How to Use Your Smartphone When Traveling to Another Country

What there is to know

  • If you don’t have the phone, you may need to get a temporary international plan from your carrier or bring another phone.
  • Know your device’s network standard: GSM or CDMA. Few countries have CDMA carriers.
  • Check with your carrier for international travel plans or roaming services. Consider a prepaid SIM card, buy or lease a new phone, or use Wi-Fi.

Whether you can use your phone while traveling internationally is complicated, especially for US residents on some major carriers. There are several easy ways to break things down and determine if you can take your phone on your international trip.

Does your phone really belong to you?

The first and most important thing to determine is whether or not you own your phone. Most people don’t realize that when you sign up for a deal and get a special price on a new phone, you don’t own it. The carrier does. It’s almost like renting a car.

Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

If you don’t own the phone, your options are limited. You may be able to get a temporary international plan from your carrier, or you may need to use a different phone for your trip.

If you own the phone and bring your own device (BYOD), or have an unlocked phone, you may be able to use a prepaid international SIM card on the go. If you own your phone in the United States, your carrier is required by the FCC to unlock it for you.

What network standard is it?

In the United States, there have historically been two wireless standards, GSM and CDMA. GSM, or Global System for Mobile communication, is the standard used almost everywhere in the world, including in more than 220 countries. It has also historically been the primary standard used by AT&T and T-Mobile in the United States. CDMA is more restrictive. Very few countries have CDMA carriers, but it’s the main standard for Verizon and Sprint.

cell tower

Things are changing as more and more phones are offered unlocked. Sprint and Verizon are catching up. Verizon recently discontinued support for CDMA-only phones, and GSM phones now work on the network.

The future is not with GSM, however. Most current-generation phones run on 4G LTE. LTE is a different standard that carriers have been using for years for mobile data. They are changing to allow voice and text over LTE, making the phones more universal. Then there’s 5G which is just on the horizon in many countries and offers more compatibility and faster speeds.

Check the standards supported by your phone. If you have GSM or LTE calls, you are well placed to take your phone around the world. If you have an older device from Verizon or Sprint, you may not be able to take your phone with you and use it.

Check your carrier’s travel plans

Your operator is the best resource for finding everything you need. They will know if your phone is usable abroad and can offer you a practical travel plan. Verizon TravelPass and AT&T International Day Pass both charge per day for international service. T-Mobile offers international roaming services. Sprint Global Roaming is something of a hybrid, allowing daily data purchases but charging a flat rate per call.

Use a prepaid SIM card

Even if you go to your carrier for information about your trip, you don’t need to use their service. There are many options for prepaid SIM cards for international travelers. Buy a SIM card from OneSimCard, WorldSIM, Travelsim or any other global SIM card provider.

Using a prepaid SIM card is as easy as replacing your current carrier SIM card with your new global card. As long as your phone supports the appropriate wireless standards, it will work as soon as the SIM card is activated.

SIM cards

ra-photos/Getty Images

If you know the country you are traveling to or have received a recommendation, purchase a prepaid card at your destination. Just like carriers in the United States, mobile phone companies around the world also offer prepaid SIM cards. Most work with unlocked or global phone models.

Buy or rent a phone

If you don’t have an unlocked or internationally compatible phone, buy or rent a temporary phone.

There are services that rent or sell phones specifically for travel, for example, OneSimCard. You may be able to rent a phone once there. There are also prepaid phones that work internationally.

If you prefer a phone you own, get a cheap used phone that’s unlocked. It’s not hard to find an unlocked phone from a few years ago on eBay for under $100, and most are sold refurbished by professional sellers. Add an international SIM card to your new used phone and you are good to go.

When All Else Fails, Use Wi-Fi

If you need to be away for a short time or don’t want the hassle of travel plans and extra SIM cards, use Wi-Fi and services like Skype, Google Voice and Google Hangouts to talk. These services make calls to mobile numbers and receive calls, and you can use them on hotel Wi-Fi. You won’t be able to talk everywhere, but it’s an inexpensive solution that lets you take your phone with you.

You can also mix and match with Wi-Fi. It can reduce roaming charges and retain data that you may have purchased from your carrier or with a prepaid SIM card.


