You wouldn’t think of traveling around the globe without your smartphone. After all, that little device can help you quickly change plane reservations, find the trendiest new restaurants, and determine just how busy the highway to your hotel is.
However, there’s one problem: Using your cell phone outside the United States can cost you big bucks.
The pain of international texting
The New York Times’ Frugal Traveler blog 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? Then there’s international roaming rates that can soar to $2, $3, or $5 a minute. It could cost you $15 to retrieve a megabyte of data through your smartphone, according to 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 easiest way is to stay disconnected to your cell phone during your trip overseas. The problem is, that’s easier said. As the blog points out, many international hotels no longer have in-room phones. And pay phones are becoming scarce across the globe.
A more practical solution might be to rely on your hotel’s free Internet connections or on Wi-Fi networks to check emails and send messages. Of course, even if your web browsing and email activity is free, phone calls can still be a problem. A solution? Set up an account with an app such as Skype or Google Voice so that you can make your calls. This won’t be free, but as the Frugal Traveler blog says, it’s far less costly than making standard roaming calls on your cell phone.
In general, expect to pay one-tenth the price of a standard cellphone plan when you’re relying on services such as Skype and Google Voice.
International SIM cards
If your phone allows you to use other providers, your best bet while traveling abroad might be to purchase an international SIM card. The Frugal Traveler tried Telestial’s Passport card for $19 and OneSimCard’s Standard card for $30. Both worked well while the blog’s author traveled. Both will give you a main phone number that’s not from the United States.