When you travel internationally you most likely rely on your smartphone, maybe more then you do when you are on your home turf. And why not? It helps you navigate strange cities; translate signs, change reservations, and much more. The one issue with this dependence is that the cost can be very high when you use your smartphone outside of your home country.
The pain of international texting
The New York Times’ Frugal Traveler blog fairly recently covered the outrageous costs that smartphone users might encounter when traveling abroad. Among them? How about 50 cents for every text message you send or receive? And then there are international roaming rates that can soar to $2, $3, or $5 a minute. It could set you back $15 to retrieve a megabyte of data through your smartphone, based on the blog post. Fortunately, there are ways travelers can save when traveling. And the Frugal Traveler blog was kind enough to list some of them.
Of course, the simplest way is to stay disconnected to your cell phone throughout your trip overseas. The thing is, that’s easier in theory. As the blog indicates, many international hotels no longer have in-room phones. And pay phones have become scarce across the globe. A more helpful solution might be to rely on your hotel’s free Internet connections or on Wi-Fi networks to check emails and send messages. Needless to say, even if your web browsing and email activity is free, phone calls can still be an issue. A solution? Set up an account with an app such as Skype or Google Voice to help you make your calls. This won’t be free, but as the Frugal Traveler blog says, it’s far less expensive than making standard roaming calls on your cell phone. Generally speaking, expect to pay one-tenth the price of a standard cellphone plan when you’re counting on services such as Skype and Google Voice.
International SIM Cards
If your cell phone company allows you to use other providers, you could always buy a SIM card. The Frugal Traveler tried two out, Telestial’s Passport card which costs $19 and OneSimCard’s Standard card costing $30. They reported that both of these work effectively and give you a main phone number that is not from your home country.