More information about How to Use Your Smartphone When Traveling to Another Country

What to Know
If you don’t own the phone, you may need to get a temporary international plan from your carrier or bring a different phone.
Know your device’s network standard: GSM or CDMA. Few countries have CDMA carriers.
Check your carrier for international travel plans or roaming services. Consider a prepaid SIM card, buy or rent a new phone, or use Wi-Fi.

Whether you can use your phone on an international trip is complicated, especially for U.S. residents on certain major carriers. There are a couple of simple ways to break things down and determine if you can take your phone on your international trip.

Is Your Phone Really Yours?

The first and most important thing to figure out is whether or not you actually own your phone. Most people don’t realize that when you sign up for a contract and get a special price on a new phone, you don’t own it. The carrier does. It’s almost like leasing a car.

Peter Dazeley / Getty Images 
If you don’t own the phone, your options are limited. You may be able to get a temporary international plan from your carrier or you’ll need to use a different phone for your trip.

If you own the phone and bring your own device (BYOD), or if you have an unlocked phone, you may be able to use an international prepaid SIM card while traveling. If you own your phone in the U.S., your carrier is required by the FCC to unlock it for you.

Which Network Standard Is It On?

In the U.S., there historically have been two wireless standards, GSM and CDMA. GSM, or the Global System for Mobile communication, is the standard used nearly everywhere in the world, including over 220 countries. It’s also always been the main standard used by AT&T and T-Mobile in the United States. CDMA is more restrictive. Very few countries have CDMA carriers, but it’s been the primary standard for Verizon and Sprint.

Things are changing as more phones are offered unlocked. Sprint and Verizon are catching up. Verizon recently discontinued support for CDMA only phones, and GSM phones now work on the network.

The future isn’t with GSM, though. Most current-generation phones work on 4G LTE. LTE is a different standard that carriers have used for mobile data for years. They’re switching to allow voice and text over LTE, making phones more universal. Then, there’s 5G which is just over the horizon in many countries and provides more compatibility and faster speeds.

Check which standards your phone supports. If you have GSM or LTE calling, you’re in a good position to take your phone global. If you have an older device from Verizon or Sprint, you may not be able to take your phone with you and use it.

Check Your Carrier’s Travel Plans

Your carrier is the best resource to find out everything you need. They’ll know if your phone is usable overseas, and they may offer a convenient travel plan. Verizon TravelPass and AT&T International Day Pass both charge per day for international service. T-Mobile offers international roaming services. Sprint Global Roaming is something of a hybrid, allowing for daily data purchases but charging a flat rate per call.

Use a Prepaid SIM

Even if you go to your carrier for travel info, you don’t need to use their service. There are plenty of options for prepaid SIM cards geared toward international travelers. Purchase a SIM card from OneSimCard, WorldSIM, Travelsim, or any other provider of global SIM cards.

Using a prepaid SIM is as simple as replacing the current SIM from your carrier with your new global one. As long as your phone supports the correct wireless standards, it’ll work as soon as the SIM is activated.

 ra-photos / Getty Images
If you’re familiar with the country you’re traveling to or received a recommendation, purchase a prepaid card at your destination. Just like carriers in the U.S., cellphone companies around the world offer prepaid SIM cards too. Most work with unlocked or global model phones.

Buy or Rent a Phone

If you don’t have an unlocked phone or one compatible with international networks, buy or rent a temporary phone.

There are services that rent or sell phones specifically for travel, for example, OneSimCard. You may be able to rent a phone once you arrive. There are also prepaid phones that work internationally.

If you prefer a phone that you own, pick up an inexpensive used phone that is unlocked. It’s not difficult to find an unlocked phone from a few years back on eBay for under $100, and most are sold refurbished from professional sellers. Add an international SIM card in your new used phone, and you’re ready to go.

When All Else Fails, Use Wi-Fi

If you’re going to be away for a short time, or you don’t want to be bothered with the hassles of travel plans and additional SIM cards, use Wi-Fi and services such as Skype, Google Voice, and Google Hangouts to talk. These services make calls to mobile numbers and receive calls, and you can use them on the hotel’s Wi-Fi. You won’t be able to talk everywhere, but this is a low-cost solution that lets you bring your phone.

You can mix and match with Wi-Fi too. It can cut back roaming charges, and conserve data that you may have purchased through your carrier or with a prepaid SIM card.

#Smartphone #Traveling #Country


Trả lời

Email của bạn sẽ không được hiển thị công khai. Các trường bắt buộc được đánh dấu *

Back to top button