. 20 cents per minute for calls to mobile devices and landlines.

Pros: You can keep your US Number, use unlimited data and texting, and make calls when needed.

Cons: Limited calling as it can become expensive. If you don’t already use T-Mobile it can be expensive to switch carriers.

Who is this good for?

Anyone who already uses T-Mobile in the US.  Anyone who doesn’t need to make frequent calls.

  • Port your number

Similar to the WIFI option however in this option you can port your US number through Google Voice.

Pros: Keep your US number, drop your plan back in the states, and save major money on your monthly bill.

Cons: You will still need WIFI to use this option.  Confusing setup process. Lose your local US number when you come back to the states. Porting can take 48 hours or longer to port.  You cannot port after out of the states. You may be charged for canceling your current plan.

Who is this good for?

Anyone who wants to keep their local US number and drop their normal plan.

  • Mix it up

Have an old iPhone that’s unlocked and you no longer use? Great! Bring it along, buy a local SIM and use it as a Hot Spot.  This is the option I wish I would have known about and used from the start of my travels. It’s easy and so much less hassle and combines a few of the above options for all the pros and fewer cons.

Pros: Keep your US number. Use data, and make calls when needed without worrying about finding WIFI.

Cons: The more expensive option. Carrying around all your devices and keeping them charged.

  • $ You will need an extra phone + current phone
  • $ US plan
  • $ Skype plan
  • $ Local SIM

Who is this good for?

Anyone! This option allows you to use your phone anytime, almost anywhere, without sacrificing your traditional plan.


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