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How To Avoid Roaming Charges Abroad

March 22, 2014 3 min read

I must admit that one of the things that perplexes me about traveling is having a phone abroad. I’m not talking about the service they have in foreign countries, but rather how the United States phone service works in international countries. A few services offer international calling, but usually, this can cause roaming and a high phone bill.

Unfortunately, my cheap service does not have an international plan, but luckily there is a solution to this.

1) Is your phone a CDMA or a GSM?

While researching SIM Cards, I realized that for me to use a Global SIM card, I would have to have an unlocked GSM (Global System for Mobiles) phone for the SIM to work on the phone and allow me to make calls, text and use my apps while abroad without having to pay for roaming charges or fees. These two radio systems used on phones are the reasons why you would not be able to use a phone belonging to one service on a completely different service and vice versa.

Unfortunately, my phone is a CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access), which restricts my phone to the service and cannot be used on any other service. On top of that, the world uses GSM, which makes my phone useless to global SIM Cards. However, if you do have an unlocked GSM card, check out Wireless Traveler. Not only do they offer Global SIM Cards, but you can also purchase or rent an international phone. Another plus to this is that there is full global coverage, no contract, low calling rates, and no high roaming fees.

2) Get on T-Mobile

Well after realizing that I had a CDMA phone, I started to look up services that did not have roaming fees. Of course, that is rare with the U.S. phone services, but one good service I did hear about was T-Mobile.

T-Mobile has plans made for international use meaning that you can use your phone without having roaming fees. All you have to do is get a simple choice plan and this will allow for free texting and $.20 a minute calls, which is ideal for a texter like me. They also offer unlimited international data without extra charges.

The reason this puts T-Mobile above the other services such as AT&T and Verizon is because there is no extra charge like the other services. While every other service charges for every little thing, like texting and data add-ons, T-Mobile keeps it simple with their international plan. For a detailed look at their services, click here.

3) International Cell Phone

Another option is to get a phone abroad. Instead of using a U.S. service (if you are from the U.S.), you can purchase or rent a local phone from the country you are visiting. The only problem with this is that it is only limited to the country you are in. This means that if you get a phone from Germany with their service and then move to India, then it may not work there and you may either need to buy a phone in India or pay additional charges to use the phone in India. Also, do keep in mind that the plan in Europe will be a bit more expensive since you will be paying in Euros.

This is not convenient for me because I earn my money in dollars and not in Euros. So everything in Europe is much more expensive to me than it is in the United States. You can purchase global or international phones at Mobal or when you arrive at the country’s local airport.

After my research with phones, the best plan that seems to fit my traveling needs is the one that T-Mobile has. Although they do not have the best reputation when it comes to local U.S. services, they do provide the best service for international usage.


photo credit: Professor Bop via photopin cc

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  • anniemariepeters May 5, 2014 at 12:01 am

    Wow! I didn’t realize I needed to have an unlocked GSM phone. International roaming charges can add up quick. Thank you so much for sharing this info!

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    About Me

    About Me


    Hola! I'm Hanny and I have been traveling since the age of three. Although, I grew up traveling, it wasn't until 2013, when I decided to start a blog. Read More

    xoxo Hanny

